Tokyo’s biggest student town has a special CoCo Ichi menu item all its own.

Curry rice restaurant chain CoCo Ichibanya has hundreds of branches in Japan, but one of the best-loved is the one on Waseda-dori in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. The nearby neighborhoods of Waseda and Takadanobaba are home to multiple university campuses, specialty schools, and language academies, and with curry rice being an affordable, delicious, and filling meal, you can always count on a steady flow of students popping into CoCo Ichi for lunch or dinner.

Even if you’re not attending classes in the area, though, there’s still a compelling reason to go to the Waseda CoCo Ichi for your curry fix: out of the 1,247 CoCo Ichi branches in Japan, there’s a special type of curry that’s only served at Waseda’s.

It’s called the Waseda Fried Ham and Mashed Potato Curry, or the Waseda Hamupotefurai Curry if you’re ordering in Japanese. Topping your plate of rice and CoCo Ichi’s familiar pork curry roux is a fried disc with a boiled egg at the center. The egg is encased in mashed potato, which is then wrapped in ham and deep-fried.

At 771 yen (US$5.70), the Waseda Hamupotefurai is as affordable as it is tempting, and so we quickly ordered a plate. One we had it in front of us, we were happy to see that our hamupotefurai (as we’re going to call the croquette-like topping) was even thicker than the one in the menu photo.

Also, since the hamupotefurai is exclusive to the Waseda CoCo Ichi, they make them right there in the kitchen, not as a central processing plant for the chain.

We took a bite, and it was wonderful, with the crispness of the breading giving way to the softer inside, curry seeping into the potato and egg and infusing them both with the spicy, savory, and sweet notes that make Japanese curry so giddily delicious. Add in the meaty flavor from the ham, and you couldn’t ask for any singular more satisfying mouthful than this.

There’s one thing to watch out for, though. The hamupotefurai goes so well with the curry roux that you might momentarily forget about the rice. This can through off your pacing, causing you to alternate between hamupotefurai and roux but leaving the rice out of the rotation, so that your run out of roux while you’ve still got rice remaining. So we were happy to learn that CoCo Ichi will give you a refill of roux at a reduce price (145 yen).

Thanks to this supplementary curry supply, we were back in business, and even with our complete lack of restraint, we had plenty of roux all the way through to our very last bite.

Another hospitable offer from CoCo Ichi is that you can order the hamupotefurai croquette by itself, to-go, for 180 yen, from the window next to the restaurant’s entrance. So whether you want extra curry like us, or even no curry at all, the Waseda CoCo Ichi is definitely worth going to next time you’re hungry.

Restaurant information
CoCo Ichibanya (Shinjuku Waseda-dori branch) / CoCo壱番屋(新宿早稲田通り店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Waseda 2-18-23
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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