Magic Spice (Soup Curry), Shimokitazawa

I am featuring today probably one of the most famous soup curry restaurant in Tokyo, "Magic Spice". For those of you not familiar with this tasty and spicy dish, let me copy and paste that little paragraph I wrote before in this other soup curry joint "Kokoro" feature post:

The Soup Curry was born in Sapporo, in the Northern Island of Hokkaido, where it's become as popular as the Ramen, with more than 200 restaurants all competing for the best of its genre. The trend has gone southward and you can find Soup Curry restaurant all over Japan now.
This Japanese remix of the Indian curry is exactly like its name describes it, that is a soupy one. Each restaurant takes pride in cooking the perfect bouillon in which they'll add the spices and the ingredients that they will slowly stew, for the perfect soupy curry

Bollywood on steroids interior

Magic Spice actually happens to be slightly misunderstood as they're serving more of an Indonesian chicken soup "Soto Ayan" with strong curry flavor rather than a standard soup curry. The mistake by customers is easily understandable though, as the decor inside and outside is of a completely pseudo-Indian psychedelic taste, and even the waitresses dress like they could be working for Air India. The top page of the "English" website is probably the only place with a little bit of Indonesian graphics.

The extravagant look aside, the menu ordering system works a little bit like the "Kokoro" one, meaning you first need to choose the soup dish you want (chicken, pork, beef, seafood, vegi and so forth) and then you ask for how spicy you want it to be. All you need to know is that even the smoothest one is relatively hot, so you shouldn't challenge yourself unless you really can stand it, and the spicier it is the more expensive it is, so it is generally a wise choice to keep it edible at a smooth level.

There are 7 levels of hotness, all named after pseudo-buddhism references, which are (in smoothest +¥60 to hottest order +¥250) :
覚醒 (Kakusei or awakening) > 瞑想 (Meisou or Meditation) > 悶絶 (Monzetsu or Faint in agony) > 涅槃(Nehan or Nirvana) > 極楽(Gokuraku or Heaven) > 天空(Tenkuu or Vault of heaven) >虚空(Kokuu or Void)
There is also an astronomical level of hotness which is not on the menu but which you can ask for, called アクエリアス (Aquarius). You have to sign a waver (I'm serious...) when eating this so do it at your own risks!
Talking about pseudo-buddhism references, you will see that this place is full of weird buddhist and hindi graphics, very strange texts all over the place (from your table to the walls) about how eating curry and enjoying strong spices will make you trip etc...

I ordered the "World's best, tender and juicy" Chicken leg soup curry, and cautiously went for Meditation (Level 2) to start with.

After 10 minutes came a plate of safran rice (with a slice of pineapple) and a pretty big soup with a big chicken leg in it. The other ingredients were some cut carrots, Daikon radish, cauliflowers, onions and chinese cabbage.

Chicken curry and a ray of light

As I told you before, the soup curry here tastes more like a soup with curry flavor. To be more precise, it tastes like a good Pot-Au-Feu, that is a stewed bouillon of chicken and vegetables, with some added "indian" spices like garam masala and some more pepper. The first spoon is surprising as although you know you ordered Level 2 hotness, the spice kick is rather impressive. That's where the safran rice comes in timely and handy as it helps you escape from the peppery feeling.

The mouth-saving safran rice

In case you'd like to smooth or spice-up your soup, there are some red-hot chili powder, some galam masara like yellow curry powder and a transparent liquid made of lemon, lime juice diluted in water. I tried the citrus water which does wonder in smoothing the broth.

Chili powder, curry powder and the magic water

The chicken is well stewed and you really don't need to work hard on it to detach the tasty flesh from the bone. I also prefer the skin roasted than boiled, but it is cooked here long enough to feel unobnoxious. The size of the specimen is quite big so if you're a chicken eater, that one leg should be enough to please you.

As you can see, it looks more like a Pot-au-feu than a curry...

Once again, this is not what I would call a soup curry, but Magic Spice is very very popular in its own right (you will probably have to wait before getting to a table), so should you be curious about the decor, the various mystical levels of hotness and the reason why its cuisine is so famous, please give it a try yourself!

Magic Spice is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, open from 11:30am to 15:00pm and 17:30pm to 23:00pm the rest of the weekdays, and from 11:30am to 23:00pm on weekends and national holidays
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 1-40-15
Click here for a MAP


zack said...

Thanks for this blog. I actually know about 70% of the places you talk about but you have a lot of extra information about the places that I'm really interested in. I've scanned through blogs in Japanese about Shimokita and they seem to focus more on the clothing shops and have a whole lot of filler which takes a lot of time to get through with imperfect Japanese.

Aside from the places that I go often enough to become friendly with the people working at the place, I don't usually get to know this much stuff. It's also good to hear about someone elses experiences at the places I know because I can't try everything everywhere. I have been going to Mixture for 2 years and I had no idea it had that much history. I have been to City Country City a few times and had no idea it was run by a guy from Sunny Day Service who I was just checking out a few days ago.

And there are a bunch of places I have passed on my ongoing quest to try everything in Shimokita but wanted some info before I dove in (Magic Spice, the Falaffel place way outside Shimokita, Ciccoute, Usuya)

I've always wanted to start a blog about random things in Japan (probably a lot of music but also movies, books, news topics, trends and resteruants). If I ever get around to it it would probably have a lot of Shimokita-exclusive stuff. I'll try hard not to draw too much information from your blog.

Since you seemed to be a seasoned explorer of the area, I am kind of curious if you can answer some questions.

1 Vegan friend visiting for 2 weeks...know any good Vegitarian/Vegan resteraunts. I know Alicia , I think it'd be easy to please him at Noumin Cafe and the owners of Kamay Kitchen told me they could work something out. Just wondering if you know any more, especially any that are strictly Japanese resteraunts.

2 Is there a place or two that you use more than others to introduce people to Shimokita? I find myself being the Shimokita tour guide...for Japanese friends as much as foreign friends and I'm trying to up my game for them.

3 Cheapest good places (besides 500 yen curry) and take out at Mixture? Healthiest places (trying to get used to a low-sodium diet without too much deep fried least 6 days a week)?

If you've ever tried making a top 10 (top 30?) I'd be really interested in seeing it.

Sorry for the terribly long comment.

frenchy said...

Hi Zack, you just won the "longest comment" award on my blog, congratulations. Thanks for visiting!

1) not being vegan/vegi myself, I'm not aware at all of the restos here, but as you said, NOMIN CAFE is definitely an option.
this place near Higashi-Kitazawa says it's vegan:

2) Depends on what they want but I go for Tonsui for cheap Teishoku places because I've been going there for almost 20 years and I love it and it's the real Japan, NOMIN CAFE is perfect for ppl wanting something WA-like, I use USAYA for its good food and the Ozu Yasujiro reminiscent movie set like decor ("cultural" people like it) and WARAKUGOSON for its great Yakitoris. I used to use the izakaya HACHIBUNME a lot for tourists as they have pretty much anything in terms of food, a nice terrasse and a big room with tatamis in the back.

3) Not that it's Haute-Cuisine, but Tonsui is probably my favorite cheap-eat. Densetsu no Sutadon and its pork bowl for 500yen or so is pretty nice. Chabuzen has a healthy curry-flavored soup, and Yasai Sakaba has a nice lunch with lots of vegetables. Marusan Foods has also a great healthy lunch...

I've never done the top 10 but I may one day!