Curry House is one of the only reasons why I might find myself envious of anyone who lives in the greater Los Angeles area. We've got a lot of things here in San Francisco, but we don't have this chain of restaurants specializing in Japanese curry. Curry House's history stretches back to 1983, when the first branch was opened by Japanese spice maker House Foods in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo. Since then, it has expanded to include 10 branches in all, one of which opened a little over a year ago in the northern California city of Cupertino, right down the street from Apple.
As you might imagine for a 25-year-old chain that specializes in one dish, Curry House's curry sauce is very good: deep brown in color, sweet, and warm. It's not the very best in the Bay -- truth be told, in a NorCal roux showdown, I'd give the edge to Muracci's. Curry House, though, would be running a close second.
What makes Curry House stand out from the rest is its staggering array of toppings and other customization options. Customization is one of the best things about Japanese curry places, and it's something that American restaurants that offer only one topping and one spiciness level simply can't deliver. At Curry House, you can pick from three spice levels, then add a wide variety of toppings to your curry. There's the usual pork katsu and fried shrimp, yes. But there's also beef katsu. Onion rings. Or menchi katsu, a fried hamburger steak.
Since we had three people on our excursion to Cupertino, we tried a wide variety of toppings. The pork katsu turned out to be the best -- a little tough, but tasty. The chicken katsu was on the thin side and had kind of a cheap, off taste. The menchi katsu was somewhere in the middle: nothing to write home about, but how many complaints can you really make about a fried hamburger?
Although the food was laid out on our plates very nicely, Curry House doesn't really balance its sauce and rice well -- we ran out of curry while there was still a big pile of white rice left on our plates. If you hate when this happens, too, the best thing to do is to make your plate a Large size. For $1.50 more you get some more rice and an extra bowl of curry on the side.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention several of Curry House's other curry-related menu items, none of which we tried. There's "stone bowl curry," only available at dinner, served in a sizzling ceramic dish. "Curry soup udon" is a curry-flavored broth served over noodles. Also, you can get your curry served over brown rice, pilaf, or spaghetti if you want.
Curry House definitely has its share of minor issues, but if you're a Japanese curry junkie looking for a fix, it'll get you through the day. Cupertino is a long, long haul from San Francisco, however, so don't expect to be able to stop in if you're vacationing here without renting a car and blocking off the whole afternoon.
Curry House (Cupertino)
10350 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95014
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm, Fri: 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm -9:30 pm, Sat:11:30 am - 9:30 pm, Sun:11:30 am - 9:00 pm
Toppings Available: Pork katsu, chicken katsu, beef katsu, menchi katsu, hamburger, fried shrimp, onion rings, diced beef, stewed chicken, mixed vegetables, mixed seafood, sausage, boiled egg, potato croquette, tofu, rib eye steak (dinner only)
Spice Levels: Mild, Medium, Hot
+ Lots of toppings
+ Tasty curry sauce
+ Friendly atmosphere
- Quality of toppings is uneven
- Rice/sauce ratio is out of whack
- No cheese
Verdict: One has to admire Curry House's commitment. It has more toppings than any other curry place, and the roux is great even if they skimp on it. Still not the best in America, but if you live within range of one, you probably won't care.