No college town should be without a noodle shop, so it was a pleasure for all near New Paltz when Youko Yamamoto opened up a really good, authentic one called Gomen-Kudasai a few years ago. She served true, home-style Japanese comfort food: hot and cold soba and udon noodles, donburi (rice-bowl) dishes, dumplings, tofu and tempura, with choices for vegans and wheat-free specials for the apparently increasing hordes who can’t manage gluten.
Last summer, the contented slurping suddenly ceased when Youko, because of lease problems or some such thing, closed the café. For a while, she toyed with the idea of pursuing one of her many other interests, but, lucky for us, changed her mind. Late last year, she took over the shopping-plaza space where Main Course used to be and redid the interior to remind her of her home in Japan (although her family didn’t have a professional kitchen, she remarks). The new Gomen-Kudasai is as relaxed as the old one, with deep chocolate brown walls, dark tiled floors, black tables and a long free-form wood counter, all giving it that calming atmosphere that Japanese people seem able to conjure. Works by local artists look terrific against the dark walls. (Michael Lokensgard’s lovely flower paintings were up when we stopped in.)
Counter-clockwise from left: Owner Youko Yamamoto and her home-made desserts: Japanese pumpkin yokan and green-tea roll cake
But enough about décor. Everyone’s favorite dishes are back, along with bento boxes and a couple of unusual desserts. One, a green-tea roll cake served with green-tea ice cream, has an interesting texture and is refreshing and subtle more than sweet. I loved one called Kabocha Yokan. Kabocha is a winter squash that tastes like pumpkin (and is often called Japanese pumpkin). Yokan, Google informs me, is a confection made with agar and bean paste that keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator, assuming you can find it in the first place. Anyway, Youko steams the squash, then mashes it up with seaweed gelatin… and the rest of the recipe is a secret, she says. The result is silky, pumpkin-y, sweet and yummers, as I believe the Japanese say.
Gomen-Kudasai is at 232 Main Street in New Paltz. 845-255-8811.