San Francisco's palette of street-food options is about to expand with the expected launch next week of JapaCurry, a food truck specializing in Japanese curry. Owner Mutsuo Hamada ― he goes by Jay ― is in the final stages of permitting. With any luck, he'll be ready to launch in time for the seasonal farewell to Off the Grid Fort Mason, Nov. 19.
Jay's road to mobile vending started off as one well traveled, then took an unexpected turn. Laid off two years ago from a Silicon Valley IT position, he faced a decision: Try to scratch out something else in the decimated tech field or indulge his latent passion to open a ramen shop. A restaurant turned out to be too expensive, but venture capital buddies told Jay to check out L.A.'s Kogi BBQ trucks. He sold his house in Cupertino and spent the next six months in Japan, apprenticing in Kanagawa Prefecture with a young ramen chef called Roku to learn the intricacies of tonkotsu. But ramen from a food truck? Not practical. "You need too much water," Jay says.
Then one day back in San Francisco, Jay spotted the line snaking out of Muracci's, the Japanese curry joint on Kearny at Bush. Epiphany: "I thought, Okay, curry is much easier in a truck," Jay says. For JapaCurry he's going authentic ― what Jay calls homemade style: chicken katsu curry, beef curry, vegetable curry. A bento box, too, filled with karaagae, maybe. "I want to try something they don't usually serve here," Jay says, "something unique."
Besides his Nov. 18 Fort Mason debut, Jay's applied for permits for two lunchtime spots Downtown, and he'd love to secure a weekly spot at one of the other Off the Grids. "I'm very, very passionate," Jay says. Stay tuned for his Twitter feed to launch.