Day two of Namaste India turned out to be a lot drier affair than the Saturday. The event was especially crowded on the Sunday and spirits were lifted significantly by the general vibe and by the selection of great food and energetic and elegant stage performances.
The stalls selling various Indian goods were packed and looked to be doing some decent business, there were long queues for the food stalls (a very good sign), and visitors seemed to be more relaxed in general, especially those enjoying the Indian classical dance and music on the centre stage. It was great to see people finally getting the most out of the event.
I found myself a bit busy promoting and chatting to people and didn't get as much of a fill food wise as I wanted to, though I did enjoy some decent mutton curry with biryani and a bhaji at Nandhini.
So, all in all a successful event. The next big one coming up will be Diwali, which is being held in both Yokohama (15th/16th October) and Nishi-Kasai (22nd October) respectively. The JIMC crew will be going to both of these and will be enjoying the continued meteoric rise in the popularity in Indian food in Tokyo and Japan.
Despite the rain, a decent crowd turned up for the first day of Namaste India 2016. There were so many great food options that Chris P. and I could barely contain ourselves. First, naturally, we headed to Mumbai's stall around 10am and tried our original dish: the Currito! Combined with a couple of beers, that set us up nicely for the rest of the event.
Just as the atmosphere was gaining momentum, the heavens opened up and drenched the party. A big crowd gathered under the solitary dry spot – a graffitied underpass. The rain didn't dampen our spirits, however. We continued making our way around and tried a selection of great dishes from various stalls such as Nandrini, Tulsi, Sonia, Suki Mahal, and Spice Magic Calcutta. Day two promises even more, with several stalls, set up by very well known Indian restaurants in Tokyo, waiting to be tested.
Food wise, there were several highlights. Apart from the aforementioned Curritos – mobile curry that's easy to eat and delicious with every bite – we feasted on such delights as pani puri, pav bhaji, chicken biryani, crunchy vada with coconut sauce, and hariyali chicken tikka. We were joined by a couple of friends, so we added a couple of staple fillers: chicken tikka, samosas, and a curry set which came with chapati, papad, a pile of basmati, fried chicken, and butter chicken. All of this had everyone pretty much full to the brim.
So, apart from the persistent showers, a good start to the event. Today already looks like it's better weather wise. It's going to get very crowded down there and promises to be twice as fun. Come and try a Currito at Mumbai's stall if the urge takes you. Some serious Indian curry heaven awaits!
Event details here
Phall NaanD & Chris P. PapadD
Chris P. and I found ourselves at a great Indian restaurant in the heart of Tokyo yesterday evening: Dakshin, Yaesu. Just around the corner from the famous Dhaba India, Dakshin sits in a small side street opposite the well-regarded craft beer bar Swan Lake. After having a couple in there, we headed down the pleasantly essence-filled stairwell to the secluded restaurant at the bottom. Until we opened the door to the place, we didn't realize how packed it was – we presumed that we wouldn't have much trouble getting a seat on a Wednesday. The server at the door had a quick scan around the fairly large room and managed to squeeze us in on a table for two.
The menu was as packed with as many tempting sounding dishes as the restaurant was with people, and we didn't hang around in ordering. We went for papad, Masala Vada, Paneer Tikka, and Masala Dosa for starters, and Chicken Chettinad (pepper) and Keerai Kootu (mixed vegetables with Spinach) for mains. For sides we went for basmati and paratha (the table next to us ordering naans didn't know what they were missing), and a couple of beers to warm up.
The crispy, warm papad arrived and were followed shortly by the thick and crunchy Masala Vada, which came with a side serving of coconut chutney. Writing this now, after the event, and not overly hungry, I still get a buzz from the memory of the taste of the warm crunch mixed with the creaminess of the sauce, and from the multitude of flavours. It was one of those dishes that you could feast on all night, but we had so much more on the way and we needed to stay focussed.
