What's the deal with Americurry?
Japanese curry rice is one of the best things to eat, ever. But in America, even in diverse metropolitan areas known for serving all the world's different cuisines, it can be almost impossible to find good curry. Many people who return from Japan struggle to find something here that matches even the basic passable sort of curry that can be found everywhere in Tokyo -- to say nothing of some of the truly wonderful curry that the country has to offer.
Perhaps even more sadly, people who have never been to Japan either don't think anything of Japanese curry, or have eaten bad curry in a restaurant and decided that they don't like it.
Enter Americurry. We are on a quest to find the best Japanese curry in America. Along the way, we'll write about the curry we've tried, recommending the good stuff and steering you away from the bad.
Who are you people, anyway, and why should I listen to you?
Chris Kohler, the founding editor of Wired's videogame blog Game|Life, lived in Japan for two years and ate katsu curry way too often, at school cafeterias, restaurants, and any chain of curry house he could locate. He returns to Japan every year ostensibly to cover the Tokyo Game Show, but really, he's in search of more and better curry. In 2008 he wrote about curry for Wired.
Karen Chu made the big move to America in 2000, and is currently a designer for PlayFirst, a casual game studio. Before that, she lived in Taiwan where she ate Japanese curry, oden, imagawayaki, and boatloads of Japanese treats almost every single day. She has been suffering from Awesome-Asian-Food withdrawls ever since (but she secretly loves Panda Express.)
Andrew Vestal (Los Angeles) will write a bio for himself eventually.
Matt Hawkins (New York City) is a video game designer, critic, and journalist, with a strong affinity for all things Japanese. Games, cinema, comics, toys... and cuisine, naturally. From his home base in the Big Apple, Matt diligently champions this most misunderstood and under-appreciated rice-enhancing delicacy. (Read Matt's blog.)
What do those ratings mean? What's up with the dog?
We rate the curries we've tried on a 1-5 scale. Here's the breakdown.
Amazing. For 15 minutes, we were transported back to Tokyo. Wide selection of delicious toppings. Rich, authentic curry sauce.
Very good. It's not top-tier, but totally acceptable to a curry junkie who can't get back to Tokyo. Might not have as many toppings, sauce might not be as high-quality.
Passable. We'd eat here again, but the curry isn't as good as you'd find in Tokyo. Maybe the sauce is good, but the selection of toppings is too slim, or not as high in quality.
Meh. A step above "terrible," but doesn't embody any of the things that made us fall in love with Japanese curry in the first place.
Bad. This isn't just half-hearted curry, it actually tastes bad and should not be eaten.
The dog is Ōtisu, legendary Japanese dog-god of curry that we made up.
Are you reviewing the restaurants or the curry?
The curry. We've been to plenty of middling-to-great Japanese restaurants that seem to put far less effort into their curry rice than they do the rest of their menu. This is somewhat understandable, as Japanese curry is just plain hard to make. When you look at our ratings, know that they're for the curry itself, not the restaurant as a whole.
What's the deal with cheese?
It shocked us, too, at first. But shredded Monterey Jack cheese dropped liberally onto hot Japanese curry somehow makes it even more delicious. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find a restaurant in the U.S. that will serve cheese with curry. Try it at home!
This website is inaccurate, because I live in Hawaii, which is technically part of America, and we have amazing Japanese curry everywhere.
We are so happy for you.
So what about Japanese curry in Japan? Any recommendations?
We support Go Go Curry more often now that they have a U.S. branch.
CoCo Ichibanya is everywhere in Japan; you can't miss the glowing yellow signs, even (or especially) when you're drunk.
We used to love Little Spoon, but then it came under new ownership, and as of now only two branches are listed outside of Hokkaido.
There's also something called 欧風カレー (oufuu karee), which means "European curry," which tastes pretty much like upscale Japanese curry. It is more expensive than lunch-counter curry, but more delicious. We haven't tried a lot of this, but Chris' favorite so far is Bondy.
How can I help?
Let us know about great Japanese curry you've found in America or around the world. We always want to hear about new places to try. Post your recommendation in the Americurry Forum!
日本の皆様へ (To Japanese readers)