Kuro Kare has 36-hour Japanese curry in SMU
If you’re a Japanese cuisine enthusiast, here’s some exciting news: another Japanese eatery, Kuro Kare, has opened at SMU, joining the ranks of Ima-Sushi in offering tasty and affordable dining options near Orchard. In case you’re unaware, “kuro kare” means “black curry”, which perfectly describes what they have to offer━their 36-hour Japanese curry.
Although they have only recently opened in June 2023, Kuro Kare is one to keep an eye on. Behind the eatery is a team of chefs formerly from fine-dining establishments such as two Michelin-starred Meta, and the now-defunct Fleurette. They wanted to bring fine-dining techniques and premium ingredients to the table without burning a hole in diners’ wallets, so they took the plunge to start their very own venture.
If you’re an SMU student or staff, you’d be delighted to know that everything here is very affordable, with prices starting from just $4.90++━great for all the broke university students around. For non-SMU diners, not to worry! Their menu prices remain affordable at an additional $2++ an item, so the lowest-priced dish starts from just $6.90++.
Food at Kuro Kare
We started with their Melty Beef ($14.90++/$16.90++)━the most expensive item on the menu. It features black Angus short ribs that have been sous-vide in beef jus for 48 hours.
Before I go on about the short ribs, which were perfectly well cooked, special mention has to go to Kuro Kare’s black curry, which is the pride and joy of their little eatery. Their curry is meticulously cooked in a process that spans 36 hours with over 25 ingredients, including onions that have been caramelised for six hours, tomato, honey, apple, and dark chocolate. If you’re wondering where the kick of the curry comes from, it’s thanks to a custom spice blend that they source from local spice maker, Jeya Spices.
Lastly, the most important step of all is allowing the curry to rest in the fridge for 24 hours, a step which allows the flavours to come together and intensify, forming the hearty curry base that you are served. I really enjoyed it for its bold, dark, and earthy flavours, with just the right touch of spice and sweetness.
Moving on, we were pleasantly surprised by how huge each chunk of beef short rib was, and how generous Kuro Kare was with the curry on each plate. You’re advised to dig in rightaway, because the curry’s flavours and texture change—within 15 minutes of being served, the team tells us.
Each piece of short rib was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and not gamey at all. In fact, it had a rich and savoury flavour which was hearty and satisfying, and held up well against the bold curry gravy.
We had the opportunity to try their original curry base, and much preferred the version with short ribs, because of how the beef jus from the meat had added even more depth and savouriness to the already-robust gravy.
Next, try their Kind of a Pig Deal ($12.90++/$14.90++), or curry with pulled pork. Instead of your usual tonkatsu, AKA breaded pork cutlet, this dish stars pulled Spanish pork, slow-cooked for 48 hours in a house-made Korean-style marinade.
The meat was extremely tender thanks to their Korean marinade that comprises soya sauce, sesame oil, pear, and onion━of which pear and onion are natural tenderisers.
Personally, I found the curry in this dish to be slightly more tangy and sweet, which overpowered the flavour of the meat, especially since it was all shredded. It doesn’t look very appetising since it is rather clumpy, especially with the thick curry. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed how it was moist and easy to eat.
If you’re looking to zhng up your curry with other toppings, Kuro Kare offers add-ons from $2.90++. We highly recommend their Chicken Thigh Katsu ($2.90++), which you could also get as part of K.F.C.: Kuro Fried Chicken ($9.90++/$11.90++). Request to have it plated separately if you prefer your katsu to remain crispy!
I found myself thoroughly enjoying this fried chicken even after it had been out for a prolonged period of time. We also had a chance to try it while it was still piping hot, and I must say, the taste had not been compromised at all.
The meat-to-batter ratio was great, with the meat well-seasoned and sufficiently tender. The batter was light and crispy, which can be attributed to their use of nama panko, AKA fresh bread crumbs that have been specially imported from Japan. Unlike the usual dried bread crumbs, nama panko has a light airy delicate texture that helps the breaded cutlet retain its crispiness longer.
If you’re finding the curry gravy too jelak or heavy, drizzle some of their house-made green and red chilli padi sauce on your dishes! These add acidity and tanginess that help cut through the richness of the dishes. I particularly enjoyed the green chilli padi sauce, which packed a super tart punch, with the katsu and beef curry. Fair warning: these are really spicy.
If you’re not big on curry, they have quite a selection of don as well. Load up on your greens for the day with their hearty Eno-kiki, do you love me? ($5.90++/$7.90++) don.
