The choice for curry of the month was an easy one in December. Popping down to Tokyo station Yaesu exit, and then a five-minute stroll will bring you to a restaurant that has pretty much the works in terms of Indian cuisine. We have been there a couple of times in the evening, but this was the first time for lunch. The meal came from a choice of five sets, and the one we chose contained two curries (our choices were chicken and fish), sambar and rasam, poori, basmati rice, salad and dry papad. Oh, and they threw in a complementary beer, too. The sambar, rasam, and basmati were on repeat, and I personally asked for three more rice and two more of the other two. The basmati was dry and fragrant and excellently prepared – I could eat a plate of it on its own – and the curries were abundant with soft and succulent ingredients. The poori was just the right amount of oily (a great alternative to a stomach-filling naan), and the papad was light and crispy. The sambar and rasam were flavorful, but if I had one criticism it would be that I would prefer a few more base ingredients in the sambar, but seriously no complaints in the grand scheme of things. All in all a fantastic lunchtime feast and we will be going back for more, even if it's just for the superb rice.
This Dopiaza at Priya had everything and had us gushing at its similarity to the curries in the UK, with my dining partner saying it was the best he had ever had – here or abroad. The mutton was soft and the gravy complex and flavourful, with plenty of fresh ingredients and subtle spices. If any visitor to these shores wants a guaranteed dish that satisfies and thrills in equal measure, we couldn't recommend Priya's Mutton Dopiaza quick enough.
It was a simple choice for the curry of the month for August as the food, ambiance and experience sealed the deal, leaving others in its wake. Indian Restaurant Mumbai’s new restaurant in Aqua City Odaiba, Indian Restaurant Mumbai and Tandoori Grill, has everything going for it. Not only does it feature some of Mumbai’s top dishes – Black Pepper Chicken et al. – it offers, as its name suggests, a fantastic array of grilled meats straight off the stick, prepared by their in-house tandoor master, Mr. Shaik Jamirddin.
This month's iCOTM will come as no surprise as it was at one of Tokyo's best-loved and well-respected Indian restaurants: Dhaba India, Kyobashi. I went there after work and managed to grab a seat before it got too busy — being around the business district they are never short of customers, and that is thoroughly deserved based on what they have to offer. There was an abundance of choice on the menu but I was hungry so just went for the least brain-draining option: Dinner Set (meat). After waiting a short while, taking in the pleasant atmosphere and decor, and listening to an instrumental version of Cat Stevens' "Wild World", the food arrived. The set contained three curries (chicken, prawn, fish), sambar and rasam (on repeat), a bright and interesting looking poriyal, papad, two soft, puffy pooris, and basmati rice (on repeat). The curries were perfectly prepared with high quality ingredients — the chicken was both thick and fresh and fell off the bone seamlessly (even the skin was delicious), and the aubergine in the sambar and the prawns and the fish were all chunky and soft. After going for it for about 10 minutes, I ordered refills of the sambar, rasam, and basmati (I ended up eating three portions), and by the end of the meal was well and truly stuffed.
I was going to run for the train but decided instead to bask in the glowing warm feeling the curries had provided me and take the scene in a bit more. Two businessmen beside me had ordered the same dinner set and were eating "Indian style" with their hands — as the old saying goes, "Eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit", and I think that is the only thing that would have enhanced my experience. I need to work on my technique, so maybe next time, and with the quality that Dhaba India has on offer, I'd say it would be the perfect place to go to hone my skills.
If you are in the Ueno area at lunch and hungry for a curry feast at a very reasonable price, you could do a lot worse than heading down to Andhra Kitchen in Okachimachi. The restaurant, who received an award for Best Lunch 2014 from Tabelog, offers a great selection of lunch sets which are high in quality and go further than the usual butter chicken, naan, and rice options, offering, among other delights, chapati, dosa, and basmati rice in the deal.
The lowest price option is a mere ¥790 and that comes with two curries, naan or chapati, salad, basmati, and a lassi. Making it an even better deal, the naan and basmati are on repeat and you can really go to town if you have a particularly healthy appetite. I went for a slightly more expensive option (¥1090) which came with all of the above, but with three curries: chicken, mutton and mixed vegetable.
The katoris were quite deceiving as they are packed with ingredients – unlike some places that give you small bowl of curry sauce with a solitary piece of meat swimming in it. The basmati and chapati were polished off in no time, so I ordered more rice and a half naan (they just gave me a whole one) and they even threw in a complementary portion of sambar – a truly unexpected treat. That extra touch of customer care certainly goes a long way with me, anyway.
All in all a brilliant lunch and I envy anyone who lives in the area – It would be a no-brainer for me to go there every day. I recommend going with an appetite and at the start or end of lunch. As you can imagine with the quality and amount of food it gets pretty packed in there. I shared a table with a complete stranger, but it didn't matter one bit – he was as engrossed as I was, the food capturing our full attention. That's the Andhra magic!
The iCOTM for August is another fine vegetarian dish at a great restaurant in the heart of Yotsuya. The Chef's Special Dal Tarka at Dipmahal was my eventual choice after perusing the menu for over ten minutes (so many great sounding options). I decided to go veggie, as has been the case a lot recently, and I was not disappointed.
The curry, ordered along with chapati and plain basmati rice (the only choice on the menu, which was a absolute joy to see) was filling and uplifting and a pleasure with every bite. The perfectly cooked lentils, combined with chopped tomato, onion, ginger, and spring onion were all blended together in a well-balanced creamy sauce, and the overall effect was satisfying and incrementally warming in this perfectly realized southern Indian dish.
