In another setting, Curry Station Niagara
would be a museum, not a restaurant. It’s chock-a-block with incredible
collectables that span 100 years of Japanese train history. But unlike a
traditional museum, you can sit in the real train booths, touch the artifacts
and wear the authentic conductors hats. Beyond the surroundings, the real treat
at Curry Station Niagara is Naito-san, its seventy-something owner, chef, resident
train aficionado and curator. Naito-san, along with his eighty-something
sister, still runs the restaurant every day. He exudes contagious enthusiasm
and beams every time he does the conductor’s salute and shouts out “all aboard”
(in Japanese, of course). I wanted to adopt him as my long lost Japanese
grandfather and take him home with me.
Even though most kinds of Japanese food
are ubiquitous in North America (sushi, tempura, teriyaki, ramen, etc), their
curry is relatively unknown. It is more like a spicy gravy than a traditional
Indian or Thai curry. But when accompanied by a fried pork cutlet and delivered
on a toy train, it’s a hard lunch to beat.
Naito-san did tell me that he planned
to retire someday soon. If you are in Tokyo anytime in the near future, don’t
let the train leave the station without paying him a visit.
little note about the payment machines that are ubiquitous in Japan: these
machines, like the one outside Curry Station Niagara, require you to pay in
advance for your meal. You put in your yen and they spit out a ticket that you
hand to your server. The first time I happened upon one of these automated
cashiers, I mistakenly assumed that either there was a dining and dashing
epidemic, or the restaurant was just a cheap place to get a quick meal. Wrong!
It turns out that this is just another example of how the Japanese seem to do
everything more efficiently.