When the weather gets nippy, a dish of soupy Japanese curry with pearls of plump white rice warms me up perfectly. This year, I’ve taken it upon myself to patronize as many curry restaurants as I can find in my quest for curry bliss. This edition of Curry Me Happy brings two home-style Japanese restaurants head to head in a straight-up curry showdown.
When I eat curry in a restaurant, Curry House curry is usually my yardstick, since I can usually make curry out of their instant curry blocks with consistently good results. Of course, I’ve also frequented Curry House’s restaurant, which is also pretty freaking awesome. The two places I tried this time both serve up something special that you can’t get from a box–the homemade touch they give their food definitely adds to the experience.
Muracci’s Japanese Curry (pictured above on the left) has quite a reputation–the tonkatsu curry there was named one of 7×7‘s best cheap eats in 2008, and its also a Yelp favorite. Tani’s Kitchen (pictured right), on the other hand, is a Yelp legend as well, and serves up home-style Japanese food in a space that’s the size of a California king-sized bed.
Muracci’s is run by a husband-wife duo, and their curry sauce takes two days to make. Everything on their menu is also made-to-order, so you might need to wait a bit before you get your food. They have two locations: one in Los Altos, and one in SF. Before I delve into the actual gorging experience, I want to talk about how shiny this sauce was. My brother was sitting across the table from me, and I could see his reflection in the curry’s oily sheen.
Delicious? I think yes. I ordered it spicy, which ended up being a bit of a mistake. Instead of tasting the sweetness of the sauce, which definitely came through in my friend’s plate of curry, the bitterness of the spice ended up overpowering everything else for me. However, that didn’t stop me from sopping up the sauce with my tonkatsu and rice. There was just something addictive in it, and I couldn’t stop tasting it. I got sweet, spicy and savory in each bite. The restaurant also provided three types of pickles that add a bit of vinegary freshness to the experience. All in all, Muracci’s served up a satisfying meal that stuck me in a food coma for the rest of the day.
For price and quantity, Tani’s wins hands down. Located in Daly City, this tiny, functional space is run by two waitresses and a chef, who handles his kitchen with efficient fury. If you’re sitting near the end of the bar, you can watch him whirl between frying pans, giant stew pots of curry and soup, and deep fat fryers. I think there’s a cutting board and knife somewhere in there, too.
Portion-wise, there’s a good chance I could drown in that steamy plate of sauce. However, when it came to flavor and texture, the meaty curry sauce was a bit too powdery/grainy for my taste. It was definitely rich, though it came off being more flat-out savory than it did spicy or sweet. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the chef’s sweat ended up in there, too, though it’d probably just add flavor. Tani’s Kitchen gave me a down-home, heart-warming dish of food. It was cheap, filling, and it hit the spot.
So, if it came down to the nitty gritty, which curry would I find myself craving?
Though Tani’s has a lot of other dishes that I find myself dreaming about on a regular basis (the grilled chicken with spicy mayo), when it comes to curry, I’ll be hunting down Muracci’s for a plate of their carefully prepared sauce–medium spicy, this time.