By Tana Kosiyabong
It was freezing when I woke up in a three-tatami-mat room at JuYoh Hotel. So I decided to go to the top floor to take a Japanese hot bath in the communal pool. Fortunately nobody was there. The bath was so relaxing I could have stayed submerged for hours, but I had a Cheap Appetite mission to complete before I left Japan at 5:30 p.m.
I checked out of JuYoh at 9 a.m., then walked towards Minami Senju Station without a clue where to search for a great dish in Tokyo. It’s all up to fate. On the way to the subway, I decided I should start my Cheap Appetite mission in Shinjuku. After my quick breakfast at a local Gyudon shop and a couple of train connections later, I was in the heart of the neighborhood.
Shinjuku is one of the biggest shopping districts in Tokyo. There are more shopping malls and stores than I could count. The main strip was crowded with shoppers and pedestrians. Northeast of Shinjuku station is the infamous red-light district, Kabukichō, where I had visited once a long time ago. Shhh! During the day, this area wasn’t as eye-popping as at night. But I still enjoyed browsing restaurant’s replica food display windows and watching local people live their lives.
I wished I could walk around Shinjuku longer, but time was running out. It was about noon now, and I had yet to find a restaurant that caught my eyes. So I decided to take the JR line train down to Harajuku hoping I might have a better luck there.
Harajuku has two main shopping strips, Takeshita Street and Omotesandō. Takeshita is a pedestrian street packed with fashion boutiques, shops and restaurants on both side. As I strolled along the street, nothing had caught my eyes. The restaurants were either American and Japanese burger chains or touristy eateries.
So I rushed toward Omotesandō street, a more upscale area where high-end boutiques like Prada and Gucci located. As I walked back and forth there, I got more and more panicked. Time was running out and I still couldn’t find the “IT” restaurant I hoped for.
Then my ingenious idea started to kick in. I walked down to the back street where I finally found an interesting restaurant, Curry No Ryu (カレーの龍—Dragon of the Curry). It is located on the 2nd floor of a building where the exterior was wrapped with a big sign promoting the restaurant itself. While I was looking at the menu on the street, I saw many people walked up and down the stairs leading to the restaurant. This intrigued me enough to it check out.
As I opened the door of the restaurant, I saw a room full of patrons eating or waiting to be seated. The waiting patrons lined up against the wall all the way to the far end of the restaurant. “This is IT,” I thought to myself. As I was in line, the waitress came by to jot down my order. I opted for a regular size curry (¥700/$8.75) with a boiled egg (¥100/ $1.25). They wasted no time there.
Once my turn came, the cooking staff served my dish within a couple of minutes. The boiled egg I ordered turned out to be a soft-boiled, but I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, it mixed better with the curry sauce than the hard-boiled. The beef curry rice came with a good portion of steamed white rice and a plateful of curry sauce. Beef were added sparingly to the sauce as if the cook didn’t want it to interfere with the taste of the sauce. Although I wish I got more beef, other patrons seemed to be happy with what they’d got. Curry No Ryu is all about their curry sauce. I even saw a man scraping the sauce off the dish to the very last bit, yet he didn’t touch the rice at all. However, if you want more beef, the large curry (¥800/$10) is a better choice.
The precious curry sauce was deep dark brown and really delicious. It was possibly made by frying curry powder, oil, flour and other secret ingredients together, similar to how French chef made roux. I believe this is how the curry sauce gets its dark color. Curry No Ryu sauce was very smooth and mild (or perhaps medium spicy to many). The sauce was simple yet complex. The soft-boiled eggs added another layer of flavor to the sauce. Unfortunately it overpowered the natural curry taste. Although I was glad to try the dish with a soft-boiled, I personally prefer the simplicity of the plain sauce.
It was about 2:30 pm by the time I finished my meal. There was still a continuous stream of patrons visiting Curry No Ryu. I left the restaurant with a full belly and a big smile. I finally found a great Japanese dish before I had to catch a train to Narita airport. This Cheap Appetite Mission is accomplished. Three hours later I found myself on a plan heading to Bangkok. Sayonara Japan.
Curry No Ryu Regular Beef Curry Rice: ©©©© ¼
Remaining Budget: $325.61
Budget Spent: -$10
Budget Available: $315.61
Curry No Ryu Omotesandō is located at 4-29-7 Jingumae, Harajuku, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo V1 Building 2F. (東京都渋谷区神宮前4-29-7 原宿V1ビル２F) (T) 0832-29-1515.
For all Curry No Ryu locations, addresses and maps, click here.
For more photos of this Japan trip, click here.
NOTE: I was really happy with the meal at Curry No Ryu I’d like to know more about them. So, I emailed to their customer service. Here’s an excerpt of the email they replied to me in English:
… “Curry no Ryu” has started in front of the Kokura Station at Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka since 1964. Our founder was very adamant and never agreed to be interviewed from TV, Newspaper or Magazines because he thought he could not concentrate all his energies on cooking curry until he was satisfied. We believe our curry is very special one which only the unswayable man like him could cook so that our company policy is to carry on the tradition of his “The Ultimate Curry”.
We are truly grateful many distinguished people from various fields come all the way to the head restaurant in Kitakyushu just to eat our curry from all over Japan. These days, we have 11 branches so it is more convenient and easier for customers to try our confident curry.
Curry is one of Japan’s most popular dishes nowadays. On an average, Japanese people eat curry about 79 times in one year, this means we eat curry more than once a week.
Today, we also produce retort-pouch curry you can buy at train stations and department stores in Kyushu, and you can also buy from the Internet…” (I do not know if they shipped overseas.)
NOTE: All food prices in this post are tax included.
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