いらっしゃい!
...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 Naan (6)

Monday
Jan302012

Rasna, Tobu Nerima  ラスナ、東武練馬

Conveniently located between the Warner cinema and Tobu Nerima station, Rasna is a little gem of a Napalese restaurant tucked away on the second and third floors of a nondescript high street building opposite Coco-ya Ichiban.

Reassuringly warm, spicy aromas fill the air in an interior dominated by a counter before an open (gleaming) kitchen. Several small booths take up the far end of the space. In stark contrast to Kathmandu Gangri, Rasna has some interior decoration, and a cozy “ethnic” atmosphere. 

The service was a little rough, but the extremely reasonable prices and quality of the food made up for such shortcomings.

A curry, rice, naan and a couple of Heartland beers for less than ¥2,000 put a small smile on my face. The chicken curry was delicious, and the pieces of chicken therein excellent. The lamb saag was good, too. No nasty gristly bits of meat. 

If forced to pick fault, the rice (normal Japanese variety), slightly bitter tasting garlic naan and the over-cooked poppadum could be improved upon, but should not detract from a great little curry house.

 

03-5398-8659

Rasna

Tuesday
Jan102012

Magic India, Shimoda  マジックインディア、下田

Magic India was a truly awesome dining experience. Unforgettable even.

At least in that it was without a doubt the worst curry I’ve ever had the misfortune to eat. Strangely, it was so bad that it became somehow amusing.

The drab interior and dirty apron should have been warning enough. The curry sets came with either rice or naan. The rice was the typical Japanese out-of-the-rice-cooker variety, unloving spread upon a plate. The naan had a kind of soapy flavour. I didn’t want to ask why. 

My mushroom and saag curry contained very few mushrooms or spinach, and my dining partners lamb curry very little lamb. Both curries were thin, watery and utterly tasteless. I kept thinking of Heinz oxtail soup for some reason…

 

05-5827-0376

Magic India

Tuesday
Nov152011

Daisuki Nippon, Naka-Itabashi  だいすき日本、中板橋

After being turned away from the the local kaitenzushi place as it was full, and then taking a wrong turn and missing the raman shop, my dining partner and I almost ambled passed Daisuki Nippon (no points for the name) without noticing it. 

The fresh, spicy-sweet aroma caught our attention. Not much to look at from the outside save, perhaps, that kind of bare bones, “it might not be much but we love it” appearance, upon peering through the door the packed tables promised a decent Nepalese lunch. 

Clean, simple and cheerful, the tables were all covered in clear plastic, beneath which hand written notes and messages from visiting diners were carefully arranged. Turns out people have visited from Okinawa to Hokkaido. Again, this promised great things and further reading revealed that many had popped in due to a clearly successful - and far reaching - Twitter campaign.

The master of the house, a muscular, mild mannered looking gent named Bikasu, attended to our needs, proffering a menu outlining the lunch sets for the day as well as evening options and a la carte offerings. 

I did the Double Curry Naan, while my dining partner had the Double Curry Rice with Tandoori Chicken. Both were enjoyable and value for money, coming in at under ¥800 a piece. 

Although no at large as some, the naan was light and fluffy and not at all oily. The two small bowls of curry fine, but hardly divine. The chicken curry was a little too light tasting and the morsels of chicken small. The keema was the star of the show - less gritty feeling than some and flavoursome, the minced meat not overpowering the flavour of curry itself. All in all, these were curries cooked for Japanese taste buds. The less said about the salad the better. 

Decent enough for lunch, and probably worth a look for dinner while the 7-8 course meal for ¥2,000 coupon (available on Daisuki Nippon’s website) is in force, but not even close to usurping Manakamana’s Tobu-Tojo Line Napalese curry crown. 

 

03-3964-9775

Daisuki Nippon  

(No Facebook like button as the code is always crap and never works properly.)

 

Thursday
Sep012011

Khana, Nishishinjuku  カナ、西新宿

Khana is simply a small, rather nondescript Indian/ Pakistan eatery in Nishishinjuku 6-Chome, tucked away in the shadow of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, roughly halfway between the Nishishinjuku and Nakanosakaue stations.

