Some curry that works on Okinawa
“I really wanted to open a curry house in Chatan, which is one of a few locations in Japan where you see this many curry restaurants,” said Akinobu Sato, the owner of Horizon Curry Works.
If you’ve ever been to Chatan, you know what he’s talking about. Especially in and around American village, there are all kinds of curry houses, from Indian to Thai to Nepal.
“Everybody loves curry. Now, it is part of Japanese culture,” Sato said. “You see so many kinds of curry houses around this area, but what I wanted to serve is Japanese curry.”
Although there are many curry restaurants in Chatan, when it comes to Japanese style there are very few, except for chain restaurants. Most of individual curry restaurants serve either foreign curries such as Indian and Thai, or claim to serve “Okinawan curry,” focusing on local food. This makes sense from the stand point of marketing, because small- or medium-sized restaurants need to stand out by sticking to specific styles or coming up with catchy names to compete against big chain restaurants.
However, Curry Works, which opened in July 2015, doesn’t fall in such categories. Instead, it chooses to serve “Japanese curry.”
“For me, it doesn’t sound good enough just to come up with some catchy names or to say that you use certain ingredients,” he said matter-of-factly, “unless it really helps the dishes taste better.”
Curry Works offers a variety of Japanese curries, including Stone-Roasted, Mushroom All Stars and Sirloin Steak.
Although it is safe to say that a majority of people love curry, making everyone happy doesn’t come so easy, according to Sato.
“The more you love curry, the more specific you become about spices,” he said. “If I cook for my own sake, I would make my curry sauce really hot. But it’s unacceptable for a professional chef to ignore what your customers want. This is a place that welcomes everybody. That’s’ why I keep the taste of our sauce sweet and mild.”
And what about those customers who want their curry spicy?
“I let them use chili oil, which was provided by my friend Yoshihiko Sato, who is a prominent Chinese cuisine chef,” Sato said.
The idea of adding chili oil reminded me of powdered spices that you can add to your curry at some curry restaurants. When I brought that up, Sato clearly drew a line and explained the difference.
“If you add powdered spices to curry sauce after it is cooked, it will ruin the taste because the spice needs to be cooked with the sauce for a good amount of time,” he explained. “It is common for people to say that curry tastes better on the second day. Our chili oil is a solution for that.”
In fact, I found that the chili oil went very well with the stone-roasted curry that I had. Its spicy taste, which reminded me of an authentic Chinese dish, added more edge and depth to the curry sauce and made the taste very addicting.
“The chili oil tastes so good that many tourists from
China ask me where they can buy it,” Sato said with a sly smile. “In response to that, I say, ‘my restaurant is the only place where you can enjoy that taste.’”
Located in an ocean front area of American village and featuring an interior that gives off a beach house vibe, Curry Works offers its customers more than just tasty food.
“Having curry rice with this view in front is extraordinary,” said Arina, a tourist from Tokyo, as she and three friends enjoyed lunch on the restaurant’s balcony.
In fact, curry and an ocean view is something inseparable for many Japanese. If you watch Japanese TV commercials about curry, so many of them take place on ocean front locations. However, I don’t think there are many locations in Japan where you can actually enjoy eating curry and seeing a picture-perfect ocean view at the same. It is not too much to say that eating delicious Japanese curry at Curry Works is a special experience.
How it all started
As he talked about his restaurant, Sato shared his personal history with me. When he was around 20 years old, Sato, who grew up in Okayama Prefecture, visited Okinawa to see a friend who worked for the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
During his stay, he and his friend had a good time playing darts with U.S. service members. Learning how to play darts from the American folks, Sato fell in love with the game. After he went back to Okayama, Sato started a company that leased dart equipment.
He didn’t return to Okinawa for 15 years, this time running a bar that featured darts. While doing so, he prepared to pursue another passion of his: curry rice. Sato came up with his own recipe and served curry at his bar and some food festivals. Gaining confidence from the positive response to his curry, he opened Horizon Curry Works.
According to Sato, more and more customers from the U.S. military community are coming to his curry restaurant. And he welcomes them all with open arms.
“This definitely is an ideal place to go out, have a couple of drinks and share some food with your friends,” said John Bernal, a sailor from Sasebo Naval Base. “The scenery is beautiful.”
“It is because U.S. military folks taught me how to play darts, that I am where I am today,” Sato said as he reflected on life. “So I would like to show my gratitude. And I am even looking for people from the U.S. military who would like to learn how to cook curry from me and open a restaurant in the U.S.”
Horizon Curry Works
Open: Seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. through 10:00 p.m.
Location: 9-46 Mihama, Chatan-cho, Nakagami, Okinawa 904-0115 (Distortion Seaside Building 2F)
For more information: call 098-989-8012 (Japanese)