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 Nepalese (7)

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

Sunday
Jan292012

Kathmandu Gangri, Meguro  カトマンズガングリ、目黒

Specializing in Tibetan as well as the usual Nepalese fare, Kathmandu Gangri’s menu offers more than you might usually expect from such a curry house.

Lunches, dinners and party plans are all reasonably priced, as are the drinks. As well draft Asahi and bottled Yebisu, the Nepal Ice proved to be a tasty beer. The service is reasonable too, although the staff could spend more time waiting the floor rather than lurking in the kitchen.

The décor, although new and therefore clean, leaves much to be desired. This basement restaurant is ruined by a spartan interior of bare white walls, wood floors and pale wood furnishings. Not a single picture or hanging rug adorns the walls. Clichéd it may be, but I expect my Nepalese restaurants to be bedecked in the familiar ethnic tat. The chairs seem to have been sourced from a church – the cross motif and Bible shelves on the back of each being a dead giveaway. This decorative deficit results in a lack of character and atmosphere, which is probably one of the reasons that the place seems always to be empty. 

Such gripes aside, the food is good. Certainly up there with Manakamana in terms of taste, portions and freshness of ingredients, although the garlic naan didn’t compare favourably. Overall, the food at Kathmandu Gangri has a stronger focus on herbs as well as spices, creating an aromatic flavour that sets it apart. Although delicious looking, many of the Tibetan dishes appeared to be rehashes of tired Chinese takeaway favourites.

Alu Ko Achar – a dry, spicy potato curry with a somewhat gritty texture. The vinegary flavour was quite memorable.

Suimai – cute, open topped dumplings with oily meat curry at the bottom of each compartment. Sauces are dropped in to taste.

Saag Paneer – thick, rich and flavorsome. Plenty of spinach in this and most welcome after the culinary travesty that is Magic India.

Chicken Curry – succulent pieces of chicken with rich, spicy sauce. 

Himalayan Shyabhale (“Himalayan Pizza”) – a stodgy pastry base with a herb infused meat pate between base and cheese, tomato and herbs topping. Delicious.

Chicken Saag – delicious, less spinachy than the paneer version.

Prawn Curry – Good, but the prawns were a little lackluster.

Chicken Stir Fry – basically a kind of sweet and sour dish.

 

03-3493-4712

Kathmandu Gangri

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.)

 

Tuesday
May032011

Suryashi, Kami-Itabashi, スルエシー、上板橋

Yet another Tōbu-Tōjō line budget Nepalese/ Indian restaurant doing a fine line in value for money lunches, Suryashi is a few minutes from Kami-Itabashi station's north exit. Although not in the same league as Ōyama's Manakamana it surpasses Tokiwadai's Taj Palace on all counts.

The restaurant's facade is actually far more inviting than the photo here would lead you to believe. Something equally homely and "ethnic," almost befitting locations such as Shimo-Kitazawa or Sangenjaya, with just enough effort having been put into the lavishly illustrated (i.e., brimming with photographs) street-side menus to suggest equal attention might even be given to the goings on in the kitchen.

My dining partner and I stopped by for lunch on a Saturday, just before noon. Although we were the first customers through the door, within half an hour or so not a table remained empty. The interior decoration is simple, with a rude bar and kitchen hatch to the rear of space, above which are arranged a collection of wines, spirits and sakes. Tables are set with baskets containing napkins, cutlery and menus. Promotional materials suggest some kind of Everest beer.

The service was good; the owner waiting the floor while a rarely glimpsed other manned the kitchen. The lunch menu was good, too. A selection of simple lunch sets, in several configurations of size, composition and price, were available for under ¥1,000, with tabehōdai rice and naan, as well as a choice of teas, coffee and soft drinks included.

An appetizer of seasonal vegetables curried with white sesame was delicious, even though the flavour of the sesame was less prominent than I'd have liked. My dining partner's Suryashi set was almost identical in size to my Tandoori set apart from the lone tandoori chicken drumstick set in the midst of my large stainless steel platter and surrounded by curries, salad, rice and naan. Despite my distaste for meat on the bone, this drumstick was surprisingly good. Perhaps a little too dry, but no gristle of fat to speak of. The chicken curry also managed to avoid any unfortunate gristle, and no doubt leaving the meat on the bone adds to the flavour. Still, I miss large, succulent pieces of chicken breast in my curries. The curry itself was okay, but lacking in substance. Too smooth, too thin.

The beef curry had more body; thicker, richer tasting and spicier. The meat made no lasting impression, but neither did it offend. Combined with the adequate, if uninspired naan, it was the highlight of the meal. My dining partner's mutton curry was, by all accounts, delicious, although not as well received as the chicken (bones being a favourite...). As is often the case, the rice was pitiful. Coffee - far better than I'd have imagined - brought the meal to its conclusion.

