The Best Spots in S.F. for Japanese Curry

Head to one of these staples when you’re craving the savory comfort food



If you have visited Japan, you likely quickly discovered that the Western perception of Japanese food — chunky sushi rolls and sashimi — is very different from what the Japanese actually eat on an everyday basis. One of Japan’s most popular and beloved comfort foods isn’t pristine cuts of fatty tuna, but curry rice, a dish that resembles Indian or Thai curry, but brings a milder, sweeter, heartier flavor to the table.


This winter, San Francisco is warming up to the idea of fragrant curry plates of Japanese origins, with a slew of intimate, cozy spots offering the dish. It wouldn’t be a Californian trend without vegan and vegetarian tweaks, naturally — at the brand-new San Francisco cafe Konomama, a build-your-own curry offering is perfect for a leisurely lunch; choose between a vegan or a chicken stock-based curry and add delicious toppings like potato croquettes, katsu pork or an airy egg swirl to the sauce and the rice. The result is a round (and perfectly rounded) plate that’s both satisfying and light.

In North Beach, Family Cafe recently opened in a small space outfitted with white and turquoise tiles. The owners describe the fare as “Japanese cafe food,” which means veggie and meaty sandos and platefuls of aromatic curry rice, flavored with 16 different spices and topped with anything from delicate squash to tender chicken.

Open in the SOMA district since last summer, Cafe Okawari offers Japanese comfort classics with a “California soul”; in addition to sashimi bowls and shokupan (milk bread) toast for breakfast, the veggie curry plate is a standout, featuring potatoes, carrots, peas, and pickled radish. Adding a soft-poached jidori egg or chicken katsu will take lunch to the next level. And, for a low-key dinner and neighborhood people-watching, look no further than the Bon, Nene in the Mission. There, a soothing beef curry entree, with potato, mushroom and ground beef, will teleport you straight to a Tokyo kitchen serving up this classic comfort food.


Feb. 4, 2020

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