For the past 10 years the order of business at Kurofunetei has been yoshoku - elegant renditions of hearty Japanese-Western classics. Yoshoku's origins lie in the Meiji era, when Japanese chefs began creating their own versions of Western cuisine, producing now-classic dishes such as omuraisu (a fried-rice omelet - nowadays dressed with a generous dollop of ketchup, courtesy of the post-war inrush of American products).
At Kurofunetei, the omuraisu is a plump and comforting blimp of just barely set tender egg encasing mushroom-studded fried rice. The kani kurimu korokke (crab croquettes) are crisp and greaseless, with a creamy, vermouth-scented filling laden with chunks of sweet crab.
But the major draw of the place is hayashi raisu - beef braised in a dark demiglace sauce, ever so lightly drizzled with cream and served over rice with a few bits of sweet, crisp oshinko pickles for contrast. In its humbler manifestations hayashi sauce often gets its thickness and sweetness from ketchup, but not here. The demiglace is simmered for over a week to achieve its dark chocolate color and savory intensity. At any given time, about half the diners in the place are digging into the stuff with apparent relish. For an extra 800 yen, you can opt for the special hayashi raisu, with the added indulgence of tender wagyu.
But that's not all - Kurofunetei also does brisk business in seafood curry, hamburger steak, cheesy cabbage rolls, and an extensive appetizer selection. To make things easier for the indecisive, many dishes can be ordered as half portions, or are featured in sampler plates that combine tastes of several items. The portions are large - we found ourselves fading at the finish line when we tackled the B-bento, which includes a cup of kabocha potage, salad, and an elegant version of the TV-dinner compartmented tray containing crab korokke, hamburger steak bathed in mushroom sauce, a mini omuraisu, and red wine-infused braised beef tongue.
On weekends the place is always crowded with dating couples and families, particularly at dinnertime. So reservations are advised, or be prepared to wait in their cramped entranceway. If you get impatient, the hayashi sauce (without rice) and pork cutlet sandwiches are available to go.