In the back streets of Hacchbori next to Kyōguchimon Park lies Cafe and Grill Karasawa, a yōshoku-ya for those in the know that’s straight out of film noir, more so especially since it was raining on the day I went. Outside, plastic displays of yōshoku favorites were slightly obscured by fog in an old glass case, adding a touch of Showa to the already retro-antique storefront. I have some time to admire the displays before today’s dining companion-in-crime and Karasawa-virgin arrives.
As we step inside the moderately spacious restaurant, divided in half between smoking and non-smoking, we’re greeted warmly and told to sit wherever we’d like. The corner table is always my favorite, right by the window, so we take our seats there. The menu is bound in cracked vinyl and surprisingly prolific. Yōshoku, or “western food” as it can only poorly be translated, is food that isn’t native to Japan but sort of is. Foods like breaded and fried shrimp (or “shrimp-fry”), sandwiches, hamburg steak (which is essentially a larger, thicker version of a hamburger patty), doria (a rich gratin featuring rice instead of potatoes), and more. Each is served as a teishoku, a complete set consisting of a main dish surrounded by salad, maybe a bit of Napolitan spaghetti (spaghetti sauteed with ketchup), rice, and soup (usually, but not always, miso soup). It’s a heck of a lot of explaining for something that’s supposed to be “western”, right?
Of the many different variations of hamburg steak that Karasawa offers, I decided on the cheese hamburg steak lunch, while my cohort went with the always reliable meat sauce spaghetti with eggplants. It’s a little after noon on a national holiday and Karasawa isn’t crowded with patrons, the poor weather compounding this fact. There’s a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere as business men and women who still have to work despite the holiday enjoy a late lunch.
Our meals arrive in style: colorful plates on aluminum trays. The cheese hamburg steak is topped with a generous amount of melted cheese and demi-glace sauce, paired with a salad, a swirl of Napolitan, and potato salad. To finish the set, a cup of miso soup and steamed rice. It is the definition of old school traditional yōshoku and it does not disappoint. The demiglace has the sweetness of sauteed onions and the tang of tomatoes, perfectly complimenting the cheese that’s not only on the outside of the hamburg steak, but also INSIDE, as I delightedly found out upon slicing it in half. That’s right, this meat patty is stuffed full of silky delicious cream cheese (cheese lovers rejoice) that melts together with the fat from the meat and the demiglace to create a truly magical taste experience. Everything is perfectly balanced; a well-rounded meal that leaves you just full enough to feel satisfied without feeling overwhelmed.
A safe haven for late lunch goers and early lunch goers alike with a voluminous menu that’ll keep you coming back, Karasawa is good food that you can count on. I think I’ll try the spaghetti next time.
Address: Hatchōbori 3-10, Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
Opening Hours: 10:00-20:00