Chris P. and I took a trip down to Omotesando on a rain-drizzled night in the week to visit what is considered by many to be one of the best Indian restaurants in town: Ahilya, Minami-Aoyama. We had met the owner, Mr. Amitabh Kumar Singh, at the Sakura festival at the Indian embassy a few weeks previous and he had assured us that we would be served whatever curry we wanted (including as hot as we wanted). As we headed down there together, we chatted about a couple of the best dishes we have had in Tokyo so far. A couple of things that came up were the Saag Paneer at Kerala Bhavan in Nerima and the Chicken Masala at Sapna in Moto-Yawata. These are excellent curries but we got the impression they might take a bit of usurping based on the enticing offer we'd received from Ahilya's confident proprietor.
When we arrived, a bit bedraggled after the short(ish) walk from Gaienmae's A1 exit, we were greeted by Amitabh, who led us to our reserved table. Ahilya is classy – the layout is great, there are plenty of spaces (a lot of which were already filled early that evening), and it had a sense of clean and new (this branch just opened in November). I used to live in Manchester, just around the corner from Rusholme's “Curry Mile”. Some of the restaurants there were outstanding and I have been searching for an experience as close to that as possible in Tokyo. Without a doubt, Ahilya's atmosphere is the closest so far. We both felt that if the food managed to meet the same high standards, it could well become our new favourite Indian curry restaurant in Tokyo. That would take something special.
Amitabh took our order after a few passing exchanges with people at other tables (the consummate host). The restaurant was busy (including a group of 20+ Indian customers from the Bank of India), but he made extra sure everything was right for us. There were so many tempting options on the menu – including a separate “Southern Indian Menu”. There were ten chicken options alone, including the enigmatically titled “Chicken 65”, but we opted for some familiar dishes: papad and Chicken Tikka and a couple of Kingfishers to start, followed by Chicken Tikka Masala and Mutton Rogan Josh for mains (as hot as possible), accompanied by paratha, roti, and basmati rice.
The papad were basic – fresh but dry. Tasty all the same. Then came the Tikka. Just the aroma alone had us expounding all sorts of spicy expletives. It was superb, if a bit on the small side. The mains came shortly after. Oh wow. The Chicken Tikka Masala was excellent - an amazing fusion of ingredients and an abundance of spices, delivering several layers of flavour (some serious tadka (the culinary art of “tempering”) had occurred here). The Mutton Rogan Josh was equally excellent - perfectly cooked mutton in a flavourful sauce that wouldn't be out of place in the top curry restaurants in the UK. Suffice to say, we were more than slightly impressed. This together with the basmati rice, roti and paratha had us gushing about how Ahiyla was now on the top of the list for both of us as the best Indian curry we had had in Tokyo so far - no exaggeration when I say that I can't remember having better Tikka Masala anywhere else.
We tried to make some comparisons with other curries served at our favourite restaurants. PapadD asked if it now overtook Moto-Yawata Sapna's supreme Chicken Masala (my favourite up to that point), but I raised the technicality that it contains “chicken” as opposed to “chicken tikka” - plucking at straws but I'm very protective of my local. We proposed Ahilya was akin to Sapna's older brother (the atmosphere, service, and CM at Sapna used to make it almost second to none for me, but Ahilya just has that extra class in every category). We settled finally that Ahilya was like the curry equivalent of the spiritual and refined George Harrison and Sapna was your consistent and no frills Ringo Starr.
Ahilya has a few different stores - Yoyogi, Utsunomia and Osaki being the others. I'll definitely be heading to those. But I would say go to the main branch down in Minami-Aoyama, purely for the fact that you will get the atmosphere, the food, and the experience of without a doubt one of the best Indian curries you'll find over here.