Nothing much to look at from the street – if not for the menu displayed on the pavement you’d miss the shadowy entrance – the interior is basic, too. The TV, loudly displaying stupefying variety shows, dominated proceedings. 

No need to go out of your way to try this place, and certainly not for an evening meal. But, if you are in the area at lunchtime, you could do worse. 

For around ¥780 the various lunch sets provide a filling, tasty meal mainly based around a small bowl of salad (poor) and rice (average), light fluffy naan (good, but not Nepalese restaurant good – i.e., not the same size as a skateboard) and a fair sized bowl of curry, all served on a platter.

Two of us had the chicken curry, and one the spinach and cheese curry. No complaints, not much chat, didn’t last long and suitably fall when we left. The service was friendly, in Japanese or English. 

The website shows lunch sets consisting of more than they actually do.

 

03-3344-8622

http://www.khana-potohar.com/khana_nishisinjyuku.php

Friday
Apr012011

Mumbai, Kagurazaka  ムンバイ、神楽坂

Finding a decent (non-Japanese) curry in Tokyo ceased to be a problem long ago. Restaurants offering curry of one persuasion or another abound. Nepali – or Indo-Nepali fusion – outlets seem to have sprung up on every street. 

Among all that Kagurazaka has to offer, Mumbai is hardly exceptional. It is, nonetheless, a reasonable restaurant serving decent food at decent prices. Part of a chain, I recall my first encounter with a Mumbai was a visit to one somewhere near Marunouchi or Ginza. At the time, I grumbled about the small portions. But then, the memory of England’s Indian restaurants was still too fresh in my mind.

These days, the portions at Mumbai tend not to offend the eye, and the belly less. Besides, the ample naan (although neither as ample nor arousing as those at Jau Hai! or Manakamana, especially when it comes to the garlic variety) are usually more than enough to sate most appetites. The chapattis are somewhat disappointing. Too greasy; not dry and floury/dusty feeling as they ought to be.

The samosas are excellent. A more imaginative salad garnish – or none at all – would improve the presentation and experience though. The saag chicken, now my benchmark test for curry restaurants, is rich and thick in both flavour and texture. Not at all “pureed” feeling, as so many turn out to be. 

Not quite as rich as a good madras, the Hyderabad chicken was delicious, too. Next time the Mumbai special seems in order. Many of my dining partners enjoy the butter chicken curry. Whether this is due to its being particularly good or just a cultural/ ladies’ taste buds related thing is a mystery to me though.

Both the mango and black sesame ice cream are tasty, with the sesame being the better of the two, if I had to choose. The kulfi isn’t bad either, but then I have only a limited experience of the stuff upon which to base my judgment.

The drink menu supplies all the usual suspects. One time – and sadly only one time – they were doing some crazy deal on glass wine. Anything from the wine list for ¥100 or something similar. Was a great night. Can’t remember much about the curry on that visit though…

Mumbai perhaps deserves a few points for not overdoing the ethnic decoration. It’s actually rather understated, yet funky, inside. Not spacious, but clean and nicely lit, with the various booths and partitions providing privacy. Service has ranged from exemplary to hostile. But then I tend bring that out in people…

Where’s it sit? Jau Hai! is still number one, overall, when they remember to serve the food while it’s hot, that is. Manakamana and Mumbai tie in second place, although I almost feel that Mumbai’s curries are “technically” better than those of the other two, but as noted above the naan leave something to be desired.

Sapana isn’t even in the same league. 

 

03-5206-6531

www.mumbai.co.jp

Saturday
Jan082011

Manakamana, Ōyama  マナカマナ、大山

Ōyama is famed for its shōtengai (if little else), which is almost as fine a specimen as those offered in Nakano, Asagaya or Kawagoe, but just a little wearier looking. Indeed, I read somewhere that it’s the longest in Japan, although the validity of the claim is uncertain. Two things, at least, are certain; said shopping street had its day a couple of decades ago, and Manakamana - a Nepali/ Indian restaurant named after a temple situated in the Gorkha district of Nepal - is a gem situated just a couple of minutes from Ōyama station, Tokyo, Japan, and is well worth visiting.

Despite being housed within a pretty dodgy, rundown looking building and accessed via an equally shabby lift that would be enough to deter many would be diners, Manakamana is by all accounts a popular, well-liked restaurant featured in various magazines, websites and blogs. It seems best known for its excellent “all you can eat” buffet lunch, which is widely respected for its quality and low price.

