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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Japanese Curry in NanoTokyo

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Beef curry served over ramen. - ERIC S. BURKETT
  • Eric S. Burkett
  • Beef curry served over ramen.

There's something sort of hausfrau-ish about Japanese curries. Unlike their more exotic counterparts from India or Southeast Asia, fragrant with herbs and rich with coconut milk, Japanese curries have a certain homely quality, much like dads' beef stew. They're satisfying in a cold-weather sort of way, even rib-sticking with their thick, brown sauce and chunks of root vegetables.

That might help explain the fondness which they're accorded by the Japanese, to whom the British Navy introduced the dish back in the late 1800s. Curry continued to grow in popularity until, by the 1960s, it was a solidly Japanese dish, as much a part of national culinary repertoire as, say, sushi or mochi. Even the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force features curry as its regular Friday mess option. The fondness for the stuff holds sway over Japanese Americans, as well, as evidenced by the Japanese American Religious Federation's annual curry cook-off in Japantown every October.

Fumi Curry, which has just opened on Mission Street south of Cesar Chavez, is the newest addition to San Francisco's collection of Japanese curry restaurants and what Bernal Heights boosters are referring to as NanoTokyo. Small, with half-a-dozen tables as well as offering seating at the bar, Fumi occupies the former site of Eagle Donuts. The décor is clean, modern, and warm, the staff friendly, and the music playing over the sound system — at least on the day I arrived for lunch — quirky.

click to enlarge Fumi curry in Bernal Heights' burgeoning NanoTokyo. - ERIC S. BURKETT
  • Eric S. Burkett
  • Fumi curry in Bernal Heights' burgeoning NanoTokyo.

I took my seat and was handed a heavy, bright menu filled with colorful drawings of numerous dishes and a half-page treatise on the health benefits of curry. (Spices, such as cumin and cinnamon, have anti-bacterial qualities, so eat up!) Fumi's menu offered several options for curry, including katsus, seafood, and vegetarian selections, all served either with rice or over noodles. I chose the noodles and faced another choice: ramen or udon? The udon was $1.50 extra so, feeling cheap, I went for ramen.

The service was quick and paired with Fumi's very reasonable prices, perfect for lunch. My beef curry on ramen was $10; a pot of brown rice tea cost $1.50 (There's a good selection of beverages at Fumi, including Japanese soft drinks, and an inexpensive kids' menu, to boot). While it's unlikely anyone will ever report one of those life-changing culinary moments after biting into Fumi's beef curry, it was a satisfying lunch. The noodles were perfectly cooked, although I would have like to have seen a few more vegetables or a little more beef in the sauce. Crisp broccoli and dried chili threads topped it off. Nice.  I may have to catch the curry cook-off for something a little more interesting, though.

Fumi Curry, 3303 Mission St., 415-757-0901.

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Eric S. Burkett


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