Many New Yorkers have lost their jobs since COVID began its rampage through NYC in March, and three of those people are Christopher Wagenlander, Asher Sendyk, and Hai Oliveria, friends who in the pre-pandemic era worked in the kitchens of Casa Mono, Catch Steak, and Hearth. After months of random gigs and a whole lot of scrambling, last week the trio opened their first-ever "restaurant" Evil Katsu, a delivery and takeout operation headquartered in the kitchen of the closed Lower East Side bar Pretty Ricky's.
The "Evil" part of the name is from that well-worn portmanteau of East Village, where all three currently live, and the "Katsu" is there because that's pretty much all that's on the menu. You can get your breaded, well-seasoned, and twice-fried creation with either chicken, pork, or portobello mushroom as the base, and served on a classic sando or as part of a platter, or set. Based on my Evil Katsu feast the other night, chef Wagenlander really knows what he's doing back there in the kitchen.
The Chicken Katsu Sando was superb, a big slab of breaded bird fried to a crackling crisp on the outside while remaining remarkably juicy within. Cabbage slaw, a thin layer of radishes, some shredded carrots, and a hefty slather of thick nori kewpie all perform their roles with aplomb, and the soft milk bread holds everything firmly in place. It's a delicious sandwich.
The Pork Katsu is almost as good. I had my pig cutlet as part of a set, served atop a pile of garlic rice and given a bit of tang by the side of tonkatsu sauce. There are a few sides available, all of which made me happy, led by the creamy, curry-powder Egg Salad and a fiery pile of slick Umami Mushrooms. Both the sando and the set also come with house-pickled vegetables, a nice touch that brings a lot of vinegar and a nice bit of heat to the party.
And that's it! You can order delivery or pickup, or just come on by and Sendyk will help you out. Although Pretty Ricky's is a corner-facing establishment, the entrance to the kitchen area (and, so, to Evil Katsu) is down Ludlow a bit. There's no decor or ambiance beyond "abandoned bar," which is fine, because you're not staying anyway.
Evil Katsu is located within the now-closed Pretty Ricky's, 101 Rivington Street at the corner of Ludlow Street, and is currently open for delivery and takeout on Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. (973-255-0255; evilkatsu.com)