307 Kearny Street (@ Pine), San Francisco, CA | phone: 415-773-1101; fax: 415-773-1102 | Website
hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., until 5 p.m. Fri.
Curry is not a native spice to Japanese cooking and is believed to have been introduced during the Meiji era (1869-1913) by way of British Raj cooking. It is as beloved as ramen noodles and is much milder than Indian or Thai curries and shows up on Japanese menus as Kare Raisu (curry rice). I love the savory brown stew of meat, diced potatoes, onions and carrots that is served over rice, along with sweetish japanese-style pickles in place of chutney, although some people like it served over noodles. I grew up eating this stuff which we made from a pressed block that miraculously melts into a delicious thick curry stew, available in mild, medium and hot.
My co-worker Daisy mentioned this newish Japanese curry place a couple of times, but I was put off by the comments about long lines when I looked it up on yelp. I finally went and it is totally worth waiting in line for, although getting there early to beat the crowds is a really good idea… Like Santa Ramen, they have a limited amount of the daily special that sells out quickly, so that’s just another reason to get there before the lunch bunch does.
The first time I went, I was in training downtown and was able to get there at 11:30 and it was almost empty – there was just one person ahead of us! This gave us a little bit of time to look over the menu and decide what to order. There are many other options besides curry, including donburi (rice bowls), teriyaki, noodle soups (udon, soba or ramen), a variety of sushi and some desserts like manju and green tea cakes.
By the time we ordered, the line was beginning to form…
What is it that makes the curry here so good? The Muracci sauce is simmered with vegetables and herbs/spices for two days, resulting in a stew that is thick and creamy and full of flavor. The curry comes with a little container of pickled cabbage and a small amount of fukujinzuke, a japanese pickle whose name originates from the tale of the Seven Lucky Gods. Fukujinzuke consists of seven different kind of vegetables mixed with a sweet soy base and it has an addictive crunchy texture that complements plain rice and is even better with the curry. If you get it to go or eat in, the curry is served in a separate container from the rice so that it doesn’t get soggy. Unlike most Japanese curry, Muraccis is liberal with the hot stuff! This is the spicy curry – notice the red flecks of chili.
On my first visit, I ordered Tofu and Vegetables over Brown Rice. This was light and good, the tofu had a nice chewy texture, but it’s the Tonkatsu that I think about….
Here it is, the Katsu Kare, which is the mouthwatering combination of a breaded and fried cutlet served over rice with their famous curry sauce (katsu = cutlet, kare = curry).
This is the real reason why everyone loves this place. The pieces of Tonkatsu are big, fat, moist and meaty and each plate is cooked to order so it is served crispy hot from the fryer. The cook to order aspect is why the long line forms.
Me, I started off by spooning a little bit of sauce over it, but found that I liked to dunk the crispy fried tenders individually into the spicy curry sauce (kind of like dip) so that the magnificent breading didn’t get soggy. I’m sure this is uncivilized, but I liked it better that way.
Daisy got the Oyako Domburi. Oya = parent, Ko = child, which refers to the delightful combination of Chicken and Egg with green onions and savory sauce served over steaming rice. This is one of my favorite dishes that my grandmother used to make for us.
Now that the Autumn chill is in the air, I’m craving hot foods and the katsu kare from Muracci’s is definitely going to be in my lunchtime rotation. Next time it’s the curry over noodles or maybe the breaded and fried shrimp…