I happened to visit on a weekend evening and so was not afforded the chance to check out the buffet. Still, the evening menu provided a satisfying, flavorsome meal in unexpectedly pleasant surroundings and at a gratifying price. As soon as my dining partner and I exited the lift we were immediately struck by the intense, spicy aromas filling the air. Once inside the restaurant itself, some of my fears were allayed, as the interior decor was far more comfortable than the building might have suggested. Nothing fancy, and yet clean, bright, warm and welcoming with various Nepalese items providing highlights among all the wood panels, whicker blinds and tapestries.  

Service - provided by a young women we shall assume was the daughter of the house - was okay, but could have come across in a friendlier manner. The menu was packed full of delicious sounding dishes and set menus, many of which were enticingly illustrated with vibrant photographs. Prices were good, certainly several hundred yen cheaper than Nepali Kitchen Jau Hai!

While checking out the menu we quaffed much needed beers and munched on a small dish of lightly spiced cashew nuts with a faintly buttery texture underlying the spice. Inevitably, I went for the chicken saag, while my dining partner kept to form with a pedestrian chicken curry. As the curries are accompanied by either naan or rice, we had one of each to share. The saffron rice was a little on the small side and I’d have preferred it to be a tad drier, but it did the job. In all honesty, it was probably unnecessary anyway, as the naan - fresh, fluffy and delightfully “just out of the oven warm” - was huge. Immense even. No, gargantuan. Bigger than that at Jau Hai! (which is saying something) and possibly tastier. To provide a more balanced comparison I’d have to base it on their respective garlic naan, rather than plain vs. garlic, which at the least provides an excuse to return for more of Manakamana’s delicious curry. 

Talking of which, the chicken saag was excellent, although perhaps smoother than I might have liked, being almost creamy to the taste, although the actual texture was visibly less smooth than Jau Hai!’s or Mumbai’s. For a pure, relentless hit of rough hewn spinach Priya’s is still the one to beat, but overall this was an excellent curry, with nice succulent pieces of chicken to boot, that deserved praise for being a little different from those I’ve had elsewhere. The chicken curry was good, too. Not particularly spicy, it was creamy with a rich tomato-y taste permeating throughout. Obviously catering to “Japanese tastes,” and probably popular with the ladies, it provided a safe middle ground from which to explore further - I hope. 

Better than Sapana and Mumbai, on a par with Nepalese Kitchen Jau Hai!, and quirkier than Priya, dinner at Manakamana is charmingly unpretentious, delicious and excellent value for money. 

Update 24/1/11: Couldn't stay away, and by the looks of it several other customers couldn't either - some familiar faces from our first visit. In the name of "research" my dining partner and I decided to order something different this time. 

So as to compare with above mentioned establishments, we tucked in to an AWESOME garlic naan. Truly wonderous, especially in terms of fluffy centre and fresh warmth when tearing. Not quite as garlicky as Jau Hai!'s but very, very, good all the same. Probably the winner if topped with a little more garlic...


The keema was okay, the flavour of the lamb mildly annoying.

I had a kind of special. Special in that it took twice as long (20 minutes) as everything else to cook (the staff do warn you) and cost a little, not twice, more than every other dish. Known as the Manakamana Chicken Curry, it's not bad, and has a full, rich flavour thanks to the chicken on the bone. Tasty as it was, I resented the presence of the bones. Back to the saag next time. 

Update: 12/3/11: Following yesterday's tremulous events, and a sleepless night punctuated by further earthquakes and aftershocks, this morning Tokyoeater drove us across Tokyo and a little closer to home. Happily, as my dining partner and I passed Manakamana, we realised they were just about to start serving the lunch buffet. Having wanted to try it for some time now, I'm happy to report that it is excellent. Great value at ¥980, and delicious, too. Four curries; keemer, chicken, daal and vegetable, supplemented by rice, naan, potato wedges, salad, fried chicken, spaghetti salad and yohurt for dessert. Coffee to finish off the meal also included in the price. This buffet is, of course, "all you can eat."

 

 

Tel: 03-5375-6555

Web: http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1322/A132203/13009228/