Nirvanam’s owner, Anil Raj, kindly invited us to come try each of their three Tokyo locations, and here we begin with their Ariake branch. If you don’t recognise that station name (as I didn’t) Ariake is on the Yurikamome monorail; a mass of giant office spaces and exhibition halls, the area feels like a strange Orwellian ghost town, futuristic and clean and yet strangely unpopulated. When we made our way to the 3rd Floor of the TOC building, however, we were greeted by an instantly welcoming atmosphere, grinning faces, and the greatest smell in the world – Indian cooking.
Anil is a congenial host – full of ideas and enthusiasm about Indian cuisine and his approach to it as a business. He’s an entrepreneur with varied skills, and having been brought up in many different parts of India, from Hyderabad to Bangalore, he claims to have an inherent feel for the varied food of his country’s diverse regions as well. Though he’s not a chef, he’s an enthusiastic eater with an expert palate, which he kindly offered to exemplify by choosing us exciting dishes from both on and off their regular menu. We gratefully accepted, and began one of our best Tokyo meals yet.
Next up came something we’d never even heard of: Vada Pav. Another popular fast food snack in India, it’s like a small burger with a flavourful fried potato patty sandwiched between a soft and sweet brioche-like bun. Accompanied by a papad-bowl of pickles and a hot green chilli, this made me consider moving to Mumbai where this dish is gaining massive popularity.
As we chatted away about Indian cuisine and its varied delights, a sizzling plate of Hariyali Chicken Tikka arrived and shut us up quick smart. Hands down the most tender Tikka either of us had yet experienced (Phall called it "a forkful of butter"), the bright green chicken is flavoured with dhania (coriander) and is mouth-wateringly fragrant. Both of us are still having flashbacks and having to clear up the drool.
Better late than never.
To be continued…