...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
Opinions here expressed are not necessarily shared by any with whom I associate. Fault for errors and any offense caused is entirely my own.

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Entries in Curry (9)


Lapaz, Jingumae  ラパズ、神宮前

We chanced upon Lapaz while sitting outside One’s Diner, supping on one of the worst G&Ts we’ve ever had the displeasure to be served. Oh well… that will be the one and only visit.

Lapaz, however, proved to be far more welcoming. A spacious, and curiously appointed interior provided separate smoking and non-smoking areas, a pleasant open frontage for street-side dining, a long, somewhat post-industrial bar dominating the mid-section of the space and a somehow outdoors-y feeling space to the rear. 

As well as the food and drink (robust G&Ts here!), Lapaz also serves as a shop (wares ranging from stationary to apparel) and a kind of drop in office (free Wi-Fi as well as public-use printers and copiers). The atmosphere was kind of artsy, the styling and décor positioning Lepaz as a designer café-bar/ dining space, and overall provided a peaceful spot for a late lunch.

The lunch menu was a little too limited, and the portions could have been more generous (after being offered – and accepting – the omori rice one expects to get a supersized serving, after all), but these were minor niggles. The green curry was delicious, while the taco rice, despite being tasty, didn’t really make much of in an impression.

Lapaz is probably best as a drinking spot, and provides reason enough to visit a little explored neighbourhood.

Bar - domintates the mid-section of the space

Lunch sets - good value, seemingly healthy, but portions could be more generous

Interesting decor - I'll have Audrey, please

Jellied chicken and vegetables - a tad bland

Soup - chicken stock, pleasantly salty

Green curry - delicious, chicken pieces a bit scarce

Taco rice - okay, but failed to excite

Interior - relaxing, with a touch of green





Ghungroo, Minami Aoyama  ゴングル、南青山

An unexpected lunch call led to this neat Indian restaurant on a side street off Aoyama Dōri, opposite Kinokuniya. Apparently a popular spot for lunch and dinner, Ghungroo was pleasantly busy, but not overly so. Not having to queue to get in was welcome, as was the friendly, efficient service.

Neglecting the basic lunch sets, we ordered from the “Chef’s Menu” lunch options, choosing saag with cheese, accompanied by a large, lightly baked naan, rather than rice. Both curry and naan were flavoursome, although the former was not as good as some.

Some Internet comments suggest that both the quality of the food and the service has declined since the restaurant moved premises – the previous iteration being still visible on the other side of the street – but, we had no complaints with either. I’ve the impression that most dishes here are adapted to Japanese tastes, so this is probably not the place for a truly “authentic” Indian dining experience, but still keen to visit Ghungroo for dinner, all the same.

Attractive sugar bowl

Cheese saag with naan

Tidy interior





Raj Mahal, Shibuya  ラージマハール、渋谷

My rave review of Jiyugaoka’s Taj Mahal prompted @japanized to ask, “is it as good as the Raj Mahal, in Shibuya?” Admitting I had no idea, I promised to take a look, in the interest of fairness.

Happily, it was not a wasted visit. Located on the 5th floor of a corner building opposite the Udagawacho police box in central Shibuya, I realized that I’ve passed the Raj by a thousand times without ever noticing.

The shop interior is suitably worn and faded – this place has been in business for some 15 years and enjoys its reputation (along with the others in the small chain) as one of Tokyo’s most venerated Indian restaurants – probably having been quite blingy in its heyday.

The service was good, but not great. Still no complaints in that department. The funny, fish tank kitchen allows diners to watch some of their meal being cooked. At the time of my visit I enjoyed watching doughy naan flying through the air.

The menu offers a wide range of curries (chicken, lamb, shrimp, fish and vegetable) focusing on rich-tasting, oily dishes from northern India, as well as rice dishes, breads and other sundries, along with an extremely tasty looking range of tandoori dishes, some of which are large enough to make a meal of. Indeed, and is often the case at a good Indian, one is best visiting in a party so as to sample a wider range of the dishes on offer.

The aromas coming from the kitchen were mouthwatering. The beers were over-priced, but then you can’t have it all I suppose. The vegetable (predominantly potato) samosa were excellent, the skins robust without being too heavy.

The naan – plain and garlic varieties – were not bad, but certainly nowhere near as good as those usually found in many of Tokyo’s Indian and Napali restaurant these days. In this sense, the Raj Mahal really needs to get with the times. If the naan aren’t the size of surfboards, and incredibly light and fluffy, then they no longer please. The garlic naan tasted faintly of garlic, but none was to be seen… It should have been smothered in the stuff.

The curries, chili chicken saag and a seafood/ shrimp curry, were very good. Wonderfully rich tasting and full of strong spicy flavors, without overpowering the other ingredients. I wished they were a little larger, but this indicates how tasty they were just as much as how greedy I can be. 

Still, when all is considered, the naan, service and interior (not to mention the price of the beer) can’t compete with the Taj Mahal, and although the curry came close, I didn’t experience the same “oh my god I want to order another of those right away” sensation. 

Happy to make repeat visits though, just to make sure… Or to check out the reportedly excellent buffet lunch which they serve daily. 



Raj Mahal


Taj Mahal, Jiyugaoka  タージマハール、自由が丘

Although any concerns over the lack of decent curry – of the Indian or Nepali variety, rather than the Japanese stuff – in these parts have long since been dispelled, only a few truly deserve praise.

The Nepali restaurant I unswervingly admire is of course Manakamana, closely followed by Kathmandu Gangri (although this eatery is let down badly by the décor and lack of ambience).

On the Indian front, until now, it would have to be Dhaba India for quality and flavour, with Priya second.

