It's all about the curry

Light on atmosphere, Kobe Curry serves up tasty Japanese-style curry

Chicken cutlet curry is the thing to get at Kobe Curry. They were out of it the night we visited. We had to be satisfied with an appetizer of fried chicken, and we were.

The signature appetizer is three big pieces of boneless chicken ($4.50), crunchy breading on the outside, tender and moist meat on the inside. Take or leave the accompanying mayonnaise dip.

An appetizer of five dumplings ($4.50) isn't bad either, particularly if you get started with cold beer (Asahi, Sapporo, Orion or Echigo), available in various sizes of glasses and pitchers. Other beverages -- all priced at $1.50 -- include the non-carbonated soft drink Calpico, oolong tea and UCC Coffee: Japan's pioneering canned coffee drink.

If you're a vegetarian, your only option is an appetizer: the daikon salad ($7.50). It's a good-size pile of mixed baby greens, daikon, cucumber and corn. You'll have to ask them to leave off the bonito flakes -- tiny bits of dried fish that curl up on contact with other food items.

The restaurant serves five flavors of curry, but none are meat-free. The sauce -- rich, excellent and very filling -- is a long-simmered mix of spices, beef and mushrooms. It's served in a gravy boat, the better to pour it over a plate of rice and meat -- or just rice. Plain curry ($8) does not mean vegetarian; it just means there's no added sausage, chicken, pork or beef tendon. A dish with any of these costs $9.50.

Beef tendon was very good, but our favorite was the pork cutlet. Like the fried chicken appetizer, the cutlet was hot, crunchy outside and juicy inside. All curries come in mild, medium and spicy variations. Medium is lively but not too challenging: just what it should be. All of the curries come with your choice of salad: green or macaroni (cold).

Kobe Curry is less expensive than Muracci's, the Los Altos restaurant that introduced Japanese curry to the South Bay. Yet the menu at Kobe Curry is much smaller, the indoor dining non-existent and the ambience highly dependent on the variables of Castro Street traffic.

Service can also be variable. One night, the server ran nimbly between kitchen and tables with all the correct orders, only to get chewed out by a would-be customer who arrived 8:30 p.m.: closing time.

Trying to get someone to answer the phone is pretty much futile. It seems all the energy is going into the curry.

Kobe Curry

180 Castro St., Mountain View



Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m-2 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Dinner 5:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Reservations: no

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street and parking lots

Alcohol: beer

Happy hour: no

Corkage: no

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: yes

Private parties: no

Noise level: medium

Bathroom cleanliness: good (inside neighboring Shabuway)

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