And then you have Andhra. When I first discovered Andhra Kitchen in Okachimachi it was a revelation. Basmati rice and chapati aren’t hidden deep in the menu as they are other places (if they have them at all) - they’re standard. Wonderful South Indian Thali meals with meat or without are available at a reasonable price. And the curry - ooooh the curry. Hot and fresh, plentiful and bursting with complex flavour. As the chef peeks out from the kitchen to ensure his art is being appreciated, you can taste the pride and dedication to quality. If all Tokyo restaurants worked as hard as Andhra, we’d never have to suffer through a watery curry or all-you-can-eat naan lunch again. Unfortunately not all restaurants are like Andhra Kitchen, but if you’re in the Ginza area you can now make your way to their sister restaurant, Andhra Dining, as I did recently.
Bearing the Andhra name sets a very high bar, and I was worried Dining wouldn’t live up to their older sister’s brilliance. Walking up the stairs to the second floor shop, the first impression is very Ginza. The restaurant was bright with sunlight, as it beamed through the large windows onto the very clean and tasteful interior. The kitchen wall is also made completely from windows, offering the customers an unimpeded look at the chefs at work - a bold move showing the management’s confidence. The steel surfaced kitchen looked pristine, and a small crew of about four chefs stood at the ready for the impending lunch rush, under the calm and moustachioed supervision of chef Ramanaia.
My excitement for the meal was curbed somewhat by the listing of curries for the day. One was a minced meat and egg curry, which sounded a bit generic and lunch-menu-esque. Another was a Chicken Korma, which in my mind is a mild sauce often served to spice-lightweight foreigners. The third - a seasonal sweet potato curry - sounded interesting, but the only dish with a name was the Korma, and I worried they’d just be limp, curry-of-the-day type fare.
As I sat taking in the pleasant ambience and wonderful smells, I watched the chefs in the kitchen working carefully away. At an Indian restaurant lunch service, the worst thing is for your food to come out too quickly. This means that they just dumped some old stuff from a vat into a dish for you. This isn’t the case at Andhra Dining, where you can actually watch them prepare each dish fresh, and carry it out steaming with heat and flavour. This is what I did as the friendly floor-manager brought me my massive thali plate.
My only caveat for those of you keen on trying Andhra’s (Kitchen or Dining) thali meals - when the friendly staff comes over to give you more steaming hot Basmati, think carefully about how much you need and make sure to stop him from heaping a mountain onto your plate. The key to enjoying the meal is in not overdoing it on the delicious (and free) Sambar, Rassam and Basmati.
I was very pleased to discover that the food at Andhra Dining was every bit as good as its older sibling’s. Like at Kitchen, the chef walked around from the kitchen to the floor, overseeing and advising his chefs in the former, and asking with a smile how the customers were enjoying their food in the latter. It’s this care and dedication that makes them my favourite name in town, and now I know there’s two of them. If you find yourself hungry in either Ginza or Ueno, you know what to do. You can thank me later.