Shibuya is the epicenter of youth-oriented Tokyo. Giant television screens blare music videos and cellphone advertisements — every manner of commerce from hip boutique and sleek department store to ramen stand and chestnut roaster vies for attention from the 24-hour throng of consumers that courses along the streets, alleys, and narrow passageways.
A man in a fierce gorilla mask touting a new eatery is not unusual, though he did startle a few young women who hugged their boyfriends’ arm as they hurried past the primate. The gorilla was handing out tickets for free toppings on any dish from the Go!Go!Curry shop down the basement stairs.
Go!Go!Curry hails from Kanazawa Prefecture where, I was told, they always eat curry rice with a side of shredded cabbage. The same ubiquitous pile of shredded cabbage that accompanies any “ros katsu” here in Tokyo. Go!Go!Curry calls itself the “The Champion of Curry” and backs up that claim with color comparison charts, prominently displayed on the red and yellow walls of shop, showing ratings against six other popular curry shop chains. Go!Go!Curry ranks first in taste of rice, sauce, katsu, and water. (They use alkaline ion-filtered water for the drinking water.)
The ¥500-yen “Healthy” curry is the cheapest entree. The “ru,” or sauce, which covers the rice like a dark chocolate lacquer, is meaty and packs a mild heat. You can request a spicier version when you hand your pre-paid ticket to the staff.
Portions and prices increase from Healthy to Economy, Business, and First Class dishes. The Business Class Katsu Curry comes in a dish as big as a small canoe.
Shredded cabbage actually goes quite well with curry rice. It adds a fresh crunch and pleasantly bitter undertone to the heat in the curry. You can, of course, have free second or third helpings of cabbage.
Besides cabbage, the shop offers ten different toppings like rakyo (pickled scallions), or egg (raw or boiled), or even natto. The shop is clean, bright, and staffed with cheerful energetic women in baseball caps and GO!GO! T-shirts. They yell out a chorus of “Irrashaimase!” as you enter and “Arigato gozaimasu!” as you leave. The service is also fast and efficient.
However, one oba-san staffer was perplexed by the order of a recent customer. He handed her his ticket for Healthy Curry and the free topping stamp card he received from gorilla man outside. The staffer asked him which free topping he would like.
“None,” he replied.
The staffer paused, confused. “But you can have a free topping—rakyo, raw egg or boiled egg. Which one do you choose?”
“I don’t want to choose any of them,” said the customer.
“Why not?” asked the staffer. “They’re free.”
“Because none of them are anything I want to choose,” he replied.
The oba-san was nonplussed. She stared for a few seconds at his stamp card. “Just a moment,” she said. “I’ll check with the manager.”
She went into the back room then, after a minute or two, returned.
“Okay,” she said, stating the obvious. “Just use this ticket another time.”
The customer got his curry unadorned with any free topping.
GO!GO!Curry, by the way, gets its name from baseball hero Hideki Matsui, who was born in Kanazawa Prefecture, and who sports the number 55 (go go in Japanese) on his jersey. There is a framed shikishi in the restaurant signed by Matsui after he ate curry there. Presumably, the first class dish.
12-12 Udagawa-cho, Cigma Bldg. #5, B1
Shibuya-ku, Tel: 03.6231.5534.
Open everyday 10:55a.m to 22:55p.m.