top of page

..CoCo Ichibanya Japanese Curry House..a review..

Updated: Jul 2, 2022


CoCo Ichiban Japanese Curry House Leicester Sq London

A recent trip into central London took me to what might just be the world's largest chain of curry houses - CoCo Ichibanya. I wasn't intending to do a review but as I was in Chinatown doing some shopping at lunchtime, I thought, why not? CoCo Ichibanya has two branches in London and one, was just around the corner in Gt Newport St. (The other branch - just opened - is just off of Oxford St.) CoCo Ichibanya has over 1500 outlets worldwide - as I said above, I think it probably qualifies as the world's largest chain of curry houses.

In Japan, Coco Ichibanya is everywhere. I took the photo on the left in a Japanese motorway service station. I think you probably get the fact that CoCo Ichibanya isn't the sort of place you go on a night out - the equation here is very much reasonable food at a reasonable price put in front of you quickly enough that you don't need to rush your eating before the end of your lunch break. The food is meant to be good, satisfying fare but don't expect to be wowed.


If you delve a little into the company's Japanese website, you'll find that CoCo Ichibanya is owned by one of Japan's largest sellers of Japanese curry cubes under the Java, Vermont and Kokumaru brands.

CoCo Ichibanya is quite easy to find - it's at the western end of Gt Newport St, Nos 17 - 18. It's been open since 2018. Inside, the place is clean, bright and there's seating for around 30 diners - roughly 10 seated at a window front counter with the others at tables arranged around the cooking area - I thought it looked much better and was certainly much bigger that a CoCo Ichibanya you would find in Japan which tend to be oriented a lot more to stand up and takeawy service. There's nothing inside to tell you that this is a Japanese restaurant but CoCo Ichibanya sells nothing but Japanese curry dishes - mostly curry rice dishes but also curry gratin. I wanted to try the latter but unfortunately there were no curry gratins available when I visited.



CoCo Ichibanya's approach to curry is very simple - you get one standard curry and rice dish. You can order more or less rice compared to the standard serving for an extra charge. As for your curry, you can order the standard flavour or order one of 5 grades of extra spice and heat. Then it's a simple matter of deciding which curry you wish to order - well, in fact it's not so simple as there are a dizzying array of different plates to choose from. If you're new to Japanese curry, you might be surprised at some of the combinations CoCo Ichibanya offers - plates like Chicken Katsu and Cheese curry, Sausage curry or Okra & Tofu Omelette curry! CoCo Ichibanya even offers a Natto curry - I have to admit that even I was scratching my head at that and thinking, hmmmm... I guess it all depends on what you expect from a curry but to me, the different combinations you can choose is all part of the fun of eating a Japanese curry - Cinnamon Club this is not - it's all a bit wacky and a bit of fun and all the better for it! I should add that CoCo Ichibanya's formula seems to be working - the place was just about full for the duration of our stay.


What did we eat?

We ordered the following:


  • Omelette Seafood Curry Spice Level 1

  • Cheese Curry Spice Level 2


The service was very friendly and efficient and our waitress explained how to order the dishes. We waited just under 10 minutes for the food to arrive which was pretty good given that the shop was quite busy at the time. I took the time to check out the other diners - very few Japanese, quite a few Chinese locals from Soho and then a variety of mosty young people. Everyone seemed to be having fun and enjoying the food.


How did the food score?


  • Omelette Seafood Curry 7/10

Also known as an "Omu-Curry", this dish stands as a true Japanese innovation. (Let's face it - who else would have thought of combining an omelette with a curry sauce!) Basically, you get a mound of rice covered with an omelette. The omelette is just cooked through so that it has a shiny appearance. The omelette and rice is then surrounded with a moat of curry sauce.

CoCo Ichibanya's attempt at an Omu-Curry was IMO very good. The seafood curry had a real seafood taste to it and was complemented with some rather tasty squid and shrimp. The omelette was cooked just right for that shiny appearance. The curry was on the mild side, but that was what I wanted. I was glad I only ordered the standard portion of rice as I just about managed to finsh the plate


Conclusion: A satisfying, fast Japanese curry.


  • Cheese Curry 6.5/10

Cheese in a curry, you might be thinking? If you haven't tried a cheese curry before, it might surprise you to know that this isn't a Japanese first. I first started eating cheese in a curry when I first came to England. Before I tried it, I really didn't think I was going to enjoy it, but in fact I got to like it quite quickly and now I make it at home on a fairly regular basis. My co-diner - AKA my husband - loves a cheese curry, so he chomping at the bit to see how the dish measured up.


