I love Japanese curry. It's something of a comfort food for me, even though I am not Japanese. I like it because of the simplicity - just a protein with some curry and a big side of Japanese rice (carbs, uh oh!) and that's all I need. I was therefore delighted to be invited to try out CoCo ICHIBANYA at Bugis+ and refresh my memory of what the world's largest Japanese curry rice chain in the world has to offer - there's new menu items added. They have opened their fifth branch here in Singapore end of last year at Plaza Singapura, and have also changed their curry formulation from beef stock to vegetarian recently. Loads to catch up on! The Bugis+ branch I visited also recently had a renovation and looks modern while retaining the booth seatings.
What I like is the flexibility of CoCo Ichibanya. When you order, you could choose your topping, the select the rice amount (less for $1 less, normal or more for $1 more) and your curry spiciness level! There's mild, standard and then 5 levels of spiciness. I was told that we would be trying all 5 levels of the curry that evening. So I made a video -- have a look!
In terms of the dishes, the menu has expanded significantly compared to my last visit (probably before mid 2015). Some of them include Beef Yakiniku Curry or Hamburg Curry (S$12.90), Teriyaki Salmon Curry (S$13.90) and Scrambled Egg Curry (S$11.90). There's also additions of more spaghetti, soup, salad and snacks.Prices are very fair for the quality and quantity you get.
What's more there is a set menu promotion - for just S$16.90 you get a main course, mini salad and drink! Students also get 15% off on weekdays from 3-6pm (separate promotion).
Here I tried the refreshing Lime Soda (S$4), which came in handy for the fiery curries.
We also had the Crab Stick and Mushroom Salad (S$7) for some greens, since Japanese curry rice is really deficient in that aspect. The creamy salad dressing did well with the crabstick and mushrooms, and I liked the corn that gave it more sweetness. 3/5
We also sampled some toppings individually - they normally come on top of rice, with curry. The new Grilled Squid with Mayonnaise Curry (S$12.90 for set, $4 ala carte) was rather chewy and the grilled flavour not too obvious - I didn't really like it. I suspect the other 2 seafood toppings - grilled black cod and teriyaki salmon would have fared better. 2/5
The pork katsu was great, of course. Not as fatty and luxurious as the tonkatsu houses, but it will do for Japanese curry accompaniment. This is what I'll recommend you to order if you're here - something katsu. 3.5/5
We also tried the Wagyu Beef Steak Curry (S$18.90 or $10 ala carte) - this was really shiok too. The medium-rare beef was soft, juicy and tender. I could just have this and teriyaki sauce with some rice! 4/5
Another topping which I found to be rather disappointing - the Grilled Garlic Prawn Curry (S$13.90 or $5 ala carte). The prawns were rather dry and did not taste fresh, nor did the garlic come out. For the price, I would think there should be better value, or more prawns. 1/5
Our curries! Laid out from left to right starting from mild, standard and level 1 to 5. This is for tasting purposes only of course.
We also tried the Creamy Mushroom Omelette Curry Rice - oishi! I don't know how they do it, but the egg was so silky and smooth, draped over the mound of rice with bites of cheesy mushroom bits. It was so heavenly. This is also a dish that's suitable for vegetarians! 5/5
Then onto some desserts, which I thought were interesting, but rather lacklustre compared to the mains. The Hokkaido Cream Puffs ($5) gets my vote - skip the chocolate layered cake, which had a rather dry texture. Otherwise get the matcha red bean cheesecake, which had a tofu cheesecake texture.
My fellow Japanese food partner in crime. When we meet its either Japanese or Korean, all the time!
Students, families, working adults alike -- I would highly recommend everyone to try out CoCo ICHIBANYA at any of their 5 locations if you're thinking of going to somewhere simple for a delicious, comforting meal. Let me know if you managed to finish the entire plate of level 5 yourself.
201 Victoria St, Singapore 188067
10am to 10pm daily
Other branches: 313 Somerset #B3-25, The Star Vista #02-06, Westgate #01-02, Plaza Singapura #03-73 (Extension)
Thanks to CoCo Ichibanya for the invite!