Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CoCoichi, my love

It's summertime again at Coco壱番屋 (CoCo Ichibanya)! I was in there earlier this week for dinner (classy I know) and saw that they brought back the chicken and summer vegetable curry I've had for the past two summers, ever since the beau introduced me to the CoCoichi goodness.

What is the CoCoichi goodness you ask? It's a fantastic Japanese curry house chain gracing the islands of Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa. When I was a student at uni here I rarely ate Japanese curry-it was OK in a fix but I found it too sweet and thick compared to Indian curry which I could eat every day. But this time around, it has become one my my staples. When the beau first took me to CoCoichi it was summer and their chicken and summer vegetable curry was my gateway curry so to speak. I couldn't believe how much my tastes had matured, this Japanese curry was great!

Japanese curry has grown on me since then and even after eating the 1700 yen curry at Tops in Akasaka, nothing beats CoCoichi's curries which are all around 600-800 yen. It has definitely become one of my Japanese comfort foods, great for colds, great for any time really.

If you haven't been to CoCoichi-go! They have both beef and pork curry bases, with over 25 curry topping varieties including korokke (croquettes), omelets, various chicken/pork/beef katsu fried cutlets, cheese, vegetables, seafood and hambagus. I personally wouldn't recommend the nato curry, nor the fried quail egg curry, but I'm not a huge fan of nato and non-chicken eggs freak me the fuck out. I also saw they have a limited time croquette filled with edamame and potatoes that I will have to try next time. The best part is you can mix and match toppings, change up the spiciness level and choose how much rice you want-it's just magical I tell ya!!

I can't really introduce CoCoichi without mentioning that it is a salaryman haven. Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea and thinks I am introducing gourmet fare, be forewarned. It's gourmet enough for me and you can't beat the price. Unfortunately however, it's basically salaryman fast food which means the inside decor is yellow and brown plastic lit up by fluorescent bulbs. Nice right? And you will rarely see women eating at these joints. When I'm working I'll duck in for a meal but I'll often get it to-go to avoid feeling like I've entered alien territory. There's obviously nothing wrong with salaryman fast food and I personally embrace it, but it can be so depressing sitting in these places, nary another female to be found. I always think Yes!!! Female curry lovers!! on the rare occasion I see another woman eating at CoCoichi.

It should be said though, that CoCoichi is not as bad as places like Yoshinoya and Matsuya. The two main places to go for gyudon or stewed beef on rice ("beef bowl" to some) are even worse! At least CoCoichi has some tables and booths but at these beef bowl shops there are usually only long winding counters where you can go to rub elbows with the local salarymen. Even cheaper than CoCoichi you can get a beef bowl and miso soup for under 500 yen. Score! I ONLY do takeout at these places unless I'm with the beau, because it's just so...well the environment is prohibitive to eating there. As a woman not only are you spotlit by the lovely overhead lights but you'll be the only person with a vagina in the whole place with a bunch of salarymen sneaking glances at you in between scarfs at their beef bowls. Add being a foreigner into the mix and it's too much! I've never actually seen a woman by herself at these places and the beau's explanation for this is a combination of it being a) salaryman territory, b) cheap and nasty (in a tasty way) fare, and c) not aesthetically pleasing. Plus we all know real ladies (if you've seen Little Britain you can picture the accent I would use when saying this) wouldn't eat at places like this even if they have to spend twice as much elsewhere for the same amount of food/quality.

The beau once pointed out a ramen place in Roppongi to me that has divided its long counter into very small booths so that women will feel more comfortable getting down and dirty with their ramen. I understand that. When I'm out for a meal during work which is more often than not alone, I would love some cheap and nasty salaryman fare but I also don't want to have to rush through my meal so the next guy can sidle up to the counter (I might go so far as to compare it to animals at a trough but without the mess). I also don't like feeling like I'm in a fishbowl as I get that enough at work. I guess that comes at a price doesn't it? At least I still have CoCoichi!


Lisa said...

Yum! I will have to check this out the next time we visit Japan. We've eaten at an Indian place in Asakusa and I accidentally ate a curry donut at the Mr. Donut in Kyoto station, but I haven't seen CoCoichi!

goeast said...

haha, i know exactly what you mean. i love those beef bowl places, but it's totally like animals at the trough for sure. I'm new enough to eating out in Japan I don't mind the strangeness of not so many women and other people staring, but it would probably get old after a while.

Bangkok has cocoichiban, and oh how i miss it's mushroom omelette curry and bright red pickles! yum yum!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

goeast: I don't think I mind if it's not really busy and maybe even on a weekend, but I just can't get on board with it during the lunch hour with the fluorescent lighting and what feels like a time limit. If you even come to Tokyo again, I will totally take you to Cocoichi...I'm dreaming of their vegetable curry now...