Thursday, May 19, 2011

Manten curry, Jimbocho (ライスカレーまんてん)

Yo, wassup man...ten. You wouldn't think that one of Tokyo's most famous curry places would be a dirty little storefront in a thin alley at the north end of Jimbocho. Come to think of it, you probably should expect that - the area is famous for curry, and as far as I'm concerned, the dirtier the better.

Not that it's dirty, per se, it's just a well-used space serving an inherently greasy product. Reminds me of a teppanyaki place - it's a greasy food, so they take pains to ventilate as well as making things out of marble and steel and other materials that can be scrubbed until they bleed. Here, they're giving everything a good wipe. It feels well-used.

They also serve up a cup of the cleaning dregs when you sit down. Why, I don't know. But everyone gets a small mug of this coffee, which was iced (I imagine it's seasonal). Coffee and curry is a classic combination in Japan (and often it goes with jazz; beats me).

And within about 30 seconds, your curry order hits the counter (after the rice man fills your plate and the sauce man does his artistic little thing to get the glop from the ladle onto your rice. Division of labor.). The basic curry here is weird - it's lighter-colored than most, quite sweet, and studded with ground pork. It's also quite tasty if you like declasse curry, and oh boy I do. You should pretty much be able to tell from the picture if you'll like this place - if it reminds you too much of Two Girls One Cup, don't go.

Your options for toppings cover a range of fried nuggets and slabs, plus wieners. Pork cutlet seemed to be the most popular choice, but I've done that and wanted to try something different, so this is the other popular option - fried shumai. The fry is so thick and fluffy and crunchy that it's hard to notice the shumai inside; I couldn't tell if they were pork or shrimp or crab or what. Maybe they were fry-filled fried shumai.

As long as we're here for another minute, let's talk about the condiments. There are containers of chili powder on the counter. I don't recommend them, but the guy next to me does. I just found that it didn't integrate or even match with the style of curry. If they simmered it in for an hour or three, I'm sure it would be good. As a topping, not so much.

The pickles, however, are awesome. I love this style of sweet pickle, and they have buckets of them all along the counter. A dream come true, really, because my main concern with these is eating up everything that's in whatever dainty container is provided, or else how to use the little tongs to get a solid pile onto my plate. Man, these were good.


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