Ashimaen is a restaurant much loved by the locals in Minakami, and its nondescript exterior (and interior) may not be as appealing as other places to the locals driving past on the road to Mount Tanigawa. For such an unassuming eatery though it has a huge reputation and any discussion of food in the area will mention Ashimaen at some point as it serves a pork cutlet curry that even the biggest appetite struggles to finish.
It is located on R291 on the main road past the town and is a stone's throw from the similarly named Asima Cafe which is on the other side of the road. The inside looks well-used and the fading posters on the walls advertise adventure companies who may or may not still be operating. Some of the regulars perched at the counter look of a similar vintage. There is a small menu that is also written in English, but if you are looking for volume, you need read no further than the first item - Pork Cutlet Curry. It is a favorite of hungry outdoor guides who in turn recommend it to their customers.
The dish takes a while to emerge but when it does you can understand why. The plate is about the size of a large dinner plate and heaped with rice and cabbage. Usually hidden under the flood of curry sauce is a deep fried pork cutlet. The plate itself is shaped like a bowl (though you don't realize that until much later) and the curry sauce threatens to overflow.
You can tell first timers at Ashimaen by the cries of surprise/dismay when this mountain of food arrives. There is enough on the plate to feed a small family, and there is even a rumor that they do a large sized one if you ask nicely. I know many self-proclaimed "big eaters" who have been defeated by this feast, and others, who having cleared their plates, have been out of action for hours afterwards. Even without the massive portion, it is a great katsu curry. Apparently the other food is pretty good too.
The owner's lovely and faced with my empty plate she expressed concern that I was still hungry. I would have laughed if I hadn't felt so bloated.