I'd started off with a couple of Mysore Bonda and papad (with dip – yay!) and so with everything else on top I was quite stuffed by the end. There are so many other tempting options on the menu that I will be heading back very soon for some more. They have several branches, though, so I have fair bit of work ahead of me. Sure I'll cope.
Here at JIMC we've often mused that, if we were able to eat nothing but Indian food day in and day out, it would be not only easy but indeed joyous to become vegetarian. This may be happening to me incidentally, as meat has started to become a source of apprehension rather than the pleasure it once was. With that mental state upon me ("ugh, where can I go for lunch and not eat meat?") I remembered a lovely JIMC back catalogue entry in Funabashi: Gandhi.
The always friendly staff took my lunch order of the veg curry of the day, but when I asked for chapati (which they do brilliantly there) the waiter suggested I choose from the a la cart menu. He could tell that I was after vegetarian options, and kindly offered to make anything from their full menu. I took him up on his suggestion of Aloo Gobi, which I ordered extra hot with chapati.
My order took a bit longer than the lunch menu options, but it was so worth the short wait I could have sat there all day for what I got: hot and tender potatoes and cauliflower bathed blissfully in thick and spicy gravy. Savoring every scoop, I went at it with the hot and fresh chapati with little care for the risk of burning my mouth as I greedily wolfed it down. It's always a plus when you can get the chef to make something fresh off the dinner menu at lunch time, and this was an absolutely winning take on the classic Indian veggie dish.
Not only did I not miss meat, I was glad of its absence. If indeed I am going full veg (or perhaps pescatarian), I can count on the myriad options provided by Indian food to make the transition not only easy, but indeed joyous.
Chris P. PapadD
Last weekend, I finally made it over to Delhi Dhaba in Nishi-Kasai, and from the experience it’s hard to believe that I’ve lived within an hour of this restaurant for so long but have never been to it. There are so many choices on the menu that I had no idea where to start, so I went for the dinner thali buffet, which offered three curries (Matar Paneer, Butter Chicken, and Pindi Chole), delicious oily and crispy papad, a crunchy samosa chat, vegetable noodles, achaa (Indian pickles), onion chutney, saffron rice, and a choice from parata, naan, bhatoora and poori, as well as sweets and salads. And, of course, being a buffet, you could go up several times to fill your plate. All of this came in at a mere 1350 yen. A real bargain.
Delhi Dhaba is a gem of a restaurant and that is evident in not only the food but the atmosphere and the clientele – every table was packed, with large parties filling up the place, and most of whom were from the Indian community. The service was very good, even though the floor staff had to deal with a lot in one go, and they managed to maintain a convivial atmosphere despite the mild chaos, with most people shooting for the buffet.
I read a quote recently that "the thali defines the concept of endless eating" and that "you may have as many refills of any dish and you are encouraged, or rather forced, to do so." That's one concept I love about this kind of dining: eat with abandon like it's a celebration! I want to try all the amazing sounding dishes at Delhi Dhaba and will get around to it I'm sure. Just have to find the strength from somewhere to resist that buffet. Wish me luck.
For the first time on JIMC, a pair of curries share the accolade of iCOTM. These delicious dishes ended up qualifying in tandem, as we felt a full range of culture and cuisine rippling through our taste buds. A winning combination for a late Saturday afternoon feast!
The Chana arrived first with its delightful simplicity and subtlety that was healthy, fulfilling and flavourful all at the same time. The Chana gives more than a hint of the South, and this staple, ‘daily food’ style dish makes you lose yourself in the multitude of flavours with its simple but mouthwatering combination of chickpeas, tomatoes, and onion, all combined to perfection in a complex gravy built up with mixed spices.
The crowd-pleasing Northern Indian Kadai came shortly afterwards, and the whole experience just grew from there. The combination of spicy green peppers, onions, tomatoes, ginger, and smoky chicken on the bone matched in perfect harmony with the Chana -- the two complemented each other to perfection. The spice level was normal, but no extra heat was needed, as the ginger took care of the inner-warming process. To go with these two dishes, we had basmati and chapattis (another winning combination), which made for a brilliant meal.
Overall, this mini feast filled us to the brim and satisfied in the right way (no MSG or shortcut flavourings here). We had plans to meet friends that evening for a party at an izakaya. We knew we wouldn’t be able to resist going for it at Mumbai, though, as we know full well what they can produce, so we headed off into the night with our bellies full and our spirits soaring, hoping that we would somehow find room for round two.
The Indian Curry of the Month for April goes to a great dish served at one of our favourite chains of restaurants in Tokyo: Bharati. Sometimes frequented, according to the staff, by the Japanese celebrity set, and recently featured on a popular restaurant review show on TBS, Bharati offers a great range of curries at their branches scattered throughout the city. Though there was a date in the diary to attend the final day of Sakura at the Indian Embassy, the urge to try this place out for lunch before heading to Kudan was too hard to resist, and I was very pleased that I made the journey. It certainly didn't disappoint.
The Murg Makhani there is a creamy and tomatoey, deeply flavoured curry, full of soft chicken tikka. The chicken tikka is the real star of this dish – the smoky flavoured chunks are barbecued to perfection and are plentiful – no scrimping here. This was served alongside some excellently crispy paratha and a large plate of basmati rice, all of which I was permitted to order from the dinner menu at lunchtime (a JIMC standard).
Just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, the staff gave me a free serving of mint sauce, which was the perfect complement to the marinated chicken. I wish more restaurants would do this, and especially with starters such as papads – this is standard in the UK, where you get a great combination of Indian pickles, mango chutney, mint sauce, and red onion chutney. Just gives the food a fantastic lift, rather than a slightly underwhelming dry crunch.
So, if you are in the area, check this one out. You never know who might be joining you for dinner.
Best Indian curry each month voted for by the JIMC team.