The Muratas had moved to the Bay Area from their native Osaka in 2000, and a few years later opened a dime-sized, mostly takeout joint in San Francisco's Financial District. In downtown Los Altos, Muracci's #2 offers full-service dining. Muracci is the nickname of the owners' son, the thumbs-up guy pictured on their menus. As if the restaurants were sites of rock concerts, Muracci's workers wear black T-shirts reading "San Francisco, Los Altos" on the back.
Japanese curry follows a grand tradition of fusion cuisine in Japan. Dishes like hamburger that the Japanese adapt to their tastes have their own food group: yoshoku. The meat-based curry sauce, which simmers for two days, is exquisite over deep-fried and breaded seafood and meats, a technique acquired from Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
The basic, very hearty curry meal can be supplemented with extra curry sauce, rice and meat. There's also a weekly curry special. Recently it was chicken curry nanban ($12.50 at dinner) featuring buckwheat noodles, chicken, shimeji mushrooms, green onions, bonito stock and curry sauce.
The tonkatsu dinner ($13.75) started with an appetizer of shiitake mushrooms, stuffed and grilled. Then came a creamy miso soup, dotted with cubes of soft tofu. A mortar and pestle came next, with instruction to grind up the sesame seeds and mix in the sweet sauce. Perfectly cooked panko-crusted pork was accompanied by shredded cabbage (for health), potato salad and rice.
The seafood curry dinner ($14.95) started with a crisp iceberg lettuce salad. A large bowl simmered with three prawns, lots of calamari and a few scallops in curry sauce. Thinly sliced daikon with shredded lemon rind made a refreshing side dish.
Your menu choices runneth over. Steamed rice: white or brown. Curry spice levels: mild to hot. (Medium will be plenty hot for most palates.) A gratin-like curry-flavored bechamel sauce with melted cheese on top. A hamburger with curry sauce. Vegetarian items: tofu salad ($8.50) and vegetarian curry. Extras: boiled egg, spinach, vegetables, potato, cheese.
Another exercise in yoshoku involves omelets. In the grand American equivalent of yoshoku, Muracci's offers the six-piece California roll ($3.50) and other sushi Americana. And there's a kid's plate ($7.95) of chicken teriyaki or hamburger curry, fruit, salad and rice.
As the name implies, Muracci's Japanese Curry & Grill offers dishes besides sushi that may be more familiar in the Bay Area than Japanese curry. The usual grilled beef, chicken and salmon teriyaki are here, plus meal-size donburi bowls of rice topped with chicken, pork, seafood and egg.
The T-shirted Muracci's staff is welcoming, efficient, and effusive in their good-byes. As in: "Thank you! Thank you very much!"
Muracci's Japanese Curry & Grill
244 State St., Los Altos.
Hours: Lunch: Mon.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Weekdays 5:30-p.m.; Sat. 5-9:30 p.m.
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