Hurry Curry of Tokyo
2131 Sawtelle Boulevard (@ Mississippi)
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
It’s been a while since I’ve visited Hurry Curry of Tokyo on Sawtelle Boulevard in West LA. Mainly because I overdosed on the Japanese-style curry in my post-college days, and it pains me to pay quite close to $10 for a single dinner of curry. With $10, I can make curry for my entire family and, well, about a month ago, I did. Now I get to see if mine is as good as theirs. Or rather, whether theirs is as good as mine.
Hurry Curry has gotten a minor facelift – not major surgery, just a few cosmetic updates - just to keep up with the changing face (mostly changes in its neighbors) of the plaza. The neon sign is still the same, and the color scheme, red and black, hasn’t changed. But it look like the walls have a fresher paint of coat and they’ve taken down a lot of the photographic artwork that used to cover the walls. There’s only a simple sign on the back wall, a replica of their logo.
The music that’s playing inside is pumped to the outside “patio” with a few tables and chairs. It’s latin electronica light, and sounds exactly like my Brazil Remixed CD, electronicized Latin jazzy stuff. I like it. However, even on the loveliest evenings in LA, not sure I’d want to sit outside on the sidewalk, blinded every few minutes by headlights of the take out crowd and a very efficient valet. But the music is nice whilst waiting oustide with the other interesting looking characters who look like they’re loitering outside, but are, indeed, just waiting for their to-go orders.
It’s very very hot and humid inside and I wonder how the servers who scurry about are surviving when the diners who just sit are practically melting. Are they like my father who refuses to turn the air conditioning on until the official start of summer, no matter that the thermometer actually reads 87 degrees?
The clientele is young and mostly mixed Asian. They look like the next generation of UCLA students and post-college young adults. I used to be one of them, too, and perhaps I’m coming back now because I miss the days of my youth. Wow, I sound old.
The food on the menu hasn’t changed, but the menu has. It shows that there is now another location in Pasadena, and I only recently learned that Enterprise Fish Company, a very un-Asian seafood restaurant down on Main Street in Santa Monica, is in the same family. What an odd mix of restaurants – no economies of scope there.
There are only a few things in the kitchen’s repertoire, but Hurry Curry does a good job of dressing them up in different ways to make the menu seem larger than it is. Rice or spaghetti noodles. Chicken, beef, or tofu. Curry sauces that vary only in heat. Keeping it simple is always a great business model.
Though they are usually made from leftover mashed potatoes in most households, I love the croquettes. There’s nothing made of potatoes here, so no worrying about a prior existence, unless they cart leftover baked potatoes from Enterprise Fish Company over to Sawtelle! The croquettes are delicious as an appetizer, but create quite a carb overload as part of a curry dish – steamed rice and mashed potatoes crusted with breadcrumbs, smothered in flour and/or cornstarch thickened curry? Dr. Atkins would have a heart attack. Never mind.
Fried Chicken is also a good appetizer, and the menu says it’s served with their famous chicken dressing. I’ve always wondered what the exact recipe for this “dressing” is, but it basically tastes like a sweetened mayonnaise with some spices. It’s the same dressing they use on the Chicken Pasta, but here, they call it their white sauce. The Chicken Pasta is always good, but very very guilty.
I wouldn’t come to Hurry Curry to order a salad, though the Tofu Salad is under five dollars, and has a fairly good soy sauce and vinegar dressing. The thing that makes me laugh about the salads in any Japanese restaurant is the iceberg lettuce. I’m not sure why, because, yes, I’ll admit that I love iceberg lettuce, but for some reason, I think it’s extremely funny that just iceberg lettuce is considered a salad. It does have dressing on it, I guess. LOL!
So Sarah versus Hurry Curry began and it comes down to the curry itself. I made spicy curry with spinach, mushrooms, and chicken. Hurry Curry’s was the Chicken Curry, with my special request for extra spicy. And though they were similar, there were a few differences. The perfect half sphere of rice looked like it had been molded in the morning and left under a heat lamp of sorts all day. Glossy, yes it was, but the outermost layer, one rice-grain thick, was dry, hard, and sticky in the bad way. I scooped screaming, steaming hot rice directly from the rice cooker. It wasn’t a beautiful dome, but it was soft and sticky the way it’s supposed to be sticky.
Hurry Curry’s special request extra spicy just wasn’t spicy. At all. But the unfortunate thing in many Japanese restaurants is that they don’t have hot sauce – only a chili powder, nanami togarashi, which is typically used to season udon and ramen broths - not right for curry over rice. My curry was spicy. And since we eat homemade at home, we can add sriracha, or even better, ggoh-choo-jahng.
One thing I will give Hurry Curry is the tenderness of the chicken. Certainly, it’s tender because it’s the dark meat. I used chicken breast and shredded it. But they also must have simmered chicken thighs and legs all day until the meat practically dissolved off the bone. That’s
how tender their chicken is.
Do I have to worry that my curry doesn’t live up to the years and years I went to Hurry Curry? Does Hurry Curry have to worry that a little Korean girl might open up Sarah’s Curry and steal away their customers?! No, neither to worry. In the end, it’s a tie. Hurry Curry gets points for the chicken itself. I get points for fresh rice, hot spice, and everything nice. But what about Curry House? Now we go into overtime...