Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ralph Kramden, Japanese Knives & Korin Trading Co.

Now that I have your attention (the Ralph Kramden in the title surely did that), you may be wondering what it is this mad blogger is trying to tell you? Well, walk around lower Manhattan and you never know what you're going to run into. For instance, here's a place I spotted, and I'm sure a Honeymooner or two has hung out inside...

But, let's be serious for a second folks, or it's "to the moon" for you all. Because right next door, on Warren St., is one of the holy grails for Japanese knife people in New York. It's right here...

You see, once you've started fooling with Japanese knives, there may be no going back, because they're such a pleasure to use. Back in my cooking school days, we were advised to buy a nice German chefs knife, in my case a Wusthoff 10" monster, that could hack through chicken bones (and fingers too, so be careful) and chop parsley with ease. Japanese knives are like the ballet dancers of knives - lean and lithe, with great lines, and anyone who has only used a German or French knife is in for a great surprise.

Of course, along with the brilliant cutting edges they supply, Japanese knives also have a bit of the diva in them. A lot of them have different types of edges and are a little bit more demanding in their maintenance. So, without getting into more wonky details, I have a 240mm Tojiro DP gyotou knife that needed sharpening, and since I hadn't really sharpened one before, that's when I made the trek to Korin, where I originally bought the knife. Without hesitation, knife master Chiharu Sugai took my knife to his wheels and stone, and voila, a perfectly sharp gyutou was in my's the room where he does some of his handiwork...

It was also nice to hear, after Mr. Sugai worked my knife, that it is actually a 50-50 bevel (that's for real knife geeks), which means I'll be able to sharpen it with no problem, at home - and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Now, these knives can be expensive, running into the thousands of dollars for custom-made beauties. But they can also be great values - my 240mm Gyutou cost me under$100. I'll put it up against a Wusthoff or Henckel's any day of the week.

For those who want to read a fantastic book about knives, you have to pick up An Edge in the Kitchen, by Chad Ward. It's brilliant. And Korin offers knife-sharpening classes two days a week - they're free and taught by the master.

Oh, do you think I could leave without picking up a little something. No way, and here's my new "petty" knife - yes, that's what they're called, and they're for "peeling, paring, and carving vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other delicate work." It's a 5" beauty, it's a 70-30 bevel, and it's sharp, baby.


  1. Seems like a sharp knife could come in handy down by the 'ol Raccoon Lodge - any suggestions?

  2. I guess that depends on what you really want to do with that knife.

    My go to knife in the kitchen is my Tojiro DP Gyotou 240mm...excellent for almost any task (don't go chopping bones with it), and cost me about $75.

  3. An excellent resource is James Beard's classic on the subject, "How to Cut Everything" - an excellent reference source, esp. the segment on plastic knives...

  4. Hmmm, haven't seen that one, but will keep an eye open for it.

    I'm wondering about plastic knives...