For a limited time, one restaurant in Tokyo is serving up curry that’s just as good as the noodles it’s famous for.
Kazuo Yamagishi (山岸 一雄), otherwise known as “The God of Ramen” (ラーメンの神様), was famous for founding Taishoken (大勝軒), a famous noodle shop in the Higashi-Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, and for inventing tsukemen (a version of dipped ramen noodles). Sadly, the 80-year-old passed away in 2015, but his former disciples continue to carry on his legacy at other Taishoken and restaurants throughout the city.
Although Taishoken is known first and foremost for its noodles, one branch is currently offering a special menu item for a limited period that is beloved by all ages–curry with rice! Ochanomizu Taishoken is participating in the annual Kanda Curry Grand Prix with its recreation of Yamagishi’s own treasured curry recipe. Our team couldn’t pass up this rare opportunity, so we sent our gourmet reporter extraordinaire Mr. Sato to give us his exalted opinion of the dish.
Backtracking now to Yamagishi, the restaurateur largely grew up in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, where his original curry recipe was influenced by the naval curry he encountered at Yokosuka’s U.S. Navy base. In particular, the preparation involved sautéing ingredients such as pork, potatoes, onions, and carrots in lard before combining them with his special broth from Taishoken and curry powder.
▼ Ochanomizu Taishoken in Tokyo
The Ochanomizu Taishoken branch began offering Yamagishi’s replicated curry on August 23 in preparation for the Kanda Curry Grand Prix preliminary rounds. Never one to delay a gastronomic experience, Mr. Sato ventured over to the shop on the very first day it began offering the curry. However, he suffered a slight panic upon arrival because the ticket vending machine didn’t display any option for curry! He asked a staff member how to order and was told to select a ticket for atsumori (cooked noodles initially rinsed in cold water then reheated again before being served in a hot soup) for 770 yen (US$7.50) because they were priced the same. Readers should note that as none of our staff members have been back since that first day, we’re not sure whether that’s still the same procedure or if a new curry sticker has been added to the machine.
Okay, so what did Mr. Sato think of Yamagishi’s recreated curry?
As soon as the steaming plate arrived in front of him, he remarked that the curry looked like traditional Showa Period (1926-1989) curry, which is his favorite style. Its hue and serving presentation immediately whetted his appetite, and the side accompaniments of Chinese onion and pickled vegetables served as perfect complements.
The potato and carrots had been chopped into relatively small pieces, and no single curry component appeared to outweigh the rest. Finally, Mr. Sato lifted his spoon…
“Mphfskdhfnadfajh!!” is a rough translation of the first sound out of his mouth because he was already immensely enjoying the flavorful sensation spreading over his taste buds. When he finally did come up for air, he commented that the flavor of the Taishoken soup base was evenly spread throughout the sauce, and it was the perfect depth of flavor without being too overpowering.
After some reflection, he decided that this “Showa style” of curry, in both appearance and taste, could probably be attributed to the presence of the lard, which made him continuously reminiscence about the nostalgic days of his youth (as he is apt to do). It was even more delicious than he had anticipated; the flavor was so divine, in fact, that it could even surpass the curry found at curry specialty shops! He could definitely come back and eat it again and again without ever getting tired of the taste if it were a fixed menu item at Taishoken.
Whether you’re a regular of Ochanomizu Taishoken for the noodles or just happen to be in the neighborhood, don’t miss this chance to sample a limited-time recreation of a classic curry. We’re wishing the restaurant all the best so that its delicious dish advances into the final stages of this year’s Curry Grand Prix!
Ochanomizu Taishoken / お茶の水 大勝軒
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda-Ogawamachi 3-1-5 Suda Building 2F
東京都千代田区神田小川町3-1-5 須田ビル ２Ｆ
Open: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
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