Options for Japanese curry toppings are pretty much wide open, but pork cutlets, or katsu, are one of the most popular. Katsu curry is so delicious and ubiquitous, in fact, that sometimes the rest of the world needs a reminder that the word katsu by itself doesn’t mean curry.
As Japan’s favorite chain of curry restaurants, obviously every branch of Coco Ichibanya has katsu curry on its menu. But if you know where to look, you can get an even more special version: tare katsu curry.
“Tare” means “sauce,” but tare katsu refers to a specific type of pork cutlet in which a delicious soy sauce-based light glaze is mixed into the breading, delivering its flavor to you with each and every bite. It’s especially popular in Niigata Prefecture, which is why Coco Ichi calls its take on the dish “Niigata Tare Katsu Curry.” It’s not available at every Coco Ichi location, but you don’t have to go all the way to Niigata to try it either, as there are two branches in Tokyo serving up Niigata Tare Katsu Curry, plus one not far from downtown Tokyo in the nearby city of Yokohama.
That Yokohama branch is the one we decided to visit, located a short walk from Hakuraku Station on the Toyoko Line, 30 minutes south of Shibuya. After a short stroll along the Rokakubashi Shopping Street, with its vestiges of 1980s architecture and atmosphere, we arrived at Coco Ichi, and not long after our dish of tare katsu curry arrived at our table.
The 891-yen plate comes with two generously large cutlets, each about the size of the 14-centimeter smartphone we used to snap our pics. The color of the breading was an enticing brown-gold, thanks to all the tare soaked into it.
We started with a taste of cutlet by itself, and the crisp bread crumbs gave way to the juicy and tender meat inside. The tare has strong sweet and salty notes, exactly the sort of flavor that makes our rice cravings spike, and following up a bite of cutlet with a spoonful of rice was a pattern we could happily continue all day.
Mixing the tare katsu into the curry makes for an even fuller flavor, bringing in all the savory, spicy goodness of Japanese curry roux. The effect is actually a little on the busy side, as neither the tare nor the curry flavors are willing to back down, but this is a decadently enjoyable experience, especially if you’re looking for something different than run-of-the-mill katsu curry.
The Hakuraku Coco Ichi is the only one in Kanagawa that’s serving tare katsu curry, but it’s also on offer at two branches in Tokyo, Sano in Adachi Ward and Sendai-dori in Chiyoda Ward.
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