If you head out for a curry in Tokyo expect to be faced with a few choices: There are Indian restaurants like Andra Kitchen in Ueno and Dhaba India in Kyobashi, Pakistani restaurants like Hunza in Azabudai, Nepalese restaurants such as Kantipur in Shibuya, and "Asian Dining" restaurants like Sapana in Kinshicho. My preference is Indian cuisine - I was brought up on the delights of madras, korma, and vindaloo, and all the extras that come with them. I have a few firm favorites now in Tokyo and beyond, but I love it when I discover a new place that is stand out. I found such a place this week: Tandoori Asian Dining in Nishi-Chiba.
As its name suggests, Tandoori is an "Asian Dining" restaurant, so there are a myriad of choices available on the evening menu. On top of the standard Indian and Nepalese curries, side dishes and snacks, it has a full page of Thai cuisine, which led me to think I might get a slightly watered down version of Indian curry. After having a look through the tempting Thai selection, offering Gapao, Green Curry, Pad Thai and the like, I reverted to type and chose a North Indian dish: Chicken Jhanjari. I went for a simple starter of papad, scanned the bread page and saw naan, then roti, then...bingo! Paratha! There was only saffron rice listed, but I asked for basmati and was pleasantly surprised when they said no problem (wish all restaurants would do the same). My partner in crime went for Chicken Tikka Masala and naan, though we guessed that would be pretty standard too.
The papad were warmed through and crispy and went down well with a large bottle of Kirin (there were non-Japanese options, but I don't mind a bottle of the home brew from time to time). The Jhanjari came along with the paratha and the basmati. Wow. The curry was full of soft chicken and chunks of boiled egg, combined perfectly in a blended ghee-based sauce deep with flavour, and topped with a finely chopped spring onion, crushed cashew nuts, and a dash of cream. It might just be because I hadn't expected much, but this curry blew me away. The depth and combination of the flavours were fantastic, and it was delicious right down to the last spoonful. The Chicken Tikka Masala was a bit special too, but it was hard to take my attention away from the sublime Jhanjari.
I asked for it to be made extra hot, and the chef didn't disappoint - it was perfectly spiced, providing a wonderfully warm feeling that resonated all over, which, married with the exponential rush through an extra kick of spice with every bite, took me out of myself for most of the time I was eating it. Mixed with the large portion basmati, this was absolute heaven. The highlight, however, was the paratha. Most parathas I have had in Japan have been a bit too heavy on the oil, which sends signals to the brain very quickly that you have had your fill of fat. This paratha was just right (as good as any I had when I lived in the UK, and that's saying something). The combination of the curry, the basmati, and the paratha made this a wonderfully satisfying meal. The only downside was that half the plate of basmati was left after the paratha and Jhanjari had vanished. My dining partner wasn't indulging, and we were both totally full. That didn't stop me, however, from gradually finishing the rest of it off on its own in large, gloriously plain mouthfuls (I love basmati rice).
I have been to Tandoori a few times for lunch, and I knew that they did a good curry there, but I had no idea the evening menu was this good. The Jhanjari is a great curry, and I can't wait to try what else they have on offer. As a side note, it's actually reasonably priced as well. If you like the combination mentioned above, I would recommend you try Tandoori Asian Dining. Share a basmati, though. Unless you're like me and could live off the stuff.
After a few afternoon beers in Kaihin Makuhari, we were faced with a dinner dilemma: Do we eat at one of the many generic restaurants, selling steak, pizza, and other tempting cholesterol raising delights or do we try the "mall curry" restaurant, looking down at us tantalizingly from the 3rd floor of the WBC Marive Dining building? This is JIMC: We went with the curry. From outside, the alarm bells started to sound, faced with plastic food copies which occupied the window front. What we actually got was better than we expected, though pretty standard fare, but most likely better than the other options you often find when you're out and about at similar areas equipped for the relatively easy to please Saturday afternoon shopper.
We started with papad topped with spicy onion, Chicken Tikka, and a couple of Godfather beers. For mains we went for Chicken Mirchi, Mutton Vindaloo, and Butter Chicken Masala. We went for roti, naan, and a plate of saffron rice as accompaniments.
