February 13, 2018
Mikazuki Curry Samurai
Small Menu, Big Flavor on a Shimokita Backstreet
A few minutes’ walk north of Shimokitazawa station—on a backstreet where old storefronts from family-owned businesses are intermixed with specialty coffee shops, hair salons and hookah bars—is the new restaurant Mikazuki Curry Samurai. Opened in December 2017, Mikazuki (crescent moon) is the newest offering from the Sapporo-based company Soul Flower. The company operates the popular Rojiura Curry Samurai, a soup curry restaurant with seven shops in Hokkaido and four in Kanto (including a Shimokitazawa location). Mikazuki takes the curry focus in a different direction, relying on roux bases to create dishes rich in flavor and texture.
The shop features a charming facade. Large windows let in plenty of sunlight during lunch visits. At night, a warm glow invites patrons inside through the sliding white door of this rustic-chic, café-like space. The kitchen is clearly visible beyond a row of spice-filled jars.
Choose from three curries: butter chicken, spicy chicken and lamb with red wine. Each comes out to around ¥1200. To order, choose a curry, your preferred spice level (from zero to four), the amount of rice (from 150 to 400g), and any additional toppings. Toppings include onsen tamago (soft-cooked eggs), buttered potato and zangi, Hokkaido-style karaage (Japanese fried chicken). The difference between zangi and karaage varies depending on the source—some state that zangi is characterized by the seasonings added to the meat prior to frying, whereas karaage uses flavored powder. Other sources suggest that soy sauce-based dips (or other strongly spiced sauces) are unique to zangi. The general consensus among zangi enthusiasts is that the flavor has greater depth than karaage.
The restaurant’s nod to Hokkaido continues on the drinks menu, where the original Samurai blend coffee uses beans from Sapporo shop Morihico. A homemade lassi is also available, as is fresh apple juice and Heartland beer.
Those sensitive to spicy foods will be safest ordering a level zero spice curry. The butter chicken curry at level zero had a rich flavor (no doubt courtesy of the roux base) with sweet notes. For those comfortable with spicy foods, the spicy chicken curry packs a pleasant amount of heat at level three. Those who really love spicy dishes may want to level-up to four. Each dish includes a small portion of meat within the curry sauce. While the meat in the chicken dishes take a backseat to the roux sauce, the lamb and red wine curry provided a strong, distinct lamb flavor to foreground the hearty sauce.
Each curry plate comes with a visually and texturally appealing array of toppings. Gently-crisped burdock, thinly-sliced green bell pepper, vinegar-soaked red onions, carrot rappe, potato, broccoli, lotus root and cashew nuts provide a delicious and thoughtful balance to the curries.
This attention to detail extends to small touches in décor and service. Pitchers of water are prepared at each table. If guests visit the bathroom, they’ll find it well-stocked with personal care items (including mouthwash, perhaps essential for some, given how generously flavored the food is). There is also a feedback notebook where guests can leave comments for the staff.
Fans of the soup curry at Rojiura Curry Samurai will note that the roux curry at Mikazuki is quite different; expect to find rich, thick sauces that are great for a cold afternoon or evening. With a nice balance of tables and counter seating, this is a location that’s easy to visit alone. If visiting with a friend or two, note that it’s not conducive to a long stay, particularly given the limited menu. Expect to spend about ¥1200-1500 per person for a hearty, filling meal with an assortment of flavors and fresh ingredients. The butter chicken curry is the best bet for those with a low tolerance for spicy dishes. Go for the spicy chicken curry at level four if you’re looking to max out on the heat.
Mikazuki Curry Samurai
3-34-2 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
English menu available.