This is a Japanese curry rice chain restaurant very popular with Americans. Back in my Navy days, it was very common to overhear sailors talking about starting off a night on the town by eating CoCo Ichibanya curry. Everybody seemed to love it.

Thinking upon that now, I can understand why. CoCo Ichibanya gives western customers just about everything they want in a restaurant experience. High levels of convenience, great taste (and a great smell too, according to their motto), as well as the ability to customize your order. The curry tastes great and is convenient, but I believe it is the customization that works so well with Americans.

First, you get to select which curry base you want (beef, chicken, etc.).​

Curry types offered at Coco's Curry

I love beef curry, but my wife is more of a chicken curry fan. You can’t please all if you cook at home, but each can get their favorite eating out.​

Plain curry at CoCo's Katsu curry at Coco's Curry Ichibanya

Then, you select the rice size portion (300-gram standard, but can increase or decrease as desired). For big eaters like my son, 400 grams is easy, while my daughter can just manage to finish the 200-gram portion.

Of course, the toppings are also important and there is a very large selection available to choose from. Pork, beef or chicken cutlets, cheese, seafood, vegetables, and many more. Each person can get what they have a taste for.​

Curry with a lot of toppings!

Now, most importantly for Americans: you get to choose the spiciness level. This is the most important part of the whole experience, and what makes it the most enjoyable. Have trouble holding your spice? Go for a level 0 or 1. Enjoy typical Japanese curry spice? Go for level 2. Think Japanese curry is bland? Dial it up level 3 or 4. Have a death wish? It goes all the way up to level 10 (but I really don’t know who would do that to themselves).​

Spice level at CoCo Ichibanya

For myself, it also makes for a very convenient (and comfortable) place to go and eat by myself when I am on business travel. Often, eating alone can be a bit intimidating, especially when you are not exactly a pro at speaking Japanese. How comforting is it, then, to sit at a counter and know that you can get exactly what you want with just three points of the finger?

In terms of the right formula, I believe CoCo Ichibanya has hit it right on the head of the nail. Perhaps this is why it is the largest curry rice chain in the world. I can’t speak for my Japanese wife, but for me, it is the customization that makes it so successful.​

Seating at one CoCo's Ichibanya
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