43 Puckle St, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 2916
Japanese curry? Doesn’t get discussed by curry nuts in the same zealous manner as spice-laden dishes from throughout Asia – and, these days, the rest of the world – does it?
And while I’ve known folks who have lived in or spent some time in Japan who have a soft spot for that nation’s version of curry, for me it’s always been a matter “prefer others” when it comes to Japanese food.
Today, though, I take the plunge.
The lure isn’t desire or appetite. It’s the description propped on the counter at Chiba Sushi Bar:
Now that sounds good for lunch on a bleak and chilly day.
And so it proves to be.
Chiba Sushi Bar is the sibling of Chiba Japanese Restaurant in Hall St, a block over from Puckle.
During my half-hour or so in the place, it does a brisk and pretty much non-stop trade in sushi rolls, the popularity of which is also reflected by some rave reviews at the joint’s entry at Urbanspoon.
Perhaps there’s quite a lot to be said about takeaway sushi rolls purchased from an establishment that has real and meaningful ties to a more formal and proper Japanese restaurant.
Along with the rolls, they serve a small range of other dishes – katsu curry, chicken katsu curry, tofu and vegetable curry, unadon – on rice, also with miso soup as part of the partaking fee.
My soup is good and hot, with some diced tofu but minus all but the barest glimpses of greenery. Sadly, it is served in a polystyrene cup.
I also get a Japanese soft drink of the peach persuasion. Getting into the fizzy sweetness defies my best efforts, so the staff eventually show me how – by pushing the marble at the top down, where it rattles around as you quaff. Neato and refreshing but at a price ($3.50).
My pork curry and rice, annoyingly, comes served in plastic and looks a rather modest serving.
It’s fantastic and the serve size proves more than adequate!
The root vegetables – potato and carrot only, as far as I can tell – are finely diced and meltingly tender, so much so that they are virtually part of the gravy. The pork pieces are likewise tender.
The gravy itself is blazingly hot and stays so until the very final mouthful. My ragout/curry has a nice but mild chilli undertow.
Calling this a curry in the same sense as we think of India, Thailand or Malaysia is a stretch. But taken on its own terms, it’s a winning lunch.
Well satisfied, I depart knowing I’ll forever remember this as The Day I Learned To Love Japanese Curry.
UPDATE: A friend has just informed that Japan-style curry sauce comes, she thinks, from a tube. Well, it’s pre-made anyway – check out this wikipedia entry.
You know what? I don’t care!