Craving vegetables in Shinjuku? Head on over to camp for a hearty, healthy, veggie-packed bowl of Japanese curry.
The most popular "1 Day’s Worth of Vegetables” curry, with two stewed chicken drumsticks alongside. - image © Florentyna Leow
Eating out in Japan can feel like a never-ending quest for greens. Most popular and affordable lunches here are dismally short on vegetables. To be specific, there is a distinct lack of variety when it comes to vegetables with your main meal. Those that do come to mind include a sad, tiny side salad (the sort accompanying most lunch sets), julienned cabbage (with tonkatsu sets), a conciliatory heap of grated radish (tempura), a few bamboo shoots (certain ramen), or a tangle of julienned radish that you’ll probably never eat (with sushi). Even offerings at izakayas tend to skew towards meat and fish rather than vegetables. It’s tough to eat your greens out here.
The entrance to camp. - image © Florentyna Leow
Thank goodness, then, for the existence of camp. Written with a small letter c, their signature curry contains a day’s worth of vegetables - that’s 350g, or just 1/3 of a kilogram of vegetables in one meal. In any of their curries, the vegetables play as much of a starring role as you let them. Any of the curries, whether it’s the stewed beef tendon or spicy pork, can be augmented with double the amount of greens for a few more silver coins.
An array of vegetables. - image © Florentyna Leow
At camp, each curry is cooked to order by combining various secret curry sauces. They arrive hot and bubbling in cast-iron saucepans. The vegetables are added in the order of length of time taken to cook through, rather than being simmered along with the curry sauce for lengthy periods of time. Swift cooking means that they retain their natural sweetness and texture beautifully. For instance, triangles of sliced onion remain crunchy-tender and remarkably sweet, while yellow cherry tomatoes are hot and juicy, softened by fire and gravy, but not completely cooked through. It is thoroughly representative of Japanese preferences for sweet-savoury curries, redolent with spice sans the mouth-searing heat. Almost as joyful and summery is a small glass of tomato salsa, herbaceous and sharp with onions.
I chose 100g of rice - but you can have more or less to taste. - image © Florentyna Leow
Eating here feels like a reprieve in so many ways. It’s healthy and colourful, but not in a smug, virtuous way. It is a welcome break from the preciously-plated bowls of food at every other restaurant around you, and consequently, it is a relief not to have to marvel at how pretty your food is. There’s no hidden etiquette or anything to catch you out. One does not need to know about cultural procedures here. Eating a bowl of curry involves nothing more complicated than spoon, rice, mouth.
A distinct ‘outdoors camping' theme going on here. - image © Florentyna Leow
camp is a favorite with the local office workers, and it is always a flurry of activity here. You’ll hear the rapid clinking of pots and pans, the sizzle of vegetables being tossed in hot oil, dishes under running water. Turnover is fast, and if you do have to wait, they’ll take your order as you stand outside. By the time you’ve been seated and had your first sip of water, your food is ready. On an overcast, rainy day, there are few curries better for your soul than this.
The entrance to camp is in the basement of this building. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: From Shinjuku Station, take the South Exit. Cross the road to where the Shinjuku Bus Terminal is. Turn right. Walk along the road until you reach a sushi shop on the corner on your left. Turn left. Keep following the road for approximately 10 minutes. You’ll arrive at an intersection with Yoyogi Station to your left. From this point, camp curry is about 400 metres away. Walk straight while keeping left and enter the small lane ahead; you’ll know you’re going the right way when you pass Fuji Soba on your right and Tonga Coffee on your left. Walk straight ahead past the railway crossing. camp curry will be in the basement of a building to your right.
Name in Japanese:
11 Tamazukuri Building, 4-29-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo 151-0051
11:30am - 11:00pm
Train: 5-minute walk from JR Yoyogi Station on the Yamanote Line, or 14-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station on the Yamanote, Chuo, Saikyo, Shonan-Shinjuku, Odakyu, and Keio lines.
:: Read customer reviews of camp curry on TripAdvisor
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