In my many years of unwavering loyalty to Kashiwa’s Raja, I must have walked past Mobarak at least a thousand times. Situated right up against the station’s East side, the second story restaurant is clearly visible from the walkway leading out of the station. A significant chunk of Kashiwa’s 400,000 some residents must walk by it twice every day. So when I made my approach to the darkened staircase on a gloomy, grey afternoon, I began to feel apprehensive. Shouldn’t there be some people here? Is it even open? Raja would already be heaving by now…
Opening the door on the second floor I seemed to startle the cook sitting alone in the restaurant. He quickly shook off his surprise and left his paperwork to seat me at one of the empty tables by the window. Though certainly not rude, the young man clad in stained kitchen whites was unceremonious in his service. The lunch menu was bog-standard - student sets, ladies sets, lots and lots of naan - so of course I asked for the dinner menu.
But then things began to take a turn. My papad came out from the kitchen, this time brought by a different person. The man who I would later discover to be the owner emerged with a big, genuine smile and placed in front of me a plate of 3 massive and freshly cooked papad. The flavour was quite good, though not the best I’ve had, and as I munched away the owner and I began to chat. He’s lived in Japan for 30 years, and operated this shop in Kashiwa for more than 20. His Japanese is fluent, far better than his English, but in both languages he’s charming and easy-going. When he returned to the kitchen to get my curry I was feeling a fair bit more optimistic.
Absolutely stuffed at lunch time, I drank the tasty chai they offered me on-the-house, chatted briefly with the owner and another customer who had arrived mid-meal (clearly a regular, as he and the master greeted each other as friends) and walked away feeling charmed and satisfied. Would this be my new local?
I still have nearly a dozen Kashiwa area curries to try out, and the search must go on! But after I’m finished, you might see me in Mobarak from time to time, chatting away as I work my way through their honest, home-cooked dishes.