Naoki Matayoshi visited the restaurant and said, “I learned a lot…” Reason why spice curry restaurants with prices in the 2,000 yen per dish range are trying to go upscale even further. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Naoki Matayoshi visited the restaurant and said, “I learned a lot…” Reason why spice curry restaurants with prices in the 2,000 yen per dish range are trying to go upscale even further.

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The restaurant’s top recommendation: “3 kinds of 3-top honey keema (4 kinds)” (2,800 yen).

I really want to make Japan a better place through spiced curry!

This is the grand dream of Seiji Okano, owner and chef of “KOKOPERI Curry” located within a minute’s walk of JR Osaka Tenmangu Station in Minamimorimachi, Osaka City.

In 2011, after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Okano closed the Internet company he was running with a friend and rented a farm in his hometown that had been in use for generations. He rented a local farm that had been in use for generations. He started selling citrus fruits grown by his parents on the Internet while practicing pesticide-free cultivation, and the sales were good from the first year.

While getting a feel for it, around ’13, I read in a magazine that spiced curry was popular in Osaka, and I started eating around. About two years later, in 2003, I rented a space at a friend’s bar in Minami-Senba to sell curry, and the sales were good. The next year, ’16, I started selling at this restaurant, and that is where I am today.

Gen Hoshino and Hitomi Yaida also made secret visits to the restaurant.

When customers enter the store, they are first handed a tablet with the words, “Please take a look at this first.

The tablet contains a video explaining the KOKOPERI Curry’s menu for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Next, the customer watches the next three-minute video and orders his or her curry. The owner himself appears in the video and explains the types of curry and how to order it, based on a video that was previously broadcast on TV.

He explains, “Net, the cost of curry has become so high that I can’t hire anyone. Embarrassingly, I run the restaurant by myself, so if there are multiple customers, my hands stop while explaining curry to them, and I don’t want to delay serving curry to waiting customers, so I made the video.”

Now, when we took our seats and looked over the menu, what surprised us was the pricing. The price for a set of three kinds of curry with a drink starts at 2,200 yen.

Generally, the market price for a spiced curry lunch is around 1,200 to 1,700 yen, but even with a drink, the price is 2,200 to 3,100 yen. This is a very aggressive price setting. Why is KOKOPERI Curry so expensive?

I think the cost of our curry roux is probably the highest in Japan. If you know our cost and process, it’s not expensive at all. In fact, it is cheap! I think you will be surprised.

The price has risen as a result of our pursuit based on beauty: “We don’t offer our customers ingredients that we wouldn’t eat ourselves on a daily basis. The ingredients that Kokopelli Curry actually uses and recommends to customers are 1.5 to 3 times the normal price. We carefully select the most expensive ingredients in the curry world.”

How expensive are they exactly?

To give you an example, there is no curry restaurant in Japan that uses oil that costs 1,500 yen per liter in 2023. Probably 95% of restaurants use canola oil or salad oil, which costs about 400 yen per liter. Therefore, oil alone is expensive, costing more than 1,000 yen.

Of course, we are particular about not only oil but also water, salt, seasonings, and broth, so we are proud of the fact that our customers’ tongues do not feel rough after eating our curry, nor do they suffer from stomach upset or heartburn.

It seems that the owner of the restaurant created the text so that customers can share the above reasons and his thoughts and commitment to curry. It is up to the customers whether they read it or not, as it is a huge amount of text that would take 30 minutes to read through!

Celebrities often come to eat here on their own. We often have celebrities come to eat with us in secret, such as Minamoto Hoshino, Naoki Matayoshi, and Hitomi Yaida. Matayoshi-san took about 30 minutes to read the text carefully and said, ‘I read the whole thing. I learned a lot.

Mr. Okano being interviewed

I ordered the “3 kinds of 3-top honey keema (4 kinds)” (2,800 yen), the most recommended dish at this restaurant.

A few minutes of waiting followed my order. What appeared was a deep navy blue platter of three spiced curries, topped with three different toppings and honey keema, colorfully garnished. If you thought it was a picture of a plate, you’d be surprised at how boldly pickled cucumbers (green), carrots (red), radishes (white), and eggplant (purple) were arranged on the edge of the plate.

A spoonful is scooped into the mouth, and the spicy flavor is juicy, sour, and delicious. The spiciness of the salsa tomatoes, the sweetness of the tartar egg and potato salad, and the mild, not spicy, juicy flavor of the honey keema mixed together to create a deep flavor that spread in my mouth.

The chicken is the standard,” he said. The other two meats are irregular, with beef, pork, seafood, shrimp, and before the rainy season, firefly squid, depending on what we have in stock that day.

Mr. Okano’s idea of “upscale” curry

Why does he select and serve not popular spiced curry, but carefully selected ingredients that are 1.5 to 3 times more expensive?

Mr. Okano says, “I think there are many customers who feel that ‘spiced curry makes me sweat, is spicy and tasty, but after eating it, I get tired and thirsty.’ In 23 years, the price is still 1,500 yen, so there is no way around it, but I wanted to change that “B-grade gourmet atmosphere.

If you look at it from a broader perspective, for example, high-class French restaurants and sushi restaurants have a strong food culture, and there are many customers who can comfortably pay 20,000 to 30,000 yen even for lunch…. We believe that if we can first make these customers deeply aware of our concept, we will be able to capture a large share of the market.

We believe that the affluent customers are looking forward to spiced curry with such a strong focus.

In fact, I prepare curry by myself more than 350 days a year, but because I make the broth from scratch, I can only prepare 5,000 servings a year. If we can use this as an advantage and steadily build up a core fan base of about 500 people who visit our restaurant once a month, we will be able to sell out our curry. All we had to do was market to them patiently.

Mr. Okano has certain ambitions for his spiced curry.

The price of curry at our restaurant starts at 2,200 yen, but depending on the rate of price increases, we will raise the price in stages, and my dream is to be able to offer curry for 5,000 yen or more by 2030. In other words, I would like to grow together with our customers who are willing to pay 5,000 yen for curry for lunch.

I am optimistic that developing a high-end line of spiced curry is rather a blue ocean (opportunity) since there is no competition yet.

If we can launch a high-end culture of “luxury spice,” we can leave behind a world where young chefs in their 20s and 30s who will live in the 2030s can drive a Lexus and live in a tower apartment, even if they are spice curry chefs.

I want to keep a place where I can offer the real thing to the younger generation. This is my romance.”

Mr. Okano stands in his store more than 350 days a year and never rests. Will his insatiable passion be able to break the common sense of spiced curry and elevate the culture to luxury spice in the near future? Today, in the kitchen, the chef’s challenge continues.

Even making a single broth requires a lot of time and effort. Hidaka kelp, Japanese shiitake mushrooms, shoyu, and mirin are used in distilled water at temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius for 70 hours to slowly make the broth.
The owner roasts and grinds his own original spices from whole spices, and sprinkles Indian herb Kasuri methi over the entire dish for the final touch.
Finished. Chicken is the standard dish, and the other two types of shrimp and meat are changed depending on the season and availability of the day, and firefly squid is sometimes added.
Mr. Okano passionately discusses his passion for spiced curry.
Will he be able to establish the field of “luxury spice”?
  • Photographed by Shoko Sugiura (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th pictures)

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