Thursday 25 May 2017

The original katsu curry (かつカレ) - Ginza Swiss (銀座スイス)

One of my favourite meals (although it's only a "sometimes" food as too much consumption can have a negative impact on the waistline...) is called katsu curry (katsu is breaded, deep fried pork cutlet).  It is also one of my regular go to meals when I can't understand very much of a restaurant menu!  I was having a lesson with one of my regular students, Ryo, and we were talking about food (as we sometimes do) and he recommended a restaurant in Ginza called Ginza Swiss (or Grill Swiss, they seem to go by 2 different names).  The restaurant claims to be the restaurant that first came up with the dish katsu curry.  No one seems to be disputing the fact, so we can probably accept that it is fact.

The story goes that in 1948, a Tokyo Giants baseball player, Shigeru Chiba, came into the restaurant before a big game and, wanting a big meal for energy to keep him going throughout the game, asked for a katsu to be added to his curry and rice.  The restaurant staff were surprised at this request as curry and rice had always been just that, curry and rice.  The Giants went on to win the big game that night and suddenly an icon had been born.  Since then it has been copied by (probably) millions of restaurants across Japan and around the world.  There's nothing like trying the original though, is there, so I set off after work one night into Ginza.

Now, Ginza is not an area that I go out of my way to visit.  It is everything that is not really what this blog is about.  It is touristy, crowded and doesn't really represent Japan in my eyes.  But when wanting to sample an icon, sacrifices must be made, so into the hoards I ventured.

I soon found myself in a little quiet back alley looking at the legend itself!

No line-up!  Nice, I was in luck!  I went inside and everything was quite small, unremarkable and nondescript, and I don't mean that in a bad way, it just that I had been expecting something a little grander.  But maybe it was better that it was like this.  The focus is all on the food!

Looking at the menu, I only wanted to order one thing.  I looked up at the waitress and asked for "Chiba-san no katsu curry"  A little over 5 minutes later it appeared.

The set comes with some cabbage, dressing and a small cup of soup.  It looked good!

The katsu had a nice ration of fat to meat giving it some nice flavour.

The katsu was tasty and juicy, going very well with the curry.

The curry was a keema curry which is not common for katsu curry.

The sweetness and crispiness of the cabbage and the pickles provided a nice contrast to the saltiness and slight spiciness of the curry (only very slight spiciness.  Most Japanese curries are not on the spicy side).

Before long, it was devoured.  It was very good, maybe not the best in the country, but it was the original and there's an extra level of enjoyment you get out of eating an icon!

Thank you very much to Ryo for the recommendation.  I might have to try and hunt down some other restaurants that have created famous dishes!

Thanks again for reading.  If you get to Ginza Swiss and try the Chiba-san no katsu curry, let me know what you think in the messages.  Until next time, bye.

Cost: Chiba-san no katsu curry - 1,400 yen.

Also, apologies to my Muslim friends.  There is a choice of pork, chicken or beef katsu but the curry is a pork base.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

A nostalgic hot spring hideaway - Shima Onsen (四万温泉) Part 3

This is part 3 of a write-up about a recent trip to Shima Onsen.  You can find part 1 here and part 2 here

I woke up from my nap feeling totally refreshed and ready for dinner.  I decided to head back to the same place that I had had lunch at.

As much as I wanted to have another negi tonkatsu I restrained myself and went for the healthy option (?) of miso ramen.

Beautiful, dark, rich, thick miso ramen that was perfect on a cold winter's night!

Finishing up, I went back to the ryokan and grabbed my other camera and set off for a walk around the town after dark.  I always find walking around places at night very interesting.  You get to see a completely different side of things at night.  Take Tokyo for example.  At night time, the city doesn't sleep.  The day people sleep but the night people are out and about and doing their thing, the city almost as busy as it is during the day, but different things are happening.  Shima onsen, on the other hand, was simply peaceful and quiet.  It was so silent that you could hear the snowflakes landing.

I almost felt guilty having all of this to myself to enjoy.........almost.........

With a smile on my face and a skip in my step, I headed back to the Ryokan for yet another soak and then bed.  

I woke up to yet another breakfast of champions (I love these Japanese breakfasts when I'm travelling).

Having a few hours to kill until the bus back to Tokyo (yes, the bus.  I wasn't taking any risks this time!!) I decided to head over to the old ryokan that I had taken photos of in part 2 and have one last soak in their onsen.  It was old and beautiful and almost Roman in it's decor, at least on the inside it was.

On the outside it was all Japanese!!

Finally, unfortunately, it was time to say goodbye (in the words of the great Andrea Bocelli).  Hauling my waterlogged, but totally relaxed, butt onto the bus I lasted about 10 minutes before sleep took over.  Well, it was a relaxation weekend after all......

Well, that's it for this post and this series of posts about Shima Onsen.  I hope you enjoyed it, I certainly enjoyed being there.  Please leave a comment below and sign up to receive email notifications when I upload a post and please share the blog with someone you know who would enjoy it.

Until next time, bye.

- train ride from Shinjuku to Nakanojo - 2,590 yen plus 980 yen for the Green Car seat
- bus from Nakanojo station to Shima Onsen - 940 yen
- Ayameya Ryokan - 9,000 yen per night (including breakfast)
- bus from Shima Onsen to Tokyo station - 3,100 yen.