I love any type of curry. I am a curry maniac. Curries often start with a base of different herbs and spices, which leads to a complex flavor that constantly leaves your palate guessing. It’s layers upon layers of dry heat or piquant spice, and when thick and saucy, is perfect ladled upon mounds of rice. Japanese curry is probably the least like other curries because it begins with a brown block of curry roux, and is much thicker in consistency that what you’d get in South or Southeast Asia. Sometimes it has the distinct taste of being boxed, but that’s also kind of what’s great about it: it’s a thick mound of brown gloop that tastes like intense curry powder, but is still milder and sweeter than other iterations. It’s curry by way of the West, and it’s such a mishmash of random flavor profiles that you can’t really describe it with any other word but, well, delicious.
In Manila, Japanese curry houses are far and few. While we seem to have fallen for every other Japanese trend on the market from ramen to tempura to katsudon, restaurants that are devoted solely to curry are scarce. Now, we’ve finally got a place that really delivers on the goods, and with an impeccable pedigree at that: Curry House Coco Ichibanya. It’s the largest curry restaurant chain in the world with over a whopping 1,400 restaurants spanning across the globe–it’s the damn Mcdonald’s fast food equivalent of curry. I admit, every time I’m abroad, I see too much of their large yellow sign and have always skipped it for fear of being duped by some overly-commercial fast food chain. But it’s far from that. And with their first restaurant in the Philippines finally open, Curry House Coco Ichibanya will show you why exactly it’s become incredibly popular.
The menu is a little complicated but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have fun making your own mix. The steps are as follows: you choose the amount of rice you want on your dish (from 200g to 600g, this gives you the base price of your meal), the heat level, and then you go all out and add whatever toppings you want. You can make a meal out of it, too, by adding salad or dessert. There are so many toppings to choose from that you’re tempted to pile everything onto your mound of rice. There’s seafood, vegetarian and meat options, and let’s be real here, everything sounds too good to pass up.
We get a cheese hamburger which is just as good as it sounds: the ground beef is so plump, with pearls of fat embedded throughout the meat, that it doesn’t taste or feel as if it has any extenders at all. Cut into it, and an incredibly generous amount of cheesy goodness comes runneth over. Mixed with the curry, it’s an over-the-top, umami bomb combination that needs spoonfuls of rice with every bite. Pari-pari chicken is incredibly crispy to the bite, and holds its integrity even when doused with curry sauce. They even have natto, that polarizing fermented soybean dish, that is seriously addicting once you get a mouthful in. The texture is slippery and tender at the same time, that it feels like you’re just eating mounds of funky mozzarella. Trust us, it’s good. Our only complaint is that the folks here have held out on us Pinoys by only letting us crank up our curry heat to number 5. It’s pretty spicy but I’d love even more heat to make my mouth water!
Aside from their standard curry, Curry House Coco Ichibanya offers a hashed beef sauce which is soupier than their thick curry mix, and comes on top of omurice. The yakiniku strips are perfectly fatty, and the omelette is incredibly silky; it’s the perfect alternative if you’re looking to try something else. They have curry gratin too, which comes piping hot. The rice is smothered in curry sauce, cheese, and either seafood, chicken or beef, then popped back in the oven until the cheesy mix is all bubbly and gooey. When eating here, don’t forget to eat the pickled radish with your curry; it’s a little pop of sour sweetness that takes away just enough of the richness, just so you can reach for more.
The group who’ve brought us Japanese import UCC and Japanese-inspired concepts such as Mitsuyado Sei-men and Yamato Bakery have got another winning franchise on their hands. With all the other chains from Japan coming this year, this place will definitely hold its own, and the group has proven that they can keep the quality of their franchises, no matter how long they’ve been running. Now let’s try and petition them to get us some hotter curry!
Do you like Japanese curry? Where’s your favorite place in Manila to get your fix? Tell us below!
Full disclosure: Pepper.ph was invited to feature the above establishment. Therefore, the feature includes no rating whatsoever, which can be influenced or biased.
Curry House Coco Ichibanya
Address: G/F Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Pasig City
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