Kai Curry Bar

Special thanks to Kai Curry Bar for extending this food review invitation.

Jalan Phuah Hin Leong an overlooked road in George Town. Tucked amidst several quaint guesthouses is Kai Curry Bar (Curry Bar カイ), an eatery serving Japanese-inspired curry dishes.
The proprietor of Kai Curry Bar is Mag, a born-and-bred Penangite who worked in the food business for several years in New Zealand (where she met her husband), then Japan (where her husband comes from), and finally back near the equator. Mag operates a catering business called Umai Kitchen, but inspiration of Kai Curry Bar came recently while she was driving by this serene neighborhood with her mother.
Kai Curry Bar is open for about a month now. Most dishes involve Japanese curry with certain degree of local adaptations. Spices used for the curry are sourced from local markets. To maintain the lovely aroma, Mag prepares the curry powder twice a week. I bet the exact mixing formula is her trade secret!
While Mag spends most of her time in the kitchen, she has two family members who assist her on daily basis: her mother who helps to serve the tables, and her six-year-old son who is her trustworthy food taster! Her son, Kai (カイ), also contributes cartoon doodles to the food menu. Obviously, Kai has an affinity for dinosaurs. Whose kid isn't?
My lunch started with a bowl of cold potato salad. I thought it was a simple scoop of mashed potato. The truth could not be any further! The mashed potato is prepared fresh, which explains why it still has the appealing fibrous texture. Of course, some people prefer "smooth" mashed potato à la KFC style, but I always prefer this "coarse" version.
Served beside the scoop of mashed potato is hijiki (鹿尾菜), a kind of seaweed cultivated from the wild. The cooling effect of the jelly-like seaweed complements the mashed potato is a harmonious way.
As far as beverage as concerned, I almost never stray away from teas when I visit a Japanese restaurant (or Japanese-inspired restaurant for this case). The recommended choice is Mugicha (麦茶), a type of tea made from roasted barley. The aroma and flavor of Mugicha is pretty similar to genmaicha (玄米茶), which is made from roasted brown rice instead. Mugicha is modest in taste and serves to normalize the savory flavors of curry.
The choice of entrée today is Pork Katsu Curry (ポークカツカレー, RM17.90). This dish comprises of a piece of deep-fried pork cutlet served with Japanese curry and rice.
There are two types of curry to choose from: pork (ポーク) and vegetarian (ベジタリアン); I picked the former. Pork curry is a thick gravy with tender chunks of pork and carrots, making it very savory indeed. According to Kai Curry Bar, the vegetarian curry is naturally sweet due to liberal use of vegetables, making it more appealing for children.

While the pork cutlet is acceptable in terms of taste, I think it is overshadowed by the delightful curry itself. Japanese curry was a relatively recent culinary creation when European powers made contact with Japan during the Meiji era. Spices from British India were tuned to satisfy Japanese palate. This explains why Japanese curry tends to be thicker, starchier and less spicy than the Indian counterpart.
There are a number of interesting add-ons to the curry, for which I picked sautéed mushrooms (RM3.00). Other recommended choices are spinach (RM2.00) and cheese (RM3.50).

Should a customer prefer more spiciness, there is a shaker containing powdered chili pepper. However according to Japanese dining etiquette, adding condiments to food is generally frown upon as this apparently undermines the chef's preparation method.
In addition to the plate of curry, there is also a small pot containing seasoned lotus root. I must say that I am immensely impressed with how this side dish is prepared. The lotus root still retains its crunchy and juicy texture, and possesses highly delectable flavor in an appetizing way. I like this side dish so much that I asked for seconds.
Besides pork katsu, other choices of meat are chicken katsu (チキンカツ), seared chicken (炙りチキン) and pork hamburg (ポークハンバーグ). The pork hamburg does not use any flour at all; minced pork is held together using beaten eggs. Should you prefer fish, there is also the option of fish cutlet (フィッシュカツ) which is made from mahi-mahi (マヒマヒ), a type of fish found in Pacific waters and often used in Hawaiian cuisine. The curry dishes can also be enjoyed with udon (うどん) noodle in lieu of rice.
Kai Curry Bar is open for lunch (11:00am to 3:00pm) and dinner (6:00pm-9:00pm), Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday is Kai's off-day as the food taster (it's a very demanding job), while Monday is when Mag prepares food for the week ahead. Kai Curry Bar is one highly recommended eatery indeed.
Name: Kai Curry Bar (Curry Bar カイ)
Address: 15, Jalan Phuah Hin Leong, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-226-0322
Business hours: 11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-9:00pm, closed on Sundays and Mondays
Website: http://kaicurrybar.com
Coordinates: 5.42369 N, 100.32257 E
Directions: Driving along Burmah Road (Jalan Burma) from New World Park, turn right to Jalan Phuah Hin Leong. This small road is somewhat opposite of Union Primary School. Kai Curry Bar is one of the shops on the left. Parking is limited in this neighborhood; be tactful not to obstruct other houses.