One of Japan’s biggest curry houses is opening a Berkeley restaurant

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Champion’s Curry, a 61-year-old chain that says it’s one of the pioneers of Japanese curry, is coming to the Bay Area for the first time.

A Berkeley outpost located at 2506 Channing Way, near Telegraph Avenue and the UC Berkeley campus, is slated to open this fall. The chain one of the biggest curry houses in Japan with more than 30 locations. In 2020, Champion’s started expanding to the U.S. with a spot in Los Angeles and already has plans for a few more Southern California locations.

Founder Yoshikazu Tanaka claims to have invented Kanazawa-style curry at his original restaurant in Kanazawa, the capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture. The area boasts an unusually high number of curry restaurants and is home to dark, rich and thick curries that totally cover the rice beneath and then get finished with a deep-fried cutlet.

That said, photos of the curry in Los Angeles look similar to many other Japanese curry restaurants in the Bay Area — far less dark than at the Champion’s restaurants in Japan. (Oakland’s Dela Curo Curry specializes in this black Japanese curry, while Burlingame’s Curry Hyuga also goes for a dark, Kanazawa-style shade.) Champion’s stated that the U.S. restaurants use a slightly different recipe, based on what ingredients are available.

The Berkeley menu will mirror the restaurant’s location in Los Angeles, with options like beef katsu, fish katsu and grilled vegetables on top of curry. More unusual in the Bay Area, there will be katsu-filled sandwiches that come with a side of curry sauce for dipping. The Los Angeles menu also includes katsu-topped salads and a ground Wagyu gratin, layered with mozzarella, macaroni and curry sauce.

The restaurant will occupy a new 600-square-foot space, with about 35 seats.

The Bay Area is experiencing a flood of Japanese curry restaurants. Kokolo Donburi rapidly opened five East Bay locations since 2019, with plans for more in the East Bay and South Bay. And Champion’s will face stiff competition near UC Berkeley: Hinoya Curry, a popular Japanese chain that debuted in San Francisco last year, is plotting a Berkeley location just two blocks away.

Champion’s Curry. Opening this fall. 2506 Channing Way, Berkeley. www.japanesecurry.com

Janelle Bitker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: janelle.bitker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @janellebitker



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