Ode: The Beef Curry Bowl at Kokoro
Simone likes to say she’s been going to Kokoro since before she was born, and it’s no lie. In our youth, her mom and I — always tight on cash because we were both teachers — counted on the friendly little Japanese fast-food spot after long classroom days. A healthy rice bowl with something tasty plopped on top, a shared order of crispy chicken gyoza, and all the green tea we could drink were solace for our sore feet and light wallets.
For something like a quarter-century, I have regularly found my way back to the OG location on South Colorado, usually with the girl in tow — whether I’ve just picked her up from her other house or we’re girding ourselves for an epic summer blockbuster up the street at Colorado Center.
Simone was raised on Kokoro, but she’s moving to her first apartment and a job in the Pacific Northwest this month. After our feast there next week — just before we watch dinos feast in all their IMAX glory — I’m not sure when we’ll be back to the restaurant together.
As much as my girl loves an unagi bowl — warm rice piled high with sauced-up eel draped over the top — we both agree that the beef curry bowl is the true standout. It’s the comfort dish we crave.
Japanese golden curry is all about complex contradictions (kind of like my no-so-little girl) and Kokoro’s recipe is no exception. Sweet and spicy. Soupy and solid. A rich umami viscosity cut through with a pop of pickled ginger. One bowl is almost too much but it’s also not enough; tender meatiness supported on a foundation of perfect white rice.
About three-quarters in, you have way more rice left in the bowl than meat and sauce, but by then you’re happy for the gentle neutrality, the bland comfort, the soft serenity of those last few bites. With your chopsticks, you pluck single grains and daintily dip them in any curry stuck to the edges, take another sip of tea, and ease into the quiet comfort of the end of the meal.
In a couple of weeks, my baby girl will live nearly two thousand miles away, but at least the consolation of a Kokoro curry bowl will still be close by.