This don is packed to the brim with many colourful ingredients such as corn, sesame wakame salad, tobiko, edamame, onsen egg, baby corn tempura, and quite literally, a crown of enoki tempura.
Every bite of this bowl felt like an exciting adventure, with different textures and flavours in each mouthful.
Undoubtedly, the star of this don is the massive bundle of enoki mushrooms, fanned out and deep-fried. I particularly enjoyed this with their house-made teriyaki sauce, which wasn’t too sweet.
Top up an additional $3.90++ for a set meal, which gets you a drink and a bowl of house-made chicken bone broth, unlike your typical Japanese meal that comes with miso soup.
Their soup, enriched with confit garlic and dried seaweed, was a good accompaniment to the curry dishes, delivering both fragrance and heartiness. Crafted through a 12-hour simmering process, after which it’s reduced for three to four hours, you get a broth that’s brimming with concentrated flavour.
Alternatively, upgrade the drink with an extra dollar to get an imported Japanese drink. The selection, said to comprise popular drinks in Japan, runs beyond the standard Ayataka green tea; there’s Ramun Grape, Ramun Melon, Calpis Soda, Kirin Straight Tea, and Kirin Namacha, AKA fresh, unprocessed green tea.
If you’re not looking to get the set, Kuro Kare also serves complimentary barley tea━a good palate cleanser for washing down the savoury curry.
The menu at Kuro Kare also features a number of side dishes, of which we couldn’t wait to try the Prawn Toast ($7.90++/$9.90++), especially when the fragrance of their house-made burnt scallion and chilli oils greeted us as the dish was served.
Made in-house, this prawn toast had a thin layer of minced prawn, thoroughly coated with white sesame seeds. Post deep-frying, these added a nutty flavour which I really liked; and didn’t overpower the natural sweetness of the prawn paste.
I did wish that there was a thicker layer of prawn, but I can’t really complain for the price. The toast also was a little burnt in some parts, though the rusk-like crunch might be appealing for some.
A favourite of ours was their Cheese Potato Mochi. An order of three sizeable pops is priced at just $5.50++ for all to enjoy.
Those who love cheese and mochi would absolutely adore this snack━it’s best enjoyed once served, with a light, crackling exterior that breaks apart to reveal a chewy mochi and creamy cheese centre.
I recommend dipping it into the house-made sriracha aioli, which adds a spicy, tangy note to the snack.
While we didn’t try their other side dishes, some of the chef’s recommended items are: Seaweed Chicken ($7.90++/$9.90++) and Umami Tuna Belly ($13.90++/$15.90++), where the negitoro is made only with premium otoro and chutoro. Or, get the most bang for your buck and order Keeping up with the Kroquette’s, or curry with two croquettes, which is priced at only $4.90++ for SMU students, and $6.90++ for non-SMU students.
Ambience at Kuro Kare
Kuro Kare sits in the basement of SMU’s School of Computing and Information Systems, a short three- to six-minute walk from Bras Basah and Bencoolen MRT Stations.
Although we arrived at around 1pm, there was still a considerable crowd. With the school term starting soon, do expect an even larger crowd at mealtimes. It is advisable to come down early, or at off-peak hours, if you’re keen on dining here.
Kuro Kare had a cheerful and inviting vibe, thanks to their quirky and colourful posters, as well as upbeat music which gave the eatery a bright and lively atmosphere. I also enjoyed the warm hospitality from the staff, who were more than happy to strike up a conversation with us.
Overall, Kuro Kare has everything you’d ask for in a good eatery: attentive service, great value and food, more-than-reasonable portions, in a highly accessible location.
One thing I really liked about this eatery was their hospitality. Through our conversation, I was truly impressed by the team’s dedication in responding to feedback from their customers and the care they took in curating their menu. In time, I believe that they will be able to refine their menu even more, further embodying their vision of offering high quality food at an affordable price point. Do note that takeaways are not available at this moment, and that their opening hours vary depending on the university terms. Keep an eye on their socials for the most updated info!
For more related news, check out Ohayo Mama San, which has an award-winning Japanese curry rice for a limited time only. Otherwise, read our list of wallet-friendly Japanese restaurants for Japanese food on a budget.
Address: 80 Stamford Road, #B1-65, SMU, School of Information Systems, Singapore 178902
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am to 8pm (refer to Google for further updates)
Kuro Kare is not a halal-certified eatery.
Photos taken by Aldrich Tan.
This was an independent visit by Eatbook.sg.