On the Line: Donald Williams of Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, Part One
Photo by LP Hastings
Donald Williams was careful to explain that the operation is a team effort. There is no designated chef at Coco Ichibanya. Sauce, protein, starch, and perhaps a veg. There's a certain amount of assembly (and a whole lotta curry) involved. He also mentioned their next location in K-town, opening in the not-so-distant future.
Your earliest food memory:
I remember as a boy always going and enjoying kaiten (revolving) sushi restaurants when I lived in Japan. I go to the place a few doors down sometimes.
Favorite meal growing up:
My favorite meal growing up has to definitely be ramen. Everything from instant to gourmet ramen; everything from shoyu to tonkotsu base. I love them all.
San Pedro's Taco Shop in Hawaiian Gardens. Their flautas are amazing.
What do you think of people who take picture of their food?
There's nothing wrong with it, but I don't get it. A lot of my friends have Instagram and do it.
Are there plans to expand the brand in California?
Yes there are. We will be opening our 4th location in or around October. Then we are looking to open in West L.A. towards the end of the year or early next year.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Orange County has the best pho restaurants around. I like the places in Garden Grove.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
I love to eat at good local authentic Mexican taco shops. Mexican makes for the best comfort food in all the world.
What is your beverage of choice, and where do you get it?
A strong, high-quality I.P.A. from a micro-brewery. We're gonna visit Stone in San Diego in a few weeks.
What's your favorite dish on the menu?
My favorite thing on the menu is the good old-fashioned beef curry.
One food you can't live without:
That, no doubt, would have to be rice. Rice goes well with just about everything. And there are just so many ways you can prepare rice and have it as an essential ingredient.
How do you explain the difference between Asian and Indian curry flavors?
Specifically, Japanese curry is a far departure from Indian curry. Japanese curry is not at all similar to Southeastern style curries like Thai curry. The only way Japanese curry is similar to Indian curry is that it uses curry powder.
Japanese-style curry is thicker and milder and adapted for an Asian palate. It is often poured over short grain white rice or udon noodles. Japanese curry uses a lot of butter and onions, and is essentially rice gravy. It's actually not very healthy and is considered a form of comfort or soul food in Japan.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
An assortment of deep fried insects while I was in Thailand. They reminded me of Japanese crackers.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Iicho and Tori Hei (izakayas) in Torrance.
What is the most requested dish by diners?
One of our largest customer bases are Marines who have been stationed in Japan and frequented our locations in Okinawa and Yokohama. The general favorite among the Marines is chicken cutlet with cheese. Many times they will order it with a double portion of meat accompanied with an off menu naan bread with cheese.
You're making breakfast. What re you having?
Simple omelet with rice and a bowl of miso soup.
Most popular items on your menu:
Either the pork or chicken cutlet.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
A Marine girlfriend wanted to surprise her boyfriend by bringing him back some Coco curry. She had to be on a flight in 4 hours. We packaged the curry in 3-ounce containers so she could put it in her carry-on luggage.
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