If you have been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I really love Japanese food. And the beauty of Japanese food is that it is so diverse, I could be craving sashimi one day, and ramen the next. But the ultimate Japanese comfort food for me would have to be Japanese curry (to be specific Katsu Curry Don). This was one of the first dishes I’ve ever ordered in a Japanese restaurant and forgive me if I sound like a broken record: I used to have it on a regular basis during my student days (dude, I’m starting to sound like an Obasan).
Anyway, imagine my excitement when I heard that one of the biggest Japanese Curry House is opening its first branch in Malaysia. That’s right, Coco Ichibanya already has 1,350 restaurants in Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, North America, and Singapore. It’s truly the McDonald’s of Japanese Curry!
I was delighted of course to attend Coco Ichibanya’s launch night at 1 Utama early March along with Malaysia’s Hottest Bloggers. It was a glammed up event with appearance of local celebrities too.
The tagline of Coco Ichibanya is “The Tastiness You Can Choose”, as customers can customise their meal based on their preferences. You can choose the spiciness of the curry (mild, signature original flavour, and spiciness of level 1 to 5), toppings you like, and even the amount of rice.
There is a selection of over 30 meat and seafood to choose from chicken, beef, pork, prawns, clams and more, and some are paired with toppings such as egg, corn and croquettes. So if you really love Japanese curry, you can technically have all different combinations for a few month consecutively! Not to mention the more fusion dishes such are curry meat sauce atop spaghetti, curry gratin and more. If curry rice isn’t your thing, fear not. There are other non curry based dishes such are creamy pasta, salads, and soups too.
On the launch night, we were treated to some tasting portions of the dishes.
Though my favourite of the night would have to be this one:
Almost all the proteins were fried in batter, although they weren’t greasy as I would have expected. The lightly-crisped chicken stood out though as it has the best texture and also I could actually taste the chicken (juice and tender as a plus). As for the curry sauce, most of them were served with level one curry which is not spicy at all (at least to me), but I still love similar taste of the curry. There were some level 3 and level 5 curry sauce ‘shots’ going around and well, no prize guessing which one I like! Level 5 packs plenty of heat and I would gladly tackle it any given day, but if I want to take it easy, then I would probably go for level 3 or 4. But what really caught my attention is this:
Usually when I eat Japanese curry, it’s often served with only a few pieces of pickled radish and often they look quite processed. I have to portion it properly with the meat and rice, not a problem here! These are freshly made and unlimited! A match made in heaven with the curry sauce, I can foresee myself coming here whenever I have a craving.
What is the difference between Japanese curry and say, Malaysian curry you may ask? Interestingly enough, Japanese curry is actually more Western influenced, as the technique involves first making a “roux” out of butter and flour, like the French technique of cooking soup (that’s why the gravy is nice and thick). Then, curry spices are added and to infuse some sweetness, vegetables like onions and carrots forms the basic flavour profile and fruits like apples are often included as well.
Here are some of the dishes available at Coco Ichibanya (in the order of my own preference, hah!):
Is there any question? Omurice plus Katsu Curry wins hands down of course! I mean, just look at this:
I can just imagine the crunch of the pork cutlet, the silky smooth omelet paired with the curry sauce, comfort food for sure.
I would give this a go because it has Bacon and Spinach. Maybe as an extra topping to my Omu-Katsu-Curry Rice.
If for whatever reason you come to a Japanese Curry House and don’t want to have neither curry or rice, this could be your choice (maybe you are not a fan, but your girlfriend is).
There are also a few meat-free options, including a very lovely looking Eggplant curry. For your vegetarian partner or friend.
The CoCo ICHIBANYA branch in 1 Utama seats a maximum of 65 persons in the 128 square meters restaurant which exudes a casual, friendly and unpretentious ambience. Folks in Penang, look out for the second outlet which will be opening in Queensbay Mall soon.
Of course, there are some obligatory group photos:
So, I need a date to Coco Ichibanya soon, who wants to come with me?
Photo credit to Andy Kho (those without watermark are mine).
CoCo ICHIBANYA is located at:
Lot LG 333A, Lower Ground (New Wing),
1 Utama Shopping Centre,
47800 Petaling Jaya,
Operating Hours: Daily from 10.00am to 10.00pm
CoCo ICHIBANYA is a restaurant chain owned by Fuji Group, the company of Fuji Japanese Restaurant in Thailand, and for more information, head over to http://www.ichibanya.co.jp/english/index.html