A bowl of spices (隠れたカレーの穴場)

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Takashimaya Department Store in the downtown of Kyoto is a haven for food lovers. The basement is full of good finds from Japanese confectioneries to hard-to-find baking supplies. It is my place to go when I need ingredients or inspiration for a recipe.

Walking along the corridor, you will find an oddly located restaurant. There are no separate tables but only seats along a U-shaped counter. Most of the time (all of the time really) the clienteles’ average age is about 50? That is a good sign for me because I have this unsupported notion that restaurants filled with “seniors” have been tried and tested by their “scrutinizing” palate. Well, most of the time I am the real scrutinizer but that is for another (many other) stories.

The restaurant, San Marco Curry House (サンマルコサンマルコカレーハウス), is a store chain by the Tonkatsu Restaurant group KYK and it is located in several areas in Japan; 2 locations are in Kyoto. They serve a variety of curries but not ordinary curry as you might imagine e.g. Thai or Indian but Japanese curry. Yes, the Japanese have perfected the blend of spices for curries to suit their market and it is worth trying. I am not a curry fan but at times I crave for that spicy bouquet in my mouth that marries the fluffy Japanese rice that goes with it; making-love in my mouth as I chew and chew and savor.

I ordered the beef curry topped with a poached egg. There are several varieties from shrimp curry, eggplant curry, or curry with a pork cutlet on top. In my case, the beef curry, as it is the standard order, was the curry of choice as I wanted to first try whether I will go back for a second experience. And you know what? I WILL!

Upon sitting, you are served water and pickled cabbage (in vinegar brine and not natural fermentation). That cabbage was the bomb! It was tasty on its own and definitely matches the curry. The curry came on a big plate. The serving portion was big and the amount of curry to rice is perfect although I prefer more of both (I am getting fat). The poached egg was sinfully runny that you might conjure up naughty images a.k.a. yolk porn. The curry base itself was flavorful with the savoriness of the beef and a whole lot of spices that were difficult to identify one by one (In this department, I dont intend to imitate at home.). The spicy punch of the curry was toned down by the yolk. The condiments on the counter also add another interesting flavors to the dish. There were pickled cucumbers, canned pineapples, raisins, and crushed peanuts. My favorite was a combination of raisins and peanuts. At the end, I was reaching for extra water but in my mind, I wished there was more. LOL

Price: about 780 yen for a big plate of beef curry with egg. Other add-ons are available.

Location: Takashimaya Department Store Basement 1. It is near the wine cellar and Fauchon bakery. Check out their site for locations of Kyoto Branches.

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