Curry rice isn’t pretty, but it is soulful and immensely satisfying. Karē wa Nomimono in Akihabara serves voluminous plates of curry rice that’s pure comfort food on every level.
Black curry rice with garlic pork and a marinated egg. - image © Florentyna Leow
Much has been made of Ugly Delicious, a Netflix original food and travel show digging into the culture and history behind popular food. No matter what you think about the show’s politics, ‘ugly delicious’ is an excellent description of some of the best food around - food that’s soulful, satisfying, and distinctly un-photogenic. Curry rice fits all those descriptors: it's one of the quintessential ugly delicious dishes in Japanese cuisine. One of my favorite places in Tokyo for this dish is Karē wa Nomimono, which has a few branches across the city located mainly in salarymen-heavy districts.
A shower of fried garlic and onions goes onto of the pork. - image © Florentyna Leow
Karē wa Nomimono translates roughly to ‘Curry is a Drink,’ and the volume of curry poured onto your plate is about as generous as you'd expect from the name. Even at the smallest size, the curry rice you get here is a veritable heap of rice, gravy, meat, and toppings. Unsurprisingly, this chain is popular with blue-collar workers fueling up at lunch.
Colour-coded buttons make it easy to order. - image © Florentyna Leow
Ordering is simple. You have two choices: 黒い肉カレー black pork curry and 赤い鶏カレー red chicken curry at JPY890 and JPY790 respectively. Whichever you choose, it’s the same price regardless of how much turmeric rice you choose. First timers or smaller eaters should probably go for a small size 小盛り, which gives you 200g of rice. Trust me - that’s already a lot. I don’t need to tell you that this is great value for money.
The yellow buttons for simmered pork belly. - image © Florentyna Leow
Whichever size you choose, you will almost certainly want to pick up the pork belly topping ガリ豚 by hitting the yellow button on the vending machine. JPY300 will net you 200g of garlicky, simmered slices of pork belly. Once you’re at the counter, hand your tickets over to the staff.
The black curry comes with a slice of lemon. They recommend squeezing it over the sauce and following that with habanero sauce and powdered cheese for different dimension to your curry. - image © Florentyna Leow
If that was all, it would have been enough. Dayenu, as Jews would say. But the free toppings take the curries over the top, elevating them to a glorious, sloppy, memorable, mountainous messes. (Yes, free toppings are actually built into the cost of restaurant operation, but you have to admit it’s good marketing.)
A numbered list of toppings to choose from. - image © Florentyna Leow
You can choose three toppings from a numbered list of ten: 1) ajitama (marinated hard-boiled egg), rakkyo (pickled shallots), fukujinzuke (soy-pickled daikon radish/other vegetables), 4) potato salad, 5) fried garlic, 6) coriander, 7) mayonnaise-dressed tuna, 8) mayonnaise-dressed corn, 9) basil bean salad, 10) fried onions. Give the staff three numbers. I highly recommend making fried onions one of your three.
Condiments at the counter include habanero sauce and powdered cheese. - image © Florentyna Leow
In true Japanese fashion, the curries here are not spicy - unless you’re very sensitive to capsaicin. They’re not going to make you break out in a sweat. Not even if you drizzle some habanero sauce on. The habanero sauce at the counter is bright and sweet and juicy, and mildly spicy at best. The red curry is a tomato-based chicken stew, almost, while the black curry is dark and a little sweet, filled with triangles of radish and chunks of pork belly.
I find it tough to finish a plate, especially if I’ve also included the simmered pork belly. - image © Florentyna Leow
Nothing about this curry rice is conventionally beautiful, but there’s something deeply primordial about mounds of food like this: a heap of meat and rice and a tangle of deep-fried alliums, all drenched in hot gravy. It is the kind of food you shovel down too quickly when you’re ravenous, maybe even hurting from one of life’s latest downs. It’s comfort food at its best.
The shopfront. - image © Florentyna Leow
Karē wa Nomimono has branches in other parts of the city, including Ikebukuro, Okachimachi, and Shinbashi. The Akihabara branch is a short walk from the station, on a quieter part of the main road with a little less foot traffic. It’s nice to avoid the crowds in the immediate vicinity of the station. If you’re in Akihabara, go.
It’s quieter on Sundays when all the offices in the vicinity are closed. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: from Exit 1 of Akihabara Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, you’ll emerge above ground. Keep walking straight - you will pass Risona Bank and a 7-11 convenience store on the way. The shop will be on your right shortly after the second traffic light.
Karē wa Nomimono Akihabaraten
Name in Japanese:
Kataoka Building, 1 Chome-9-4 Taitō, Taitō Ward, Tokyo 110-0016
〒110-0016 東京都台東区台東１丁目９−４ 片岡ビル
11:00am - 4:00pm, 5:30pm - 9:30pm (until curry runs out.) Open year-round.
Subway: 4-minute walk from Exit 1 of Akihabara Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line or JR Yamanote, Keihin-Tohoku, and Sobu Line. 6-minute walk from Exit 3 of Suehirocho Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. 7-minute walk from Exit 1 of Okachimachi Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.
:: Read customer reviews of Karē wa Nomimono Akihabara-ten on TripAdvisor
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