Japanese curry, as usually constituted, features in some of the most chef-proof restaurants in the world. The spicy, translucent goop -- whose lineage traces from Africa, through resident Indian cooks, through Portuguese traders whose boats were parked outside Nagasaki -- is better known for its glossiness than for its fineness of flavor, and some of the better-known specialists both here and in Japan literally use a packaged mix. Japanese curry is probably the most popular food in Japan, served with vast piles of rice and perhaps a fried cutlet or two.
But Fat Spoon, the latest project from Michael Cardenas, who is also behind Lazy Ox, Aburiya Toronoko and Sushi Roku, among other restaurants, is that great anomaly -- a inexpensive yet chef-driven curry restaurant. It's overseen by Hiro Fujita, the guy who used to run Michael Ovitz's sushi bars as well as Kumo and Hamasuku. And Fujita's dark, dense, complex Japanese curry, distinctly not from a packet, is made with Jidori chicken, simmered short ribs or crunchy Kurobuta pork tonkatsu. (It's one of the few places in town to get malty Echigo beer, too.) The restaurant occupies one of the best spots in Little Tokyo, right next to the perpetually megacrowded ramen shop Daikokuya, and is as bright and modern as its blaring 1970s rock is not -- I'm not sure I've ever heard "Eye of the Tiger'' played ironically outside a gym.
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Do you want the spaghetti with cod roe and seaweed? Probably not. Save those cravings for Spoon House in Gardena.