Curry ramen was originally created for the working man, a dish to feed the hungry factory workers of Sanjo at lunchtime. Already a hearty meal, the addition of katsu (pork cutlet) on top of the noodles and thick, filling, spicy soup might seem a tad extreme. But that’s just what Harasen Shokudou (原泉食堂), the feature of Part 2 of my Curryramenland series, has done. Ramen+curry+katsu=the epitome of comfort food and gastronomical satisfaction. The image of Harasen’s katsu curry ramen (カツカリーラメン) jumped out at me from Sanjo’s curry ramen brochure, and I knew it had to be the next destination.
The Boyfriend and I made the drive out, finding the little restaurant tucked in the middle of a neighborhood.
It’s a bit hard for me to come up with an acceptable comparison that at least American readers would understand to provide a visual of this little eatery. There’s a bit of an atmosphere like you’re pulling up into the driveway of someone’s house, and while the inside does have all the proper elements of a restaurant, its cozy and you can’t help but wonder if its a building originally constructed to serve as a business, or if it was converted when the owners decided to try their hand at serving the food created in their home’s own kitchen. This kind of restaurant is actually rather common in Japan, and all tend to have the same dated, homey feel.
But I must admit, this one had something special. It wasn’t the decor, which was faded and yellowed from years of smoking patrons, and possessing no kind of theme other than nods to the current season- this time in December, there was a mixture of fake fall foliage draped about, and Christmas decorations. What made this place special was the tiny obachan server that filled the air with cheerful constant chatter, and seemed genuinely to care about our eating experience. The food too came in incredibly generous portions, and I perceived a sort of personal touch, like perhaps if we were to go back in a few months time, the set would appear a bit different, as the ojisan chef decides what to feature in the side dish offerings and adds or withholds ingredients based on his particular mood, but always delivering the same quality.
While the good service and generous portions are certainly commendable and make this restaurant easy to recommend based simply on that, the true honored guest of this post is the katsu curry ramen.
I wasn’t aware that it actually came as a teishoku set, with a small bit of rice, salad, and even a sampling of mabo tofu. The curry ramen itself was incredibly attractive, with tempura pumpkin and inch-thick juicy katsu settled on top of a thick mound of ramen and curry soup. The flavoring was much like Masahiro’s curry ramen, which until now has been top of my list. I made my way with relish through a bit more than half. I was interrupted once by the obachan who wanted to ensure it tasted alright. I was actually rather surprised by this gesture, having gotten used to Japan’s form of restaurant service where the server only really comes around when beckoned, but her concern felt genuine, unlike the American scripted asking of “Is everything alright here?”. Some time later, as thoughts of dread over my quick approach to full capacity made me fear that I wouldn’t be able to finish my meal, which I for some reason felt pressured to do in order to show my full appreciation to the obachan and ojichan who obviously put their hearts into their business, the obachan came over to assure me I mustn’t force myself to eat it all, big portion that it is. It’s as if she knew my mind. I went away from there satisfied, stomach and soul. Through the tiniest gestures, I could perceive the love in the food and service they provide for their customers.
I’m not sure what could be improved on this meal, and think it is deserving of a rating of 10/10. Its only part 2, but I feel I’ve already reached the peak in terms of atmosphere and deliciousness. But the journey must go on, because I’m sure there must be other pleasant surprises waiting for us in this little town.