Next, the Paneer Tikka. The cheese curd was thick and perfectly soft and the grilled peppers and onions, with a light peppery coating and served with a refined mint sauce, had us both wowing. This shared dish went down with barely a word being said, only a few ecstatic shakes of the head and some eyes to the heavens, and punctuated by the occasional break to catch our breaths. The rest of the food followed, and it all became a bit of a blur after that. I remember taking a large bite from the Masala Dosa mixed with the accompanying sambar and coconut chutney and being lifted off my seat as the flavours swam around my mouth. Following this, but in no noticeable order, the perfectly oily paratha, thick and with a crispy surface layer, encouraged one mouthful after the next, and as I combined it with the Keerai kootu, it produced a fantastic cacophony of flavours. This has to be unique to Indian food – it's like a merry dance that lifts and ducks and wows and thrills all in one go. It reminded me of the pint of Golden Ale I'd just had at Swan Lake, the after effect produced a kind of sparkle or tinkling on the tongue, which made me think how appropriate the name was. The curry was doing the same here, and it showed on our faces, and this prompted the people on the table next to us to ask if we were enjoying our meal. Hmm, yeah, not bad.
It turned out that one of our fellow diners was a Brit of Indian descent and that his family came from the the Gujarat region. We had a great chat about the difference between Indian curry in the UK and Japan and we agreed that we are spoilt over here, and especially for Southern Indian food. We talked about the various regional curries and the multitude of specialty dishes dotted around India and he told us a witty anecdote about how some Indian families even take their own regional chefs on holiday with them when they travel in India. We also talked about, and agreed on, various foods analogies:
British food – the food of kings
Japanese food – the food of precision
American food – the food of fun
Italian food – the food of passion
French food – the food of love
There is no food that can take you to that spiritual place inside yourself quite like Indian food does. The combination of herbs and spices is like alchemy – it actually lifts you out of yourself, as we have mentioned many times before. The food at Dakshin was an excellent example of it, too – delicious and perfectly spicy, filling but not bloating, all cooked from the bottom up and without unnecessary additives or artificial flavouring, and, significantly, the final spoonful tastes just as good as the first. Dakshin has some stiff competition in that area from the likes of Dhaba India and Andhra Dining, but it is right up there with them in terms of quality cuisine. Both Chris and I would eat Indian food every day if we had the option and Dakshin would most certainly be on our shortlist list of places we would head to first to get our fill of the food of the gods!
We are proud to announce the launch of a brand new mobile curry concept here at JIMC. We have teamed up with the Mumbai chain to bring to you, for the first time, a culinary delight known simply as Curritos! (full definition here). Born out of the idea of combining a burrito with the delights of Indian cuisine, this magnificent mouthful will be launched at the Namaste India festival, which is being held in Yoyogi Park on the weekend of the 24th and 25th of September.
As you might have noticed from the flyer, the JIMC crew features heavily in this promotion, with PapadD representing the mouthwatering veggie version and NaanD representing the irresistible meaty concoction. There will be a section of Mumbai's stall dedicated solely to Curritos during the event and you can expect to see JIMC out front, bellowing out one of our many Currito catchphrases or singing the official Curritos song (depending on beer intake)
If you are looking for the perfect combination of great foods, enjoyed in a party atmosphere, Namaste is the place to head next weekend. We will be waiting for you with Curritos at the ready. Just make sure you come with an appetite and a song in your heart!
It’s a rare and wonderful day when we can introduce a restaurant experience so perfect it upsets the balance of our top contenders. Andrha Kitchen in Okachimachi, Nirvanam in Toranomon, Dhaba India in Kyobashi. They all have a worthy challenger in “Kerala no Kaze”, off the beaten path in Omori, Tokyo.
