While things like sushi, tempura, and even ramen may be seen as the more commonly eaten foods by Japanese people, when it comes to home cooking, everyone grew up with curry. Curry restaurants are nothing new to Japan, but the market is often dominated by chains such as the nationwide, and slowly becoming international, favorite Go! Go! Curry! If you are in Sendai and looking for some hearty home flavor with a few tasty surprises, do stop by Curry Shop Sakaiya (カレーショップ 酒井屋).
The fastest way to get to this curry shop is a 10 minute walk from Sendai Station, up Aoba Avenue. Take a left to enter the covered pedestrian walking area Sun Mall. Then at the entrance of the Bunkacho alleyway, there is a clearly marked staircase with many pictures of curry items that leads to the restaurant. It's on top of a soba shop. Inside is counter seating and window seating. The far end of the restaurant offers great views for watching shoppers down below in the outside mall. There are also many magazines and books to read, so it seems like a nice place to hang out, too. The interior is brightly lit with an open kitchen. They have an interesting smoking policy: no smoking during lunch time if another customer is in the restaurant. Dinner time seems to allow smoking, but no one was smoking when I went. There is a handheld menu and a menu posted above the counter, but you could just as easily look on any wall as menu items are posted everywhere. Time to order.
The curry menu is creative but without any funky flavors that might attract customers who could ruin the cheerful and relaxed atmosphere. You can order your curry regular, in a soup, or dry (think curry flavored rice). There are also set meals and mini set meals which come with a side of miso soup and some pickles. Everything on the menu is less than 1000 yen and some mini sets are less than 500 yen, making this an affordable treat for almost any budget.
There seems to be three popular topping selections: vegetable, chicken, and bacon. This was the first time I have seen bacon in a curry, so I settled on the chicken and bacon set. All aboard the tasty train! Unlike the chicken katsu (fried and breaded) usually found with Japanese curries, the chicken in my curry was not fried but cooked and juicy. So was the bacon. The curry base was on the thicker side with a rice taste. It all melted in my mouth. When you order, you pick the level of spiciness, so there shouldn't be any nasty surprises. While eating and people watching from my window seat, my eyes noticed on the wall next to me a unique menu item for a curry shop, carrot juice. There is a carrot juicer where your beverage can be made fresh on the spot. However strange the combination of curry and carrot juice may seem, I do recommend it. The carrot juice resets the taste buds so you can enjoy every bite of that delicious curry. Try it for yourself and check out Curry Shop Sakaiya.