CoCo Ichibanya's cheese curry was, I have to say, a little bit disappointing. I couldn't identify the cheese that was in the curry and the pieces were cut so small that they had all but melted into the sauce by the tme it got to the table. Part of the enjoyment of a "pukka" cheese curry is that the cheese (which should be a mature cheddar) should be semi-soft but not melted - that way you get to enjoy the contrasting flavours of the curry and the cheese. As for the curry sauce, this was definitely a little hotter than the sauce I ordered, so you do get a hotter curry as you move up the scale.


Conclusion: Ultimately a reasonable dish but it could be better without too much effort.


The Bill.


Omelette Seafood Curry £ 13.50


Cheese Curry £ 9.40


Total £ 26.10


(Including VAT and service)


Summary: I liked CoCo Ichibanya and I'd go there again if I found myself wanting a quick Japanese curry hit in central London. The curries reminded me of what I would get in Japan and the food was decent value for money. CoCo ichibanya is very much a case of "what you see is what you get" - a place to have fun picking a quirky Japanese curry from the menu, enjoying a fast, filling meal and getting out.


Food: ★★★☆☆ Ambience: ★★☆☆☆ Value for Money: ★★★★☆


You can find CoCo Ichibanya at 17-18 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JE. The new CoCo branch is 39 James St, London W1U 1DL. Reservations via phone on the company website. CoCo Ichibanya doesn't offer takeaway.


(PS: the restaurants I review are unaware that I am reviewing their fare and service. I pay for what I eat. My opinions are honest and unbiased....)


Postscript:

I thought you might like to see what a typical Coco Ichibanya looks like in Japan. So, as I'm back home at the moment, I thought I'd take a snap of one of their shops in Tokyo. The Soho outlet looks a little more swanky that the more humdrum Japanese shop although, of course, it is only a couple of years old. The shops in Japan tend to be a bit smaller and the interiors a lot plainer so think yourself lucky, you Londoners! Other than that the branding is very much the same. I didn't do an exhaustive check of the menu but the one in Soho did look as if was offering pretty much exactly what you would get in Japan, which is a good thing, IMO.

 





And how about making it yourself?


We all love to dine out and you certainly won't be disappointed by Abeno's offering. But don't forget you can make Japanese food at home which will not only taste good but for a fraction of the price too! I've listed two recipes below for items I ordered during my review. Why not give them a try? Just follow the links to the written recipes and Youtube tutorials.


Recipe #1 Chicken Omu-Curry

CoCo Ichiban's Omu-Curry makes for a satisfying lunch but if you really want to make the absolute most of an Omu-Curry, then try my Chicken Omu-Curry. This takes a little time and a little bit of know-how to master the eggy omelette but once you've done this, you can create a dish which will have the chefs at CoCo Ichiban licking their lips with envy! If you want to try this recipe out just click on Chicken Omu-Curry for the culinary keys.

 

Recipe #2 Java Cheese Curry

As I said above, I've been making and eating my own Japanese cheese curry for a long time. In my recipe I use Java curry cubes, spinach and a mature cheddar cheese. If you want to try it out yourself, then just click Java Cheese Curry to go to my recipe. You'll be eating a Japanese cheese curry in your own kitchen in no time!

 

About the reviewer:


Hi, I'm Kurumi, a cooking writer and blogger. I'm Japanese but I have lived in London for the last

30 thirty years. Back in the days before the internet (and Youtube), I was a food writer. My first book published in English was called Japanese Cooking for Two which I wrote in 1994. It has become the 9th best selling Japanese cookbook ever… yippee!

My other books were ‘The Noodle Cookbook”, “The Soy for Health Cookbook” and “Healthy Noodles.” I also published a book in Japanese “English Home Cooking”. Then I had children and my life changed!

By the time my children had grown up, the world had changed quite a lot too! Internet, Youtube, Insta etc. So, these days, instead of books, I publish recipe and articles on my website and on my Youtube channel. I hope you'll check out my recipes - they are all tried and tested (some more times than I care to mention!) until I think you will get them right first time when you make them and enjoy eating them.


If you’d like to read more about me or my books, then follow the link here:


https://www.kurumicooks.co.uk/about



535 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page