What do you think of when someone says "Japanese food"? Sushi and miso soup probably. Different kinds of noodles and rice for sure. While all these things are critical to Japanese food culture, one of the biggest food crazes to sweep across Japan is something a little more foreign. It's curry, specifically spice curry スパイスカレー. Most people will eat a huge plate of Japanese curry at some point in their stay here. The dark brown gravy flecked with bits of meat and vegetables is well loved in this country. But while the typical Japanese curry rice was introduced to Japan by way of Britain, spice curry comes directly from South Asia. In the last year or two it seems that almost every new cafe in Osaka is serving this riff on Sri Lankan and Indian curries. People are lining up outside for up to an hour to get a chance to eat at some of the more popular restaurants and these places often sell out in a few hours. There are magazines devoted to different curry restaurants around different cities.
Well if you haven't tried spice curry yet, you're probably asking what is it. It's a typically a blend of two or more highly aromatic curries on one plate divided by a huge portion of rice. There will usually be some cubed potatoes and a chutney or two. Cilantro gets thrown on top of it a lot and if you're lucky the place will have a huge spiced egg on top. Every place has their own recipe and toppings and often they have a curry of the day or week.
In Osaka, you can throw a rock and probably hit a restaurant that serves curry, but it's been a bit harder for me to find these places in Kobe. I was flipping through the latest edition of Kobe Hon 神戸本, a magazine dedicated to restaurants in Kobe, when I saw the entry about 64 Curry pronounced roku-yon ロクヨンカレー. Located in the shotengai 商店街 right next to Motomachi station 元町駅, it fits right in with slightly rock-a-billy vintage vibes I get from a lot of the other shops around. It's a 7 seat restaurant so be prepared to for a tight squeeze. They have two different permanent curries, a pork keema curry and a chicken coconut milk curry. The popular thing to do is order them both, or aigake あいがけ. They also a have combo plate with two different weekly specials. For an extra price, they have turmeric rice. Josh got the 64 pork keema curry with turmeric rice and I ordered the weekly special which was a chickpea curry on one side and a thai inspired tuna and eggplant curry on the other. All of their curries are actually spicy, which came as a big shock to both of us. It was great, but the staff were laughing at us a bit about how much water we were drinking. The keema curry was a bit sweet, but deeply spiced. The heat level built up the more we ate it. I think if you were very hungry, just the one curry wouldn't fill you up. Josh ended up eating a decent portion of mine as well as his. My plate was the bomb-dot-com. Both curries were so rich and flavorful and I was surprised by how much I loved the thai curry. I'm not the biggest fan of fish, but the tuna was melt in your mouth tender and was such a good addition to the red curry. There were cumin seed fried potatoes and sautéed spinach on the side. The curry plate was topped with a vegetable chutney, thinly sliced red onions, and a healthy amount of cilantro.
The owners were pretty friendly. I had just had a negative experience at a restaurant where some of the customers and staff kept talking negatively about foreigners so I was a little worried about walking into such a tiny place, but the two guys put us at ease pretty quickly. The prices here are also much friendlier on the wallet than similar restaurants in Osaka. My huge plate of curry only set me back 850 yen.
Name: 64 Curry ロクヨンカレー
Address: 2-150 Motomachikokadori, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0014, Hyogo Prefecture
English: No English menu, but the staff spoke some English.