In my recent quest for Yoshokuya (Japanese-style Western food restaurant. For a very quick recap, read this or the wiki article), I realised today that I had totally forgotten about this hall-in-the-wall (far from beating Frisco in terms of search difficulty) in the main street of Shimokitazawa, the old-school "Kitchen Nankai". This 7 seater (at most), serving Yoshoku fares for the past 32 years is patronized by a predominantly male clientele largely in its 50s and 60s, looking for cheap and filling food. The decor is particularly humble and the walls pretty much worn down. It is worth noting that the die-hard Giants fan chef works in a restaurant with the same name (Nankai) as the team from Osaka which used to be Giants' arch-enemy in the 60s. A little bit like if this "Chelsea" loving guy was working for an eatery called "Manchester U". Not that the master chose to name this place like that: "Kitchen Nankai" is a chain of Yoshoku restaurant that started in downtown Jimbocho and now serves food in several locations within the larger Tokyo area.
This eatery is mostly famous for its Omu-Raisu (ketchup-sauteed-rice-filled omelete) and Katsu-Kare (rice topped with curry and deep-fried pork cutlet), and though I thought the Omu-Raise would provide a nice and vivid picture for this post, I went for the quite filling Katsu-Kare instead.
As soon as I ordered it, the lady in the back provided the master with a slice of pork fillet. He dipped it in the egg-flour-water batter before covering the whole thing in fresh breadcrumbs, and finally dropped the meat in the frying oil. That's a good thing: a lot of cheap places have their items already fried and quickly warmed in the oil right before serving.
As soon as the cutlet was ready, he cut it in thin pieces, topped it on the rice, and covered the whole thing with the curry sauce simmering in a large silver pot.
Their curry is the traditional, sweet and not too spicy neither hot, Kare you will taste at Japanese homes or in any old school eatery in Japan. It tastes miles away from what an Indian curry offers in terms of flavor and spices, but it's good nonetheless. I was raised eating this thing so I'm used to it: don't be surprised if you've never tasted it before as it doesn't taste like a Butter Chicken...
The curry in this joint is probably darker in color and stronger and saltier in flavor than the average Japanese one. As you can see from the picture, it is slightly soupy, probably in order to let the breadcrumbs soak up the sauce more easily.
The meat was tender, with very little fat, and the batter well done, if not a little greasy...It definitely combined well with the curry.
I am not going to complain though at ¥600. There's enough rice (which is well cooked) to satisfy anyone and it tasted good overall. It is probably not ranking among the best B-Kyu Gurume (B-list gourmet) fares in Tokyo, but if you're looking for an authentic Yoshoku restaurant, cheap with some good old atmosphere, this place will definitely do.
None of their fares on the menu exceed ¥800 (even for combination plates) so it's a good place to remember if you're on a tight budget. They also have all sorts of deep-fried items, the Yoshoku-must Hanbaagu (hamburger steak) and a Shoga-Yaki (pork sauteed with ginger) that looks pretty good.
As you can see, the place is tiny. Not even 2m wide...
Kitchen Nankai is open everyday except Thursdays and the 3rd Wednesday of the month.
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-13-5
Click here for a MAP