Rest stops in Japan tend to be a little different from their western counterparts.  Aside from offering drivers a chance to stretch their legs and powder their noses, they often offer unique goods characteristic of the area.  Sometimes the rest stops are even the final destinations for summer road trips.

A perfect example of a unique rest stop is the Ranzan Parking Area (RPA) in Saitama prefecture along the Kanetsu Expressway.  Here you can get your hands on two specialty dishes, ice cream and curry, both black as midnight.

And before you say it: no, neither dishes use squid ink.

These two foods comprise RPA’s continuously developing “Black Series” designed to attract visitors to this quaint countryside locale.  Their intention was to make a food that shocks at first but wins you over with its flavor.

These edible ebony entrees are more than just a simple color adjustment though, they each have distinct characteristics you wouldn’t be likely to find anywhere else.

Black Ice Cream – 350 yen (US$4.40)
This was the first of the Black Series designed as a way to keep drivers from dozing off. The pitch black color is actually highly concentrated espresso which should give you a swift kick in the pants.  It also has a deep, mature flavor that customers have responded really well to.
It’s definitely not for the kids though, and even some adults might be put off by the deep bitterness.  For those people, RPA recommends mixing some vanilla in for more of a sweet treat.

Black Curry – 580 yen (US$7.30)
The black ice cream is something different to see but it doesn’t match the stark contrast of jet black curry against a bed of beaming white rice.
For the curry, the black color is created by bamboo charcoal powder.  In addition to darkening, the bamboo charcoal also acts as a filter that absorbs excessive odors and impurities from the dish leave a pure curry taste.
The result is a sharp tasting spicy curry but with its “clean” taste subtleties like the sweetness of the onions stand out and get noticed.
For those who want a more hearty meal the curry can also be prepared with a breaded pork cutlet on top.

While these two items are the only ones currently on sale, RPA is undoubtedly thinking of new ideas to add to the Black Series.  Previous there was a black snack cake on sale packaged with a skull and crossbones. However it was discontinued.

Combined with Burger King’s Black Burger it looks like black is in for 2012 with the gourmet world of Japan.

Source: Walker Plus (Japanese)