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.
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.
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!