Tokyo has the highest number of Michelin star restaurants in the world for a reason. Japan and its people’s consumption of locally grown products, dedication to traditional culinary practices, versatility, creativity and craftsmanship – are all the cornerstone of Tokyo’s culinary scene. They also love the novelty of the ingredients used across foreign cuisines, so in addition to having many foreign restaurants, Tokyo also has fusion restaurants, Japanese foods inspired from foreign foods, foreign dishes with a Japanese twist etc.
And curry definitely makes it as Tokyo’s year round comfort food among the locals and even tourists. Curry will help you fight off a frosty evening, simply add a dash of colour to an already dreamy sakura afternoon or watch a rainy day escape as the tiny drops trail down the glass window while you slurp a hearty meal.
At the last annual 10 day Shimokitazawa curry Festival, which took place from 5th to 14th October, there were 40 best curry restaurants of Shimokitazawa competing for the curry king crown – such is the love affair of Japan and curry. A few notable mentions of the festival that would leave your taste buds tickled were the guts curry, the ultimate sea urchin curry, miso butter chicken curry, squid in curry and horse meat curry, with an option for a mini curry bowl or a curry themed meal.
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In 2019, the curry festival will take place from October 10th to October 22nd with 150 curry shops.
In the meantime, here’s a list of the best Asian curries all over Tokyo with their varied flavors, vast contrasts and layers, each deeply rooted in its country’s produce, practices, beliefs.
Patrons crowd this popular joint for its original curry flavor and its grainy texture. If you are in a mood to experiment a bit, this is your place. Decide on the curry and the meat topping which is as bizarre as it gets – from horse meat to Hokkaido deer meat and even kangaroo meat! They also have a few vegetarian toppings such as sauteed spinach and beans along with an option to regulate the spice level. Many have dined here and come back reminiscing about that umami taste of the curries which is hard to explain and even harder to forget.
A Japanese-Indian restaurant by Kazushiro Ito San who quit his job at 27 years to follow his dreams and his heart. He traveled the world and after 48 countries in 3.5 years he came back to Tokyo a different man in love with India and he opened his dream project “Spice cafe”.
The food here is a reflection of his curious soul and his innate desire to experience and create something new. The result is definitely a feast unique to its Indian roots, well balanced and made with Japanese seasonal produce. The Ayurveda menu includes butter bur and bamboo shoots vegetables, tofu and plum Sambal, enoki mushtooms, sprouts, tempura style yam, carrot and so on.
The winner here is definitely the coconut milk whipped “saba fish” curry as the locals call it, which basically is pacific mackerel partnered with some sweet mouth-melting appams.
This centrally located Sri Lankan restaurant has a special banquet menu and caters to small events of around 30 people. Though it does have a la carte menu, the better value seems to be in ordering the curry meal which comes with a selection of 10 items and 1, 2 or 3 curry meal options for lunch and an option of 5 curry dishes for dinner.
The secret behind the fabled Jinenjo beef curry are its medicinal properties coming from 11 Indian spices, 8 Japanese vegetables, and the 6 Chinese herbs all grown on the premises. Served with a generous topping of squash, green beans, freshly grated ginger, mountain yams and fresh ground pepper. Strong on the black pepper spice, this bold curry has a thick and rich sauce and the beef here is for the ones in search of epicurean adventures.
One cuisine which arguably makes it to one of the best street foods in the world is “Thai food”. Live dangerously at the Thai Food Station and dive right in the “Pad Gaprao” the chicken or pork stir fry with holy basil served with a fried egg the hallmark of the Thai street food . The Green curry with fish balls and the Southern spicy chicken curry are the other two remarkable must try here.
A specialty restaurant from the Malabar coast of India, “Bangeras kitchen”offers some true regional specialties all the way in Tokyo.
Grated coconut based thick dry gravy “Chicken Sukka” to the thin gravy tamarind flavored “Fish Pulimunchi” or the undeniable serving of a Chicken Ghee roast – they will all send your stomach into an insatiable overdrive.
Nepali cuisine is a definite underdog to watch out for when it comes to balanced nourishing meals. The concept of Dal-Bhat-tarkari is a staple of Nepal which serves a portion of rice, vegetables, a preparation of dal, meat curry, pickles and a side of momo’s Nepali gyoza.
At Nepalico you should try the Dal Bhat Meal which is the same and comes with a delightful Nepali momo served with shrimp chilli paste, pork stew, chicken curry, stir fry green vegetables, lentil soup “dal” and other accompaniments like sliced lemon “kagati” and fresh chutney or fermented pickle.
It would be an incomplete journey of curries to conclude without a north Indian curry fix and Moti in Tokyo is orchestrating some close to country flavors with its branches in Roppongi , Shinbashi, and Futakotamagawa. The “Mutton Masala” the “Moti Butter Chicken” or the Malai Kofta for vegetarians are some recommendations – each emerging as a more scintillating sorceress than the other. Fold in the gravies with a cushiony garlic naan and end it on a sweet symphony with a Ras Malai. Definitely an affair to remember.
When in doubt, Japanese curry chains are surprisingly tasty too and do not disappoint.
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This 120 year old family run business with a lot of history dates back to 1899 when it was first opened in the Nihonbashi fish market. It is well known and popular chain today with a menu with everything that catches your imagination from beef bowl, pork meals, fried chicken meals, eell, miso soup, clam soup, and even a morning meal along with seasonal entries.
But the must try is their special “spicy curry” menu which gives an option to the diners to not only choose from a selection of meats like beef or chicken, but also either grilled or slow cooked in stew varieties, as well as veggie spicy curry and even egg curry.
A kind of MacDonalds of curry in Japan, this place might not make it to the list of the food critics, but people love it! Catering to the masses since 1978, this multinational multi-million chain is spread not just across Japan but 12 different locations with 1483 operating stores in Singapore, Hong Kong, Hawaii, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, United Kingdom, United States, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and new expansion plans in India, New Delhi by early 2020.
Industry experts find it noteworthy that establishments which have stood the test of time have got their basics right along with having tweaked a comforting taste for a bargain price. Customizing is one of their USP, here you can customize the quantity of your rice or entirely switch for cauliflower rice for a low carb option, spike up the heat if needed with an option of spice levels along with optional toppings of 40 types. Another bonus for vegetarians is the edition of plant based curries but be sure to check online before you visit as this is not chain wide menu with a halal friendly option as well. The best being Coco Ichibanya can be tried in a number of locations even if you are not in Japan!
*Featured image by https://www.photo-ac.com/