Light green walls and a board of hand-written daily specials are the only decor inside Soy, a self-described Japanese "home-cooking restaurant" which touts the nutritional values of soy and serves tasty, unpretentious dishes in a small, Suffolk Street storefront. After existing in a previous incarnation as a handbag shop by the same owner, Etsuko Kizawa, who calls herself the "neighborhood SOY mom," opened Soy in February 2002, exposing locals both to the healthfulness and the versatility of soy-based cuisine.
Gothamist's party of three opted for the Gomoku Mame to start, a chilled soybean salad simmered with shitake mushrooms, carrots, and burdock, along with two croquettes (one soy and one potato & beef). The food arrived unadorned, but hot and fresh; the waitress, one of three women also preparing the food, set down a bottle of Tonkatsu sauce to accompany.
Entrees arrived in the type of bowls your mom would serve a family dinner in and the table shared three entrees including the Ginger Pork, thin slices of pork with ginger sauce, Niku Jaga (Beef n' Potato), a bowl of thinly sliced beef cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions, and "Treasure Sack," fried tofu pouches filled with tofu, dried seaweed, soy beans, carrots, and mushrooms. The pork, sheared thin and cooked with little oil or excess fat, came with a side of mild pickled cabbage and radish. The beef dish reminded one our dining companions of her mother's beef brisket, accompanied by tender vegetables and bathed in a sweet soy sauce based broth that had the warmth of a winter stew. The treasure sacks, soy within soy, were emblematic of soy's food: healthful, fresh, and simple.
Like a loving mother, Kizawa wants to share her love for healthful, delicious, Japanese food (while making clear that Soy does not! serve! sushi!) and offers cooking classes, discusses the nutritional benefits of soy, and even writes a blog.
Soy, 102 Suffolk Street, Lower East Side, 212-253-1158