Curry rice: Walk through Japanese Village Plaza in downtown L.A.'s Little Tokyo and you'll inevitably find yourself standing in front of Mitsuru Cafe, watching through the shop's window as a woman makes repeating rows of little sandwiched cakes on a giant copper pan. The watching is almost as addictive as the cakes, called imagawayaki and filled with red bean paste. But go inside, slide into one of the four booths in the tiny diner and order a plate of curry rice, or kare raisu, if you appreciate that sort of thing. This is Japanese comfort food at its finest, a bifurcated plate, half rice, half curry, like an equation you're invited to solve.
Mitsuru has been run by the same family for the almost 50 years it's been open, and has been using the same curry recipe, as near as the servers could tell, for the entire time. Unlike too many Japanese curries, this stuff is made from scratch, studded with carrots and peas and offset by a small quadrant of pickles. Japanese curry is a circuitous invention, coming to Meiji-era Japan from India by way of the British Empire, and it's popular not only for lunch and dinner, but for breakfast -- cold, like leftover pizza. And yes, you eat the stuff with a spoon.
Mitsuru Cafe, 117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Little Tokyo, (213) 613-1028.
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