Sushi, tempura, ramen—and curry? It may not spring to mind as a staple of Japanese food, but curry looks to be the next big culinary export from Japan to hit here. Japanese curries are similar to the already popular Indian and Thai curries, except that the flavors aren’t as complex, and they tend to be sweeter than spicy.
In Japan, there are counter-style diners that serve primarily curry rice dishes, which makes sense. It’s quick, simple, tasty and filling.
Although it’s common to find a curry dish or two on the menu of a Japanese restaurant in the South Bay, dedicated curry houses are less common.
Muracci’s Japanese Curry & Grill is a curry house that opened last year in Los Altos. This is a second location for Muracci’s, which also operates a restaurant in San Francisco. There are 13 curry dishes on the Los Altos dinner menu, not including specials.
The curry is served with a side of rice, a choice of protein, and a generous helping of curry sauce, which is thick and gravy-like in its consistency. The sauce, available in varying levels of spiciness, is both rich and subtle—it’s simmered for 20 hours to develop the flavors.
I ordered my curry at medium spiciness, which ended up not being very hot. The spiciness there has a slow buildup, but it’s never overpowering. The predominant flavors resemble a simplified Indian curry dish (turmeric, cumin, cardamom), but overall gentler on the senses.
Of the protein choices at Muracci’s, I ordered katsu ($14.25) a pork cutlet—one of the most popular options on the menu. The mixture of the breaded pork, curry sauce and rice, made for a hearty comfort dish. Other proteins include beef, chicken, salmon, tofu, hamburger or omelet.
Diners can top their curries with optional additions such as vegetables, potatoes or spinach ($1.25 each), cheese ($1.50) or extra meat ($2.95). I chose a boiled egg ($1.25) to top my katsu curry. Dishes can be further spiced up with additional curry sauce ($2.25).
Muracci’s menu also includes dorias, which are less common than curry rice. For a doria, the rice and protein are baked with a curry béchamel (white sauce) with cheese cooked on top, similar to a gratin. Though Japanese families commonly prepared doria for years, it’s only recently that it’s become a restaurant item, even in Japan. I ordered the chicken curry doria ($15.95). The presence of the cheese actually modified the flavor quite noticeably. It’s the taste of the baked chicken and cheese that stood out more than anything. This is a cheesy, fatty dish, not what one might typically when they think of Japanese food.