Katsu Kare Showdown: Curry House vs. Hurry Curry of Tokyo
With all the talk of the Go Go Curry eating championships in NYC, I found myself craving some Japanese curry recently. It doesn’t help that Hideki Matsui is a California Angel now either. My favorite cheap curry spot in Midtown was a shrine to #55 (Go Go in Japanese) and every time he hit a home run you would get a free topping coupon. Sadly Go Go Curry hasn’t followed Matsui out to L.A. (yet!) but thankfully there are plenty of spots to find Japanese curry out here, and the other day I ventured to Little Osaka (the section of Sawtelle btw. Olympic+Santa Monica) to try two of them in a head to head curry battle the death!
If you’ve never had a Japanese curry, it’s not really like an Indian curry- even though it was introduced to Japan by the British (who got it from India). First off, it’s much thicker… almost like a sludge. It’s slightly sweet, and slightly spicy, always served over rice, and often topped with a panko breaded fried piece of meat (usually pork.)
First up was Hurry Curry of Tokyo, which I was slightly skeptical of. It’s the nicer looking of the two spots, and seemed very welcoming to non-Japanese people. Too welcoming. (Nothing worse than places that cater to “American Tastes”.)
It is an extremely rare occasion that I will choose chicken over pork (can you blame me?) but it seemed like the chicken katsu was the specialty of the house, so I went with that. (Angelenos love their chicken!)
I sort of prefer the dirty fast food places (like Go Go Curry) where the curry is poured like concrete over a giant mound of rice and topped with the fried meat all in one oval metal dish… but I suppose there are advantages to getting it this way- the most obvious one being you can regulate the amount of curry you get in each bite. Despite its antiseptic appearance, the katsu was crunchy and fresh, and the curry was really tasty. Slightly sweet, with a nice kick (we ordered it medium, but probably could have taken the hot) and the consistency was very pleasant. Not too sludgy, but not watery either. The perfect middle ground. Not bad at all. And it came with a side salad, all for $8.95. But how would it compare to Curry House?
Curry House immediately seemed like more of a Midtown Lunch kind of spot. It’s on the second floor of the Sawtelle Place strip mall across the street, and was far dirtier than the gentrified looking Hurry Curry. The kind of place your boring co-worker would walk into, and have second thoughts about. Noiser. More hectic. Our kind of place.
I liked how it was all on a single plate, but surprisingly the curry wasn’t as good ($9.25). It tasted more like a boxed curry, which I guess is not actually a surprise since they have their own brand of boxed curry proudly displayed in the window outside. You got more of the chicken katsu (always a good thing) but something about it was not as good as the Hurry Curry of Tokyo version- a fact that would be easier to overlook if the curry was as good. Not terrible, but it was easy to tell that the Hurry Curry of Tokyo version is superior when eaten so closely together. It’s possible that their other dishes are better (for example they have a very popular Masala curry special) but head to head, their basic chicken katsu curry just wasn’t as good.
So if you work in West L.A. and get that Japanese chicken katsu curry craving, now you know where to go. That is until Go Go Curry decides to follow Matsui to California, and open a branch here in L.A.! In the meantime, if you have a better curry recommendation in L.A. (or think I got it totally wrong) sound off in the comments.
Hurry Curry of Tokyo, 2131 Sawtelle Blvd (just North of Olympic), 310-473-1640
Curry House, 2130 S. Sawtelle Blvd. (just North of Olympic), 310-479-8477
Post-script for our Lunch’ers Downtown and in Pasadena… the Hurry Curry of Tokyo in Pasadena closed at the end of last month, and I’ve heard the Curry House downtown (in the Weller Court) is better than the Sawtelle branch? Anybody been to the one Downtown?