Also known as “that place on the Keihin Tohoku line just after the Yamanote moves on to more interesting stops”, Omori is a relatively lesser known station despite its central Tokyo location. I found myself on a pilgrimage there recently on the recommendation of one of my best Curry-buds; an old friend who has lived in India and has a taste for authentic and delicious offerings from The Food of the Gods. Omori had a surprising charm to it. Despite its underdog stature, the place gives off a likeable mixture of peaceful residential area and classic Tokyo shitamachi (downtown). Following the tracks we passed by a lovely looking shrine, and though we had to dodge countless bicycling elderly folks and mums, the short walk was quite pleasant. We entered the shotengai (covered shopping street) dubbed “Wilload”, an odd mixture of willow and road, and after passing a few flower shops and other small vendors we arrived at the humble shopfront.
Kerala no Kaze has a different business model than most places in town. Doors open at 11:30 and close at 4PM, and they don’t provide a dinner service. They are also closed every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They also sport one of the most limited menus in town - precisely one set and one set only, plus a few tiffins and beverages. All of this might sound like poor customer service, but in fact it’s just the opposite. The limited menu and services allow the restaurant to focus on one thing: providing a truly wonderful South Indian style thali meal unparalleled in any restaurant I’ve found yet.
My partner and I arrived about 20 minutes before the aforementioned Curry-bud with whom we planned to meet, and were seated near the front of the rather narrow restaurant. The floor manager and only apparent wait staff was a Japanese woman with a polite but warm and kindly demeanour. Though it had just gone 11:30, the place was beginning to fill up, and to assuage our guilt over waiting for our friend we reached for the tiffins menu. Every item on the single page was listed at 300 yen: vada, idli, uppma, dosa (300 yen for two dosa!!) and a masala omelet all jumped off the page, but we ultimately ordered the vada, with a lassi and Kingfisher beer to keep us happy while we waited. The vada came out freshly fried – smelling wonderful, the steaming savoury donuts crunched with flaky goodness as we cut into them, and dipped in the accompanying coconut chutney and sambar, they instantly made it into my top 5 vada experiences ever.
As we finished the succulent tiffin, my Curry-bud arrived and we moved on to the only main dish available on the menu: “today’s meal”. The traditional South India thali arrived in minutes; one of the advantages of having a very limited menu. The large banana-leaf-themed plates had five small katori bowls along the top, a larger katori for sambar, a huge mound of hot basmati pierced by a crispy papad, with achar pickles and the previously mentioned coconut chutney on the side. This meal is available for a very reasonable 1,100 yen, but shockingly provides refills on every dish. It’s a value unmatched by any other I’ve found in Tokyo.
The meal of the day for us contained “Carrot Kallan”, “Cabbage Thoran”, “Sweet Potato Khootu”, rassam, yogurt curd and the big bowl of sambar. We greedily mixed each dish into the basmati and cracked the papad on top, and for the next 15 minuted nary a word was exchanged (though many satisfied groans could be heard). None of the curries burned with much chilli induced heat, but the spices and herbs within were so beautifully balanced that my body began to radiate with that euphoric high that the best Indian food creates, and my brow began to sweat without any significant mouth heat. The sweet potato khootu was a highlight and went a long way to filling us up, but the sambar and rassam, staple dishes in any South Indian establishment, were formidable and highly addictive. My companions both ate numerous spoonfuls of the coconut chutney alone, as it was good enough to make one wish for a straw, and the achar complemented the mound of rice and curries perfectly. When the kindly server came around to offer refills, we all eagerly asked for more of everything.
With full bellies and that wonderful spice buzz, a complimentary and thoroughly well-spiced Masala chai came to round off the best Indian meal I’d had since… well, the previous Monday when I’d visited Andhra Kitchen.
On the walk back to Omori station we all felt highly satisfied but not bloated – the hallmark of a healthy and perfectly balanced South Indian meal. From the first bite to the uplifting chai finale, I could barely contain my excitement at having found another Tokyo Indian restaurant for my top five recommendations. I can’t wait to expose others to this one-of-a-kind gem, though I apologise in advance for taking up one of the shop’s few seats when you get around to trying it. See you there!