Japanese Curry rice

Perhaps like a lifetime ago, I had the idea that Japanese food consisted of sushi and sashimi. In fact, I wasn’t exposed much to all things Japanese as a kid, until when I started working maybe, when somehow Japan became popular. Before that, Japanese anime, manga and even their dramas were popular here but that never really caught on for me. I don’t even know when I started latching on to the “Japan wave”, if I even did anyway.

I think it was when I started working when I started having sushi pretty regularly, visiting the then-hugely popular Sakae Sushi with their innovative conveyor-belt sushi chain stores. It was fun to sit and watch colourful plates of sushi moving past, with the excitement coming in grabbing something we liked and wanted to have when the restaurant is busy and we have been waiting for it for a while. It wasn’t a few years after that when I first stepped foot into Japan (yes call me a mountain tortoise or whatever but I went to Japan the very first time in 2006 I believe). By then I think I had already been acquainted with Japanese curry, through this restaurant called Curry Favour that used to be Stamford Building in City Hall. I like their curry, which could be customised according to your preference of spicyness, and you could order half or full portions, the former of which was already rather substantial, especially with the rice and pork cutlet that was served up as part of the curry offering.

So in the last Tokyo trip, we also had Japanese curry one evening as my friend was craving for it, especially on a cold, rainy and extremely windy night. We popped in to this restaurant on the upper floor of Takashimaya in Shinjuku and I ordered a Seafood curry rice and this was what came.    The curry was served in the same contraption as what I recalled from Curry Favour, but I can’t say the same about size. I wonder if my appetite has increased from then, which I highly doubt so, but this one seemed quite small and the curry contained within was also quite little in terms of amount. The pieces of seafood inside was a little sad, maybe one prawn, one scallop, and I don’t know what else now, plus there was a stalk of cauliflower. Hmm. The taste was alright, but for the price that we paid I don’t think it was value for money. I suppose it being Takashimaya with a proper place to dine in, with ample space and ambience, that had all been factored into the price, as compared to say, if we were to have our curry rice at the hole-in-a-wall shops located along the streets or at the train stations, such as Coco Ichibanya (which in Singapore is a proper restaurant but in Japan it’s more of like a fuss-and-frills-free eatery). Besides, the funny thing was also that the rice, served on a plate, was flattened to cover the surface of the plate so for people who need the rice to fill up their tummies would probably be left needing a second helping somewhere else, supper perhaps.  We couldn’t complain much since we were rather tired that day from the whole day of rain and wind, and it was comforting to be sitting in a sheltered place away from the strong gusty winds that were howling outside. It was so windy that lots of people had their umbrellas blown upside down and as I walked across the long wide bridge over the numerous train tracks of JR Shinjuku station, I had to consciously walk along the side near one wall to prevent myself from being blown away! 

DADA Café, Tokyo

This is one really interesting place that I went to this April, because I was meeting up with a Japanese friend and I told her anywhere that qualifies as a nice cafe. Well, I think she did put in a lot of effort to find a nice place (oops, I forgot that the Japanese always give their best to whatever requests you may have), and I would really love to share this place with you guys!

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the place, because within the space of the cafe I thought it was not very polite of me to encroach on the space of others by snapping pictures while everyone is engaged in some hushed (or not so) conversations with their friends over lunch or coffee.

We went there sometime when lunch was almost over, so perhaps it explained why we could easily get a table, and after us more people left the cafe when they were done with lunch. Initially, I wanted to just order some desserts to go with coffee but I saw the two ladies sitting next to us having this curry dish and it looked so good it begged to be ordered.  20130517-100229.jpg

From the picture, it looks just like any other Japanese curry dish, but maybe with the benefit of the aroma wafting through the air assaulting my olfactory senses, plus the fact that it was a really cold day when we met and my stomach decided it wanted something nice and warm, I gave in to temptation and ordered this, which is a chicken curry with rice and salad. My stomach totally welcomed this and yes I think on cold, drizzly days, we should all eat warm stuff to keep ourselves cosy and comfortable.

This cafe is actually converted from an old, Japanese house, and it is not easy to locate because it is nestled in the midst of other buildings surrounding it that could just obliviate its presence. But the moment you step through the wooden sliding panel that is the door to the cafe, you seem to be transported back in time and cut off from the hustle and bustle of city life. Everything there seems to be from a different age and time, the furniture and how the whole cafe looks. Of course, not the people, and the coffee machine that sits atop the cashier counter. I love this place for its cosiness, and I would hope that I have a chance to revisit in future to try their desserts! Check out the photos on this link; the cakes look yummy!

Address: Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-23-10 東京都渋谷区千駄ヶ谷5-23-10 (about 7-10 minutes’ walk from Takashimaya Shinjuku (exit to Meiji-dori), map and directions here).

Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, Tokyo

Again, this is an eatery that hails from Japan which is already available in Singapore since September 2011 (Level B3 of 313@Somerset), but I have never tried it, for some reason or another. I actually like Jap curry a lot, but I always end up over-eating because it is too darn delicious. Many years ago, there was this Japanese curry place (I think they serve Jap curry, if my memory hasn’t failed me yet) in Stamford House, called Curry Favor; unfortunately they have now already shut their doors after the place was sold in early 2011 to conserve the buildings (Stamford House, Capitol Building and Capitol Theatre) and transform the area together with a new 15-storey building into a mixed-use development.

I just did a quick search online and found that it relocated to Velocity Novena, but has already pulled their shutters down for good. It was a pity because I really enjoyed their curry, where you could order half portions if you didn’t want to risk overeating, and could customise the level of spicyness to a certain extent too. I have tried Japanese curry at a shop in Central Mall but it was pretty disappointing.

Another reason why I seldom eat Japanese curry is because it seemed to either have a lot of MSG added or its ingredients somehow tend to make me feel very thirsty afterward. Even in Japan! Besides, it is a rather heavy choice of food, both in terms of taste and also its fill-you-up index (I don’t know what term to use, so this is the best and apt description I can think of), so it is not something that you will have on a regular basis, like for example, yong tau foo.

Ok, enough rambling and back to CoCo Ichibanya, which boasts more than 1300 stores worldwide! I chanced upon this small little shop in Shinjuku, which I had also passed countless times but despite its arresting bold orange-and-white signage I had never ventured inside. I remembered a friend raving about it on FB once, so I popped in. It also works along the concept of machine-vended meal tickets, and I think I paid about 850 JPY (about S$12) for curry katsu with rice.   20130110-090556.jpg

Feels pretty pricey if you think of it as a small eat-and-go kind of eatery, but the portion was pretty decent, be it the curry sauce, the rice or the katsu, especially to me. Might not be enough for bigger eaters but there is an option to choose more rice, and you probably just need to top-up another perhaps 100 JPY. The curry did stil make me feel extremely thirsty thereafter, and there was a slight curry and fried foods smell lingering on my coat after stepping out of the tiny shop. But service was as usual, good and courteous!