Chabuzen (Soup Curry), Shimokitazawa

I have recently started this weird thing of shooting manhole cover and feature them in a photoblog. It's nothing new; there are plenty of incredible blogs about those covers, if not even art books about them. I am not sure why I started this, but I just love the designs (obviously) and there is in finding new designs a ludic aspect to it that is quite exciting for the geek in me. The past few years I have spent looking around and up for unusual or pretty things to immortalize with my camera, now I am constantly looking down.

Anyway, looking for new round iron treasures, I was walking on the north side of Shimokitazawa when I came across a Soup Curry restaurant in the middle of almost nowhere. It was noon, hot and I was hungry so I entered the tiny place to discover an almost funnily small counter with three seats, and two little Chabudai (traditional short-legged table) in the back. The owner wearing a traditional brown outfit looked almost surprised when I got in, making me a hint worried that I was the only customer in days. It's also worth noting that I was the only customer during the whole lunch so it's still fair to say that it's not the most happening joint in Shimokitazawa... But my worries were vain as the food he offered me was good.

I ordered the Tappuri Yasai No Soup Kare (soup curry with "bunch" of vegies) and since I had to order how hot I wanted my dish (like Magic Spice but without the tripy names), I went for the house-recommended hotness "ChabuKara".

While waiting for my curry, I had time to chat with the owner, from which I recall 1) he opened the shop a couple of years ago 2) he chose that place because it's far from the station, enabling him to keep menu prices low as the rent is cheaper 3) he loves soup curries and has even spent some time in Sapporo, the "soup curry world capital", to study and improve his own recipe 4) he's originally from Hiroshima and on and on and on...

Just like Magic Spice, this eatery's specialty is definitely more like a hot Pot-Au-Feu (chicken bouillon with vegetables) than a regular curry. The SUPER low-on-salt clear soup looked like it'd been given a lot of care and attention. Little or almost no fat was floating on the transparent liquid and though the place is supposed to be a Yakuzen Soup Curry joint, the bouillon didn't taste (at least to me) like the pungent Kampo spices I usually assimilate to be Yakuzen-style. Yakuzen is a cuisine based on traditional Chinese medecine and this article might help you clarify things a little bit if you have no idea what I'm talking about.
One thing the soup did taste like (and increasingly as I was getting towards the end) is the south-east asian fish sauce Nam Pla. When I asked him whether there was fish sauce in it, the reply was positive.

The house-recommended hotness, which I think was third from the smoothest, was within reasonable for me, but probably too hot for anyone with chili issues.

The restaurant's webpage says the curry contains an impressive 14 vegetables, which I'd love to descrive to you, but most of them were so stewed and had lost so much of their original look, that it makes the listing almost impossible. I'm not a total debutant in food but I'm afraid I could name you only few ingredients so I'll leave it all up to you to try it and find out for yourself! One thing for sure is that numerous different textures were present, from slightly crunchy to melting, so it did not feel like a whole messy puree. One of the non-vegetable very interesting item was the Okara No Gnocchi, literally gnocchis made out of Okara, a substance left when soybeans have been pressed to make soy milk (which in turn is used to make Tofu and Tonyu). I have talked about this uber-healthy product in this doughnut shop post as well. It had the look of mochi (glutinous rice cake) but was mealier inside. A weird texture to be honest, and definitely not a bomb of flavor either but it was a new discovery for sure.

The rice plate I was served was full of flavorful Hatsuga Genmai (germinated brown rice) which is even richer in nutrient factor than the already pretty healthy regular brown rice, due to the work of the enzymes present during germination. I felt the slightly bigger grains went very well with the very liquid soup.

It's out of the way at a good 15mn walk from the station, but the owner/cook is quite funky, the tiny shop is kind of cute and the meal is at a very affordable ¥600, so if you're feeling slightly adventurous and want to try something off the tourist trail, do walk the extra few hundred meters to visit this place.

Chabuzen is closed on Mondays and open the rest of the week (including national holidays) from noon to 15:30pm and 17:30pm to 23:00pm (L.O. at 22:30pm)
Setagaya-ku, Daita 6-16-20
080-6603-8587 (that's a cell phone number so the phone bill will be slightly more expensive than a fixed line call...)
Click here for a MAP


Anonymous said...

Yeah I have been here a few times - I must say that the soup curry at further down ichiban gai (kokoro) is much better. The owner is a really nice guy though - he is heavily involved in the save the shimokitazawa group. I worry that he doesn't make much money though - as you say the place is always empty and if you go to Shimokitazawa Saizeriya late at night you can find him working the grave yard shift...