I know what you’re thinking: Why would I introduce a curry house as my first spicy food post? Don’t worry! Take it from an ex-employee who used to work at two branches in Tokyo, that I know what I’m talking about! Introducing カレーハウスCoCo壱番屋 (Curry House CoCo Ichibanya) which also inspired me to start Nyam with Ny!
CoCo Ichibanya is Japan’s most popular curry chain that originally opened it’s first restaurant in Nagoya, 1978. The first international branch was opened in Oahu, Hawaii and since then they have expanded to more than 10 other countries around Europe, Asia and America. Japanese curry is usually compared to being weaker in taste compared to Indian and Thai curries with the base of the meal just containing potatoes and vegetables. But CoCo壱 does not disappoint. You can choose your own amount of rice, type of curry base, an endless amount of toppings and of course, how spicy you want your curry. The spice of the curry can easily put hope into Japanese curry – despite India’s clear influences.
The chain’s spice levels promises real pepper into your curry and later on, your belly. The levels really lives up to that expectation of a burning fire in your throat. Levels go from 1 to 10 with level 10 being so spicy, the entire curry is all red. While working there in Tokyo, I’ve only seen maybe around five people eat and finish it cleanly (usually either Japanese, Nepalese or Indian people). The cheat is to order the most basic curry (Pork/Beef/Veg base curry around (¥600) with no toppings and normal base of rice, bring a hand towel and keep relaxed. But if that’s too much for you, order a lassi or get cheese in your curry (Speaking of cheese, if you are not lactose intolerant, add it on as it brings a whole new taste to your spicy curry that you will never go back to).
The curry taste is something I can never describe no matter how many times I go and eat there. Whatever they put in the curry is addictive. Just know that most Japanese people treat CoCo Ichibanya as we treat Nandos – it’s their fast food and some people have never been there. But for foreigners and the people around me, it’s heaven. I have never been back to a place that I crave a taste as much as CoCo Ichibanya. For casual spice enthusiasts, I’d say start with level 3 or 4 if it’s summer/autumn. Experienced enthusiats will want to jump straight to level 6 or 7 if it’s winter/spring. Because when it’s 5 degrees and under, it’s always better having curry more peppery to keep you warm.
- For vegetarians, the best options are 野菜 (vegetables with potatoes, carrots and green beans) and ほれんぞ (spinach).
- Seafood lovers would be better adding エビ煮込み (Stewed shrimp), イカ (Squid), クリームコロッケ (Crab cream croquette) and エビカツ (Shrimp Katsu).
- Meat eaters will enjoy フライドチキン (Fried chicken), パリパリチキン (Light crispy chicken), 手仕込とんかつ (Homemade Tonkatsu/Pork cutlet), とこトン三昧 (Triple pork), 豚しゃぶカレー (Thin-sliced pork), ロースカツ (Pork katsu), メンチカツ (Mince cutlet) ,チキン三昧 (Triple chicken).
If you want to get what people in Japan usually order, it’s usually a level 1 or 2 with a Katsu cutlet or vegetables. Japanese food does not really apply spice into their dishes as they are accustomed to more salty and saucy dishes.
Note: There is a vegetarian sauce that CoCo has for vegetarians. If you pick up the vegetarian menu and point to what you want . If not tell them ベジソース or ベジカゲ (Veggie Sosu or Veggie Kage – Vegetarian Sauce) [topping 1+, rice and spice level]. If they bring it to you on a big white plate without the logo, that’s the right sauce. CoCo Ichibanya is not recommended for vegans to my knowledge.
Expect more posts on CoCo Ichibanya from now on because since I left Japan, I have also tried it out in other countries so consider it a CoCo Ichibanya world tour. Just try it once and trust me, the spicier your curry is, the better the CoCo experience will be.
- CoCo Ichibanya Japan #cocoworldtour / Rank 7