Living in Tokyo, the opportunities are endless. Towering spires of ambition contained within a labyrinth of concrete and steel, as millions of citizens weave past each other throughout the day. People from all over the world come here to witness the greatness of this metropolis, wanting to experience some of the merriment for themselves. Although the names of places like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku are some of the more well-known spots in Tokyo, the less popular areas offer some of the best adventures around. Jimbocho fits that description well. Often left out of tourist circles, Jimbocho is a land from where vintage books, music stores, and curry rule the day. In this article, we are going to focus on the latter, as the culture of curry and Japan intertwined to create a new culinary identity that will leave you grateful for having embarked on such a journey. There are dozens of curry shops to choose from in the area, but we will focus on a few restaurants that have set the bar high in terms of gastronomical delight.
This place separates itself from the competition. Known as the golden standard of all things curry, be amazed at the sights and sounds of the establishment as the stewing combination of spices greets and enraptures your senses. Locals and travelers alike dine together as Ethiopia constantly has a packed house of souls ready to get their fill of the daily special. Pictured in this shot is the bean curry, consisting of a soupy, flavorful broth, with a combination of 12 different “secret” spices and freshly chopped vegetables. The dishes are served with an ample ration of steamed rice and a boiled potato with butter.
Named after a variant of coffee adored by the owners, prepare to be amazed at the endless combinations of curries you can order, as well as the mouthwatering options available to customers. Make sure you get there at an opportune time to avoid the massive influx of people looking to get their curry fix. When visiting Jimbocho, Ethiopia is a place you don’t want to miss!
Located underground, Mandala is an exceptional restaurant that understands the balance between ambiance and appetite. Warm lighting and warmer staff make you feel at home as you dive into the full restaurant experience. Getting there early is key, as the place gets quite busy during lunch and dinner. With an assortment of curries available, there is something for each customer. The image below features the mushroom curry made with hearty tomato-onion based masala with sautéed squash and small slivers of pepper to amp up the spice. The entré is completed with a side of delicious saffron rice with raisins and freshly baked naan straight from the tandoori oven.
As an aside, customers who wish to imbibe on the culinary fare need to ensure that they bring extra coin with them, as set items only appear during lunch time. Although a little more expensive during dinner hours, you won’t be disappointed with the award-winning curry that is offered at Mandala.
Another local favorite in Jimbocho, Bondy offers a unique spin on Japanese curry. Differing from the South Asian variant, this eatery creates an atmosphere more familiar to the Japanese model. The locale is inviting as soft wood textures mix with lush flora and inviting scents of spiced curry. Depending on the time of day, it can get quite lively, as many customers are well-aware of the delectable cuisine that lies beyond its doors. However, that shouldn’t deter you from partaking in some of the best of what Bondy has to offer.
For this demonstration, I would like to present the seafood curry, stewed in a rich, brown curry sauce with garden-fresh carrots and onions. The side of rice is steamed for a desired amount of time to ensure quality and lightly brushed with butter to enhance the flavor with the curry. Garnished with pickled vegetables, the cuisine is carefully assembled to accommodate Japanese culinary standards.
With a delectable sense of belonging, Bondy understands the importance of mastering the basics. If you’re looking for a more conventional flavor that falls in line with more flavorful traditions, then Bondy is the spot for you!
Located near Jimbocho Station, this curry shop offers a “heartier” feel to customers, as many of the dishes are prepared with beef, pork, and other meats. Since the 1980s, Gavial offers high-quality fare for a reasonable price. Like Mandala, the establishment has a warm atmosphere conducive to exciting the appetite, as the combination of modern designs intertwines with classic artwork. In this shot, the classic beef curry is showcased with an impressively tangy brown sauce and all-natural whole grain rice.
If you’re looking for a vigorous flavor that can ignite the palate with a rush of unforgettable delight, then Gavial will not disappoint.
The last option on our list is a heavy-hitter in the curry world of Jimbocho. With a Southeast Asia flair, Makan is heaven in culinary form, as the blend of Singaporean spices interweaves with modern fusion cooking. The locale captures the essence of the region creatively, as traditional decor and contemporary design meet hand-in-hand to give patrons a memorable experience.
Although Makan offers an assortment of dishes to keep customers interested, today we are going to focus on the signature coconut curry, spiced to perfection with fresh chilies and blended with an array of leafy greens and roasted chicken breast. A healthy dollop of cooked rice and flatbread complete this dish. If you’re looking to up the ante and take a walk down the peppery path of edible wonderment, then Makan is your one-stop shop.
Depending on the time of day, the prices vary from ¥1000 - ¥2500, so be prepared. As far as language ability is concerned, have no fear, as the menus have large, colorful visuals that will allow you to order without much trouble.
Jimbocho holds a special place in the heart of those who appreciate all things "natsukashii". With vintage goods at every turn and warm curry to keep you happy, the area understands the importance of never forgetting where you come from. If you're looking to have memorable experiences of Tokyo that will last years on end, Jimbocho is a place that will make sure you leave all troubles at the door and depart with a sense of nostalgia that stands the test of time. Just make sure some to have some curry while you're there.