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Spice Chamber is actually more like a closet, or a long coffin; I wondered while I waited for my curry if I could touch both walls at once. At kappō (counter-style) restaurants, you have to leave your guard down a little. One of the attractions of this style of dining is immediacy; you can see every movement the cook makes, and when your food is finally ready, it’s simply passed over the counter. Voila.

The house special at Spice Chamber is keema curry, a dry minced-meat-based Southeast Asian dish. At Spice Chamber it’s been on the menu for years. Be warned, though: If you’ve become acclimatized to the sweetness and safety of Japanese curry, the keema curry at Spice Chamber kicks, and some. While you wait, cast your attention to the rows of spice jars lined up on the shelf: coriander, cumin, fennel, mace, fenugreek, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, anise, dill, white and black pepper seeds… The list goes on.

I went with the jumbo-sized keema curry. This is a lot to work through — the standard size would have been enough. It was accompanied by a side dish of tsukemono (pickles): carrots, daikon and cabbage, cool and delicious to quench the fire of the curry, but only briefly. The curry was topped with a pickled Japanese plum. It’s a great-tasting dish, and definitely one that will wake you up. The only other curry option is New York chicken curry. Either one is worth stopping in for.

1F Fukui Bldg., 502 Hakurakuten-cho, Muromachi-dori, Ayanokoji-kudaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto; 075-342-3813; www.spicechamber.com; open for lunch and dinner (closed Sun.); nearest station Shijo Karasuma; no smoking; lunch ¥1,000; no English menu; no English spoken.

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