The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 22 January 2010

Japanese Curry @ Coco Ichibanya, Tokyo

In Japan, the New Year holiday is the most important event of the year. Almost everything is shut on the 1st of January, and when the 2nd roles around, many will flock to the shopping centres, department stores, and basically any retail locations for the hatsu-uri, the "first sale" of the year (similar to the post-Christmas sales in Australia). Unlike most girls and women, I actually don't enjoy shopping for clothes or shoes. I love grocery and food shopping, but I find "retail therapy" quite tedious and tiring. I love a bargain, but I hate crowds so I almost always avoid the shops when it's sales time. My sister, Honey, loves shopping. And she wanted to spend the Sunday with family, but shopping as well. Truth be told, Rob and I needed to get some clothes, so Honey managed to convince us to join the crowd at the sales at the nearby Lalaport shopping mall in Toyosu.

It was rather late by the time we headed for home, so we had a quick look around the Toyosu train station for dinner. We stumbled across a Coco Ichibanya Curry House (click here for English website), and I'd previously read good things about this brand. This is a popular chain fami-resu (i.e. family restaurant) specialising in curry, and a quick google search revealed that this is a popular Japanese export brand in Hawaii, China, Korea and Thailand. From this experience, it is very family-friendly and welcomes patrons of all ages. Zak was served his very own plate, utensils and plastic cup, however I had packed his dinner and drink hence we didn't need them, but Zak took the liberty to play with them anyway. The menu was surprisingly extensive and quite flexible with many options and additions available to tailor to the customers' requirements. For example, you can choose the level of spiciness, additional toppings, amount of rice, and choose a combination of two dishes for a cheaper price than if you got them separately. It's sort of fast food, but with decent service and the food is not so nasty or terribly unhealthy. It was pretty easy on the pocket too, and all these factors make Coco Ichibanya quite a reasonable and economical choice for families. It was easy to dine with our 15 month old here, and I can see why it's called a fami-resu!

Rob chose a combined set of Creamed Crab Croquette Curry and Mushroom Curry, plus a Crispy Fried Gobo (burdock root) Salad which is available only until the end of February. Honey ordered the limited edition of Crispy chicken Soup Curry, available also until the end of February. I wasn't that hungry so I got a combined option of Squid Salad and Tuna Salad. The food tasted quite good (in the void-of-nutrition kind of way), which is why there is a large fan base out there of the Coco Ichibanya curry. The thing I personally have found with Japanese curry is that it's perfectly enjoyable if I don't expect it to be the gloriously spicy curries of South-east Asia and India. Here are a few shots of the food taken with Honey's compact point-and-shoot.

The seafood salad and the crispy gobo salad:

Rob's croquette and mushroom curry; and Honey's order of the chicken soup curry

This was our first visit to a fami-resu in all our 3.5 years in Japan, but it probably won't be our last visit as we can no longer be food snobs and avoid them, especially on occasions when we have to dine with our boy.


  1. From Jun
    Oh my, its the last place you could dine I thought!
    But I completely agree with your last sentence. Babies and foodies usually cannot coexist.

  2. From Jun #2
    When I was a university student,
    Coco1 had its famous promotion: eat a gigantic curry of 1.5kg (or probably more), and if you finish it, you pay nothing.
    The side effect was, you face was photographed and distributed to all its branches,
    so that you could not make the second curry free.
    Some of my eater friends won their free curry. I did not try it of course.

  3. Re: From Jun
    Haha! Well, I guess this is what you can expect very soon enough, Jun! It's actually not that bad. Eating out with kids does seriously limit our dining choices, especially in Japan, but there are *some* fine dining places that are tolerant to babies. There were many such restaurants in New York, which is probably why we could still enjoy the foodie aspect of our stay in NYC last year.

  4. Re: From Jun #2
    1.5kg! So, if someone tried it and couldn't finish it, did they have to pay for the 1.5kg portion they served?

  5. Re: From Jun #2
    Jun: Yep, the losers must pay for their failure!