When I used to live in West Los Angeles, I learned to take full advantage of the wonderful Japanese eateries that dotted Sawtelle Boulevard. Since I’ve left Southern California, the scene along Sawtelle only seems to have improved over the last 10 years, with some killer ramen shops now in the mix. I wish Tsujita and Daikokuya had been there during my post-collegiate years.
Back in the late 1990s, my favorite restaurants included Hide Sushi and Hurry Curry of Tokyo, the latter of which offered a terrific pork cutlet that became a weekly staple throughout my early 20s. I was thrilled to find something similar when I discovered Muracci’s in San Francisco several years back. The only problem was that Muracci’s was deep in the Financial District, which is probably the least friendly part of the city for me to navigate.
Lo and behold, I’m in Berkeley a couple weeks ago, strolling among the crusties of Telegraph Avenue, when I spot the storefront for Muracci’s latest outpost. I felt like the restaurant gods were looking out for me. What a boon for the East Bay. Not only is Berkeley considerably easier to navigate than San Francisco, but the restaurant is also located between my two favorite record shops, and just one block from one of my very favorite bookstores.
Even better, Muracci’s of Berkeley boasts a much more spacious dining room than the original storefront, and this East Bay incarnation features table service, which proves to be a much more relaxing environment overall (the original San Francisco location is tiny, typically crowded, and take-out orders are the default option for FiDi workers).
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A good friend of mine thinks that Japanese curry will be the next wave of Asian to cuisine to wash over America, once ramen loses some of its steam. I’ve considered this same theory on my own, but I’m not convinced that it’s that simple. However, I do feel that there’s something about Japanese curry that could catch on here in America.
Although curry finds its true roots in India, curry was first introduced in Japan by the British Navy, and because of this association, curry was therefore considered a “Western” dish (and an example of yoshoku, the Japanese interpretation of Western cuisine).
In general, Japanese curry features a subtly sweet note that distinguishes it from its Indian counterpart, and it’s this inherent sweetness that may ultimately cater to the American palate. Whether or not Japanese curry is ready to become the next Big Deal, I’m at least thankful that it has finally arrived in the East Bay.