Aside from the zoo, there's not much to bring visitors out to the eastern end of Kumamoto city. Yet even if the thought of taking a stroll amid the lions and giraffes doesn't appeal to you, it's worth hopping the tram out to eat at Jicca, arguably the city's best Thai restaurant.
Jicca sits just a few meters from the Dobutsuenmae (Zoo Entrance) tram stop. The small sign announcing the eatery is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled for the cheery yellow door frame and the small English lettering. Inside, there's a selection of seats for all parties - a long bar offers a cozy area for single diners or couples while groups of three or four can pull up a chair at one of the few regular tables. For families, there is a small Japanese-style table right near the window with a basket of kids' books (some in English and some even in Thai) in the corner.
The lunch menu offers around a half-dozen dishes, none more than ¥1050. The staple dish of pad thai with shrimp is a favorite of regular patrons, as is the spicy green curry with hints of basil. Not being one to tolerate too spicy of a dish, I settled for the tomato and white sesame curry with carrots, broccoli and chicken. Served with a sizable helping of rice and topped with fresh chopped tomatoes it was an excellent and filling choice for lunch.
Every lunch menu comes with a starter of shredded cabbage and a few other greens with a tangy lime dressing. The set meal also includes a dessert (some sort of coconut milk concoction with azuki beans) and your choice of drink. You can go for the standard tea, coffee or orange juice, but it's worth trying the ginger chai (I got mine iced). It doesn't quite have the zing of a true Thai iced tea but it came close. If you're still a bit hungry, you can also order a dish of coconut ice cream with tamarind jam.
Jicca serves lunch from 11:30am until 2:00pm and then reopens for dinner at 6:00pm. On weekends, the tables fill up quite quickly for lunch so come early or be prepared for a wait. For drivers, there are a few spaces available in the lot next to the nearby coin laundry.
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