The papad were OK, though didn't appear to be warmed through - the onion garnish was surprisingly spicy too and might be a bit overwhelming for average diners (no complaints here). The Chicken Tikka was great: good cuts and soft. The curries came. All were standard. The Vindaloo and Mirchi were advertised as the hottest on the menu and we asked for extra hot on top of that, but we were fairly disappointed with the outcome. Both were mild at best. Taste wise, all three went down well, though each were a bit heavy on the tomato flavoring front. The chicken and the mutton in the Vindaloo and Mirchi was a little tough but, oddly, not so in the Butter Chicken. The roti was OK, but nothing spectacular. Of course, the saffron rice was just that (no Basmati automatically makes the whole experience less enjoyable. But hey, the restaurants just give people what they want).
As mentioned at the start, this is a standard mall restaurant, but it's not bad in terms of a decent evening meal, and especially if you're like us and would choose Indian cuisine over any other. The final bill came in at ¥8888, so a bit pricy for three people. There are plenty of better curry experiences you can get for that amount, but if you are in the area, and a fan of Indian food, you could do a lot worse than Mantra.
Back in my university days, I remember sitting in a lovely little local Chinese restaurant watching a couple place their order completely wrong. I knew, having spent a year in Japan, that authentic Chinese food like this is meant to be eaten family style - you don’t order that beef noodle dish for yourself, as you’ll fill up on one very limited flavour, and you won’t get any vegetables or seafood or any of the great variety from a Chinese menu. With my smug self-satisfaction in tow I returned to my group of Asian friends as we ordered family-style and made the most of our meal.
Cut to me, more than a decade later, realising that for my entire adult life I’ve been eating Indian food, my favourite cuisine, wrong. As with Chinese, Italian and so many of the world’s rustic and heartwarming food traditions, there’s no better way to enjoy great Indian cooking than with a group, sharing a variety of soups, curries, side dishes and all of the great variety that’s on the menu at the best restaurants. Americans, Brits and Japanese are accustomed to ordering a single bowl of curry to eat all for themselves, and while that’s all well and good for a tasty meal, sharing the diverse joys of Indian cuisine with lovely people can be truly transcendent.
That’s what we did last night, when the charming and wonderful Popi Kuroda - owner and proprietor of the Mumbai group of restaurants in Tokyo - had us for dinner at Mumbai’s Marunouchi branch. Situated inside the basement restaurant level of the Kokusai Building (a few minutes from JR Yurakucho and the Tokyo International Forum), this branch is thus far my favourite of Mumbai’s more than 15 locations around town. The decor is clean and classic; adorned with some of the familiar Indian fare, but with a traditional Western restaurant aesthetic. The staff are extremely friendly and attentive, and the overall experience is as nice as you’ll find in town. But, as it should be, it’s the food that stands out and speaks loudest for the restaurant’s quality.
It doesn’t hurt to eat with the owner of the place, but I was happy to notice that all of Popi’s choices came from Mumbai’s menu. We weren’t eating secret dishes that only insiders know about - you could go there tomorrow and get the same thing. As we chatted away with Popi and her lovely husband and visiting nephew, planning ideas for the Namaste India festival in September and thinking of ways to introduce authentic Indian food to Tokyo, dish after dish of mouthwatering food arrived at the table.
Crispy papad (lovely) arrived with an assortment of hot, sweet and fragrant sauces, followed by a tasty salad and Bhel Phuri (a crunchy and hot appetiser of puffed rice). The Paneer Chilli, a stir-fry style dry dish which Popi describes as "Indian Chinese food", was perfect for sharing with a group as a side. The Eggplant Cheese, an original, fusion style dish, is delicious Keema inside half of a massive eggplant, with cheese over the top and flatbread for dipping. The mains consisted of a fragrant and delicate Mutton Biriyani, a light yet intensely flavourful Asari (clam) curry, and Mumbai Marunouchi’s signature Chicken Kadai. Rounded off with An-nin pudding and Indian ice-cream, we could barely stand at the end of the meal.
Alternating from deep conversation to deep focus on the beautiful food, the three hour meal could rival any French course or Italian family-style feast I’ve ever eaten, and it drives home my thought that Indian cuisine is meant to be eaten this way. We at JIMC have always advocated going for dinner to get the best of the menu; now I’m recommending you get a big group of friends together and go let some of Tokyo’s great chefs show you how diverse and wondrous their food can be.