아비꼬 (강남역점) (Abiko)
Reviewed by Annie Namba on May 24, 2011 / Updated July 14, 2011
For several months, as we walked to Tanuki Donburi, we noted the progress of a new (or more likely, heavily renovated) building along the way. Finally, a couple weeks ago, the wraps came off and a new restaurant was revealed! There were workers inside clearly preparing for opening day, so we asked when it would be, and made plans to return soon for a review.
We have dined at Abiko twice now, and can safely say that it is excellent. The taste of the curry really sticks with you. After the first visit, I couldn't wait to come back.
Manga-themed lighting on the second floor
The ordering system looks complicated at first glance, but really it's quite simple. You pick a type of dish (and a variation), choose your level of spiciness, and add toppings.
There are three kinds of dishes: 카레라이스 (curry over rice), 하이라이스 (hayashi rice, hashed beef and rice), and 카레우동 (udon in curry). Each of these has a few different variations to choose from (plain curry, curry with pork, etc. etc.).
On this visit, we ordered:
- Base: 기본카레라이스 (basic curry rice, 5000원)
- Spiciness: Level 2
- Toppings: 치킨까스 (chicken katsu/cutlet, 3000원) + 마늘 후레이크 (garlic chips, free)
- Base: 기본카레우동 (basic curry udon, 5000원)
- Spiciness: Level 2
- Toppings: 돈까스 (tonkatsu/pork cutlet, 3500원), 대파 (sliced leek, free)
At the table
Inside is decorated with manga figurines, cherry blossom tree and manga strip lighting. Everything smells new, especially on the second floor. Each table has a small water pitcher, utensils, napkins and takuan (pickled radish).
If you order a simple dish without any deep fried toppings, it may come out in 5 minutes. Otherwise, 10-15 minutes.
Chicken katsu curry rice with garlic chips
Aaron's curry rice is first to come out. Being from Hawaii, he has a taste for Japanese curry and chicken katsu, and this version did not disappoint. Curry flavor was perfect. The katsu was surprisingly crunchy, perhaps even too crunchy, but it wasn't an issue after a liberal dousing of curry, which is probably how it is intended to be eaten anyway.
Tonkatsu curry udon with aburage and green onion/leek
The udon comes topped with aburage (fried tofu). The katsu portion size is on the small side, but the quality is excellent. The breading is crispy and the pork inside juicy. The udon noodles are chewy and fresh. Even when just the curry soup is left, I finish it down to the last drop. The taste of the curry is so complex that I wouldn't know how to replicate at home. It seems to contain many different spices, yet all the flavors are so well combined that I can't pinpoint individual spices.
Pick your level of spiciness! I bet I would look like that last picture if I ordered "Super spicy".
There's a sign inside that says they specialize in spicy Japanese curry, and they aren't kidding. Level 2, as you can see in the graphic here, is medium, and we found it to be more than adequate. On our spiciness scale, it rates a 7.5 out 10, the spiciest it could be while still being enjoyable (in other words, we would order it again).
- Food: 5/5 - Japanese curry at its best. I don't know how it can be better.
- Service: 4/5 - If you order curry rice, you can get a free refill of rice and curry... if you ask, that is.
- Atmosphere: 4/5 - Young, lively and distinctly Japanese. Everything is clean and new. (A little too new... the new smell should be gone in another month or two.)