CoCo Ichibanya’s damn Coming Soon sign on the website was more of an irritation than anticipation due to staying in that status for more than a year. But once I knew in advance of when my favourite curry house would open in London, I went on the first week to experience whether it imitates the exact same taste as in Japan. Well, it’s about 85% there.
So what’s the difference between CoCo UK and the original CoCo? The spice level and removal of milk for lactose intolerant/vegetarians/vegan customers. The spice level only goes up to Level 5 (an equivalent of Level 4 in Japan) and the middle option, Level 3 is about a Level 2 in Japan. Milk is apparently a common ingredient in Japan unknown to many, even myself. With that, you may notice a slight lack of taste. I think it was probably something to add to either balance out the intense spice level or be a substitute of flour.
The first curry I had was a Level 3 and it was disappointing. Which is why I had to try it again to confirm whether having it in the first opening week was out of nervousness from the staff or whether that was the taste they were going for in London. Thankfully, the second and third curries were better. And why? The diluted spice level which is watered down to accommodate to English people standards.
Below is the curries from the second and third visits. All three are Level 5. The first two are my friends: fried chicken, cheese and vegetables and prawn tempura and vegetables. The third is pork katsu cutlet, cheese and vegetables.
There are a few things that should be noted about this branch and not just about the spice. Remember in my previous CoCo article I talked about having cheese despite the risk of spice dropping in taste? Well, this time you’re better off buying your own because it’s the most stingiest topping at £1.50. Not only that but it is hidden in the depths of the curry so the portion is way less than what you are . It needs to be doubled up more especially for the price of £1.50. It is the one thing that irks me so far apart from the price about this branch’s craft of copying the original taste – cause cheese is everything in a CoCo curry. The chess is hidden underneath. As an alternative, just get vegetables instead.
The main curry you saw in the thumbnail (the shrimp croquette, lightly crispy chicken and cheese) was much better in taste however I would not recommend the lightly crispy chicken for anyone. The texture of the meat they use with the curry do not complement each other unlike in Japan. The croquette’s breadcrumbs were soft and not as smooth as getting the creamy crab croquette from Japan which I preferred. Breadcrumbs are totally different to Japan and the other Asian branches I’ve been to and it has a major difference in taste that I never noticed before until now.
Have you ever tried the omurice curry? As it’s one of the most popular dishes, note that if you order this you are not permitted to choose a spice level. Instead you will receive standard spice which tastes like nothing. You’d be better off cooking your own regular spiced curry or customise your own to bring some flavour to your dish.
Trust me when I say only get Level 5. It’s the only level that similarly parallels the original taste to when I used to work there and trust me that I know what an accurate taste is. It equivalents to at least a Level 4 in Japan which is alright however the spicy level that many (including myself) have raved about feels like they have watered it down to accommodate to English people standards.
Strangely enough, the more you eat the curry – and regardless of whether it’s a Level 5 or not – the more you eat, the less spicier it is. You get a peppery sensation on your first spoonful but anything after that fades away.
Just go for your first time to experience a steeper price (£12 for a recommended curry or £15-£18 for a more customised curry), you’re better off going Japan or the best copycat, Taiwan.
- CoCo Ichibanya Japan #cocoworldtour / Spice Rank 7
- CoCo Ichibanya UK #cocoworldtour / Spice Rank 4