One of the strengths of Japanese cuisine is that it’s multifaceted. Entire restaurants are built on specific sub-sections of Japanese food, such as sushi, ramen or — in the case of Torrance’s CoCo Ichibanya — curry. A relatively new arrival to the South Bay restaurant scene, CoCo Ichibanya is a chain straight out of Japan with only 3 current expansions in America.
The Significance of Curry
Curry is one of those well-traveled dishes that has been assimilated into an incredible range of cultures and countries. In this case, it arrived in Japan, from India, by way of British expansion some time in the late 19th century. The spicy stew, then, represents a lot of history and a very long journey. The Japanese variation is sweeter and thicker than its Indian counterpart, often served mixed with rice and a type of meat for a quick and filling meal. The convenience makes it a popular lunch break or to-go dish, especially in its native countries.
You don’t normally expect your dinner to be this customizable. Here, you can play the role of a curry mad scientist as you calibrate levels and tweak ingredients. The options at your disposal have statistics that turn it into engineering: rice portion sizes range from 150 grams to 500 grams and extra entrees and toppings include clams, cheese, kimchee and more. The main variable in your custom order, though, is in the spiciness. Your floor is a sweet & tasty “mild,” which is effectively level 0. Level 1 is marked as “1x” hotness and single chili icon. Fire-tongued connoiseurs will gravitate to the higher end of the scale, probably to its Level 10 ceiling – marked an astounding “25x,” implying a conflagration in the mouth.
Why you would want to do that to yourself is beside the point. It’s about the freedom to do so, and the demonstrable range of a scale that runs 25 quantifiable points of hotness. It’s a ridiculous and wonderful step up from the usual scale of “Not hot” to “Hot enough.”
This is on top of your base level dish, where you can get curry and rice poured over a dozen of entrees. Traditional inclusions like pork cutlet, stewed chicken or thin sliced beef might be enough to pique your interest. If you’re a little more offbeat, there’s eggplant, fried squid and cream chicken. If you’re a wild free spirit that can’t be held by tradition, there is hamburger meat & cheese curry. If a sleek, contemporary curry restaurant can be described as anarchic, then yes, it’s a bit anarchic.
It’s a small dining room, but clean and modern with bright walls, dark floors, and rounded edges. In this manageable environment, the focus on curry allows them to provide excellent customer service. That’s because the nature of the food means it won’t take long to receive your order, and that’s already half the battle in creating a good experience. The speed allows CoCo Ichibanya to occupy a sweet spot between sit down restaurant and fast food. It’s good for a quick bite at their counter, but why not sit a while in a booth?
How do you like your curry dishes? What country does your favorite curry come from?
CoCo Ichibanya – (310) 294 – 5315
2455 W Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance, CA 90501