Born in the 1970s in Hokkaido's Sapporo, the soupier version of curry has finally made a breakthrough in Tokyo as well in recent years. Topped with big, juicy pieces of meat and vegetables, and carefully seasoned with herbs and peppers, soup curry has many dedicated fans who sing its praises and dismiss standard curry and rice as inferior. They do make a pretty decent point when arguing that soup curry is infinitely customisable and far healthier than the thick, greasy standard version. Enter the fray and make your own evaluations with our authoritative top ten of soup curry eateries in the city – who knows, you might become a convert yourself...
The top ten soupy curries
Charging into Tokyo straight from the far north of Sapporo, Dominica is one of the best-known soup curry eateries in town. Choose from a selection of soups that includes tomato, pork and soy milk versions, and bite into the sizeable and juicy hamburg steak that graces most of their dishes. The 'original soup', with its bouillon base and seaweed seasoning, is also definitely worth a shot.
Located in a Shinbashi basement, Ganesha is another flag-bearer of Sapporo-style spicy fare. Made with 15 kinds of herbs and 30 different spices, the chicken and veggie curry (¥1,300) includes an entire, albeit small, bird. Customers can customise their dishes with a variety of extra spices, including 'special masala' and 'Ganesha's heart'. Their standard masala is available at all tables, so first-timers might want to start there.
Rising above the 'curry battle' in Jinbocho, this retro eatery charts its own path. The toppings are cut into relatively small pieces here, resulting in well-balanced dishes that fill you up without going overboard. We recommend the black soup, made with pork chops and combined with deliciously soft beef (¥1,100) and a refined selection of veggies.
Looking more like a tiny café than a restaurant, this Suidobashi curry house shouldn't be judged by appearances. Three kinds of soup (standard, soy milk, or tomato) are available, but it's the soy milk-based version that really draws customers. Packed with pork and chicken, this mildly spicy curry also includes a wealth of veggies like eggplant, bell peppers and onion.
Never mind the name – this is a curry shop, and a pretty special one at that. They've come up with their original version of the soup curry that's supposed to be eaten without mixing in the rice with the soup. The custom takes some getting used to at first, but actually works pretty well. The 'night soup' (¥800) is a safe choice for first-timers, and consists of juicy chicken and a slightly oily but oh-so-good basil soup.
You won't find any artificial additives or chemicals at this Ebisu joint, where the staff also take care to use primarily fresh, Hokkaido-made veggies. The pork stew and vegetable version (¥1,250) is a particular highlight with its big pieces of meat that have been stewed to perfection in a spicy soup. The spiciness scale here reaches from 1 to 6, but even the upper-level mixtures are manageable.
This 'branch office' of Sapporo's great curry makers Rakkyo brings the authentic taste of Hokkaido to Waseda. The soup itself is not very spicy, and has more of that thick and heavy taste usually found in Japanese-style curry. The pie-packed dish is fun to try, especially the excellent mushroom version (¥1,300) that includes three different kinds of 'shrooms and a decadent layer of cheese.
Ready to challenge your palate with a seriously spicy curry? The Shimokitazawa branch of Sapporo's Magic Spice should be your destination, and the simmered pork curry (¥1,030) your choice. The dish comes with ample veg like carrots, daikon radish and beans, and the spiciness can be adjusted on a seven-level scale. The top two levels are not recommended for beginners, while true spice fiends can go for the limited-edition 'Aquarius' curry (five servings available/day).
Rumoured to have laid the groundwork for modern soup curry in Tokyo, this Shimokitazawa eatery boasts a tomato-based, basil-seasoned soup that's packed to the brim with chicken and other ingredients. All dishes also come with ample veg, so you won't have to feel guilty about eating here more than occasionally. The rice, available in both white and brown varieties, is brought in straight from farmers in Hokkaido's Asahikawa.
Another Sapporo import, this eatery has taken Hachioji by storm, attracting hour-long queues even on weekdays. The standard chicken soup can be upgraded to a shrimp or a 'medicinal' version for 100 yen. The latter is topped with ground herbs right at your table – a process that makes the entire shop smell heavenly. The taste of the thick shrimp soup is also something that should be experienced at least once, so heading here together with a gourmet partner might not be a bad idea at all.