Happily, after 19 years in business, Jiyugaoka’s Taj Mahal still beats all. Well, more or less. In some ways it’s unfair to compare Manakamana with a dedicated Indian, but if the judgment is based purely on the desire to reorder everything a second time, no matter how bloated one feels, then Taj Mahal is king. 

Upon entry, the intoxicating, spicy aroma makes the mouth water. Luckily, beer and menu are close at hand.

The interior is decent enough, pinky-purples and off-white softly lit. Service is excellent – friendly, knowledgeable and available in both Japanese and English. One complaint in this area would be that although the Indian staff are keen to recommend “real,” Indian dishes no matter the spiciness, should you be served by one of the Japanese staff, they immediately herd you towards the sweet tasting, Japanese-friendly dishes.

Poppadums and chutney are proffered unrequested (as they ought to be) and are good, if not excellent.

The menu offers an impressive array of dishes, covering the whole gamut of curries demanded by any self-respecting British lager lout.

The inclusion of Madras (the chef hails from the region) and Vindaloo dishes is welcome indeed. The portions are generous, too, which tends to result in feeling rather stuffed by time you’re done. The tandoori chicken, for example, is not only sizable but perfectly succulent and utterly devoid of horrible gristly bits.

Delivery is timely, but not heralded by the ping of a microwave, and the sumptuous dishes spread before you never fail to delight. You can see and feel the ingredients, each dish being richly textured, fresh, aromatic and pleasing to the eye. The chicken do piaza and vegetable curry are something to behold, while the chicken madras is so utterly moreish, so intensely pleasurable, that it is an almost indecent dining experience.

The naan, are also excellent. Light, fluffy, not at all oily, and big. The keema version (or “smelly naan” as the staff put it) offers thick, flavoursome lamb, and the garlic iteration plenty of kick, although not quite as vampire-slayingly divine as that once available here. The cheese naan packs plenty of cheese, but came across as a little bland.

An excellent Indian restaurant, worthy of repeat visits, take away orders (they deliver within Setagaya, Meguro and Ota wards) and party venue status.



Taj Mahal


Cha No Ko, Jiyugaoka  茶乃子、自由が丘

In clement weather, taking a bench outside Jiyugoaka’s Cha No Ko and leching watching the town’s many shoppers strolling along the leafy high street, while sipping on an ice cold glass of Asahi Super Dry, is a worthy way in which to kill an hour or so (assuming it's too early in the day for Minton House's happy hour <5:30-7:30pm>). In colder weather, one is better off taking a table inside and hoping that the staff don’t decide to prop the door open in order not to “offend” the one deranged customer that opts to sit outside despite artic conditions.

Average service and cabin-like, woody interior, Cha no Ko is great for a pit-stop, but never seems comfortable enough for a prolonged stay.

At lunchtime, curry is the order of the day. Japanese curry – with little in the way of meat to add interest – supported by a small salad and a reasonable portion of pickles. Not great, but not that bad either.



Cha No Ko


Taj Palace, Tokiwadai  タージパレス、常盤台

This small neighborhood Indian restaurant seems not to a do a brisk trade. I can’t recall ever having seen anyone there – except the kitchen staff, of which there are two. One busy the other endlessly preparing tandoori chicken on huge skewers. Another guy waits the floor.

The interior is instantly forgettable. No flock wallpaper, but there is a huge photograph of the Taj Mahal taking up the rear wall.

The menu offers a good range of very reasonably priced dishes. The portions aren’t the best you’ll find, but neither are they the worst. The garlic naan is a good example, being nowhere near as impressive as those from Jau Hai! or Manakamana.

Various starters and salads, then curries, rice (very poor – soft Japanese rice yellowed with saffron powder), breads and deserts are offered. All the curries are available in full or half sets, complete with rice and naan. Most curries have several heat/ strength options, indicated by little caricatures depicting a chubby face in varying expressions of distress.

I asked for my chicken saag to be prepared “very hot,” which in truth was “not ‘f*!@ing hot,’ sir, but a medium-spiced dish.” The flavour was okay, the chicken scant, and the texture thick and creamy.

The shish kebab was, to be honest, a waste of time. The Taj Mahal green salad, was average, too, like those served at cheap izakaya

My dining partner opted to have two half sets – the chicken curry and the mushroom keema. Taste-wise reasonable, but overall a bit thin… Lacking “body.” As was the whole experience. No chutnies to accompany the admittedly lacklustre papadums, and no effort whatsoever to create any character or "quirk" for the place. Why bother? 





Shakey's Pizza, Ikebukuro シェーキーズピザ、池袋 

This chain is more or less all over the place, although you may not notice them. They just tend to blend in to their surroundings (despite often garish facades), or else are outshone by more youthful offerings. Over the years, and despite being aware of and reported to regarding Shakey’s, I’ve managed (thankfully?) to avoid venturing across the threshold of any of their eateries. Until now that is…

Having navigated the semi-deserted streets my dining partner and I skulked in to entrance and down the flight of steps to yet another basement Ikebukuro establishment. Busy, despite the threat of radiation and repeat earthquakes, it was still clear that having any empty tables at all was an unknown phenomenon for the young staff.

We paid our ¥850 upfront for the all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, although we passed on the opportunity to “size-up” with drinks and salad bar. Swiftly seated in a bland corner of the cavernous interior, we soon navigated the queue and piled our plates with fresh, and not so fresh, pizza – all the usual varieties, as well oddities such as the Kit-Kat Crushed Pizza (the least vomit-educing example, believe me…) – utterly tasteless pasta, one seemingly all about bacon, the other garlic and some Japanese mountain weed. Curry and rice, too, graced our table if not our sensibilities.

Apart from either slightly dry or slightly soggy, yet equally bland, pizza, the only other thing on my mind was, “how can you make pasta that tastes of nothing?”

This chain, and all they offer, has clearly seen better days.