Seven years ago, my best friend and I hopped on a plane to begin a year-long adventure on the other side of the world in Japan. At that point, we hadn’t had much more culinary experience besides the chicken marsala at Cheesecake factory or the carne asada burritos at Alberto’s. To be honest, our palates were as advanced as it could get for poor college kids.
We figured we already knew about sushi, and thought that was sufficient enough. Little did we know what was in store for our taste buds as we spent every day walking from Japanese/French patisseries to udon noodle soup shops in train station stops. We were introduced to the yakitori stand hidden in a dark alley by our office, where we would wait in line with dozens of other people (rain or shine) eating skewered chicken livers, tail, hearts and gizzards covered in a sweet and savory soy sauce-based marinade and charred to perfection. There were the holiday festivals (boy, were there many!) that were held at local parks where we would get taiyaki – pastries with a pancake softness filled with mashed red bean paste in the shape of fish.
However, some of my fondest memories were spent at CoCo Ichiban – a curry rice restaurant chain that you could find all over Japan. This was my first introduction to Japanese curry – a thick curry roux served over rice with a variety of meat and vegetable toppings. Definitely not a fancy place, but known for fast service and delicious food, CoCo Ichiban specialized in the warmest of comfort foods. They allowed for customized curry dishes – from choosing between potato croquettes, fried chicken, pork katsu, among numerous other items, to selecting the spice levels, rice portions and extra add-ons. My personal favorite combination was fried chicken with level 2 spice and a potato croquette and shredded cheese as add-ons (trust me, always add the cheese even if it sounds strange).
Another specialty of CoCo Ichiban’s that separated itself from the other curry houses was their jar of pickled radishes on each table. I would mix in spoonfuls of the radishes in the curry every time, sometimes even sheepishly asking the waiter to refill the jar. To be honest, I haven’t found any other curry house with anything remotely similar to the amazing pickled radish recipe this restaurant has.
All that being said, I was ecstatic to find that CoCo Ichiban was spreading its wings and opened a location in Torrance, CA a few years ago, tucked away in a little strip mall. Although the menu is a little overwhelming to look at because of the plethora of options to mix and match plates, it felt no different from when I first looked at the menu in Japan. The ambiance is casual and perfect for a quick lunch or dinner date. The quality of the food is just the same, and most importantly, sitting on each table is a jar of pickled radishes!
2455 Sepulveda Blvd, Ste C
Torrance, CA 90501
Mon. – Sun. – 11 am – 10 pm
$3 – $12.50 (+ any additional toppings you choose will cost extra)