Best Markets: Sunrise Mart
Sunrise Mart is a Japanese grocery on the second floor just above the St. Marks Bookstore, and carries a wide array of Japanese products along with some Korean goods, like kimchi, banchan and pre-made pork bulgogi. It's a fun place to browse different varieties of soba, ramen or mochi, or pick up a box of Pocky, sweet-cracker sticks dipped in chocolate. I like "Men's Pocky," which are thin pretzel sticks dipped in bitter chocolate. Which, of course, is very masculine.
But the best stuff at Sunrise Mart is in the refrigerator.
I'll just cut to the good stuff. OMFG people, I am now in possession of an enormous quantity of uni (sea urchin). This box (left), cost $15 and has about 15 big lobes of uni. I'm trying not to eat it up right now, at work, because that might freak people out even more than the stuff I usually eat. I plan to sit down all by myself and eat it straight from the box. If you need a little something more with your uni, just put it over soba or rice.
Also in the fish cooler, sushi-grade fish: hamachi, squid, salmon and tuna, all of it looking beautiful and pristine and running from 10.99/pound to $19/pound. It's not cheap, but you don't need much of it, and it's more affordable than eating sushi out.
Fertile eggs are eggs that were fertilized; the embryo stops developing at a very early stage so you can't see a little chick in there or anything. They are said to have a more creamy, luscious yolk than regular eggs. (Golden Fertile Eggs brand $6.45 dozen)
There's an entire refrigerated case dedicated to different miso varieties. Generally, the darker the color, the stronger and saltier the flavor. I think shio, or white miso, is the easiest to cook with at home. It's very mild and sweet. You can boil it with water, scallions, seaweed and tofu for a quick miso soup, or mix it with a bit of sugar and spread it on fish before broiling it. (Shio miso, various brands, about $6.45 a pack.)
And finally, the packaged bento boxes are fantastic. This one to the left cost $5.25 and contained brown rice, salmon fillet, shrimp-eggplant salad, seaweed salad, yam tempura, a gyoza, a marinated shitake and a piece of tamago (Japanese omelet). The only problem is that the tempura was very soggy from steaming in the container. Still, great stuff, and there are plenty of other bento combinations available.
4 Styuvesant Street, 2nd Floor