I'm interested to find out what evening dining at Suryashi is like. I expect it might not hold up well when compared to more refined experiences, but for a casual lunch there's little to find fault with.


03-3931-2200

www.suryashi.com

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/

Friday
Jul092010

Sapana, Higashi  サパナ、東

The urge for a curry has been welling up inside again for a while now, and as luck would have it an associate suggested a lunch meeting at the Nepali/ Indian restaurant Sapana, located in Higashi on the corner of the Namikibashi crossing on Meiji Dori halfway between Ebisu and Shibuya. Why not attempt to discuss business while trying not to spray ones interlocutors with naan?

Passed the place a million times, always been tempted but somehow always felt it looked too basic, like a café rather than a restaurant, and utterly devoid of the character that Jau Hai!, another Meiji Dori Nepalese, has in spades. Basic décor and furnishings, but clean and modern.  Service prompt with the option of pretty good English if required. Busy, packed in fact.

Three or four set lunches available at the usually excellent prices. One of the benefits of the Japanese economy’s ability to circulate stale money is cheap lunches. We all went for Set B, ¥990 for unlimited naan – fresh, warm and delicious. Really light, not oily, but I’m still of the opinion that it was less flavoursome than those at Jau Hai! – two little bowls of curry (I had the chicken curry and the daal), some “service” tandoori chicken, a little plate of yellowed, boiled Japanese rice (yuk) and a soft drink.

Okay, not bad for the price but although the naan were pretty good both curries were decidedly thin, watery even, and the chicken one had the tiniest scrags of chicken in it I’ve ever come across. Taste was light, almost nonexistent. Oh, there was a salad too. Corn, cabbage, dressing. Nothing else to say.

If you're there, then you might as well. But Jau Hai! is just five minutes away.

 

Tel: 03-6419-9095

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130301/13058048/

Tuesday
Apr132010

Jau Hai!, Higashi  ジャウハイ!、東

Being British, I love a good curry. Perhaps even more than I love roast beef, fish and chips, scones and afternoon tea. By curry, of course, I don’t refer to the Japanese variety (delicious as it is). For years it seemed that decent curries were scarce in Tokyo – at the time I’d not yet been introduced to Hiroo’s Priya – so much so that I gave up the quest. In recent years, however, something of a curry boom has taken place, with Napali (why do I always want to say “Nepalese’?) restaurants in particular springing up all over the place.

On the stretch of Meiji Dori that constitutes my morning stroll to the office there are three or four decent looking Napali establishments alone. The Jua Hai! Nepali Kitchen has long caught my attention, as the open window into the kitchen seemed to indicate the proprietors are both proud of their cooking and confident about the standard of hygiene in the kitchen. The bright façade, and casual look to the place also invited. As such, a recent lunchtime visit was inevitable. I can report, happily, that my expectations were not disappointed.

The welcome received from the rather handsome middle-aged Nepali lady – her accented, lilting Japanese is so charming – is warm, and the interior sufficiently “ethnic.” Simple décor, some hanging rug-type decorations and cute lighting. On the day of my visit the place was packed. Mostly office workers and a few tired looking chain-smoking OLs. All around incredibly delicious looking food was being eagerly consumed. So far so good. 

The lunch set menu, ¥1,000 for curry, rice, naan and a drink (tea, coffee, juice, laci etc.), offered up a selection of eight or nine curries. My dining partners opted for a chicken and spinach curry respectively, while I – feeling adventurous – decided on the chicken muglai. We all had naan instead of rice, as those being served all around looked fantastic. Not only gigantic (at least 14 inches in length), but light, fluffy and not at all oily.

Waiting for our orders to arrive, a further glance over the menu revealed that both the rice and naan are tabehodai. All you can eat! For ¥1,000! It seemed too good to be true, but sure enough we were able to greedily attempt the challenge of consuming two of the naan and the generous serving of curry, before declining an invitation to finish off with rice. The naan proved to be just as good, if not better, than they looked, and subsequent helping came sliced up with scissors, in order, I suppose, to limit wastage by those with eyes bigger than their bellies.

But what of the curry? Pretty good actually. Certainly a worthy partner to the naan. It tasted fresh, looked “clean” and contained generous pieces of succulent chicken thankfully devoid of gristly bits.  All three curries were pleasantly spicy, yet without going for overkill in the heat department – a sure sign that the flavour is being focused on. In all honesty I ended up regretting my choosing the muglai, tasty as it was, as the odd looking straggly bits of semi-poached egg throughout it were not particularly attractive, and also added a somewhat displeasing texture to an otherwise smooth curry. The spinach curry looked wonderful, and according to my dining partner my eyes did not deceive me.

The service was friendly, swift and willing. At regular intervals the lady of the house breezed by our table to offer more naan, rice and drink. Nice to have the tabehodai function readily promoted. The atmosphere was relaxed, lively and a little smokey, but that had more to do with the chain smokers on the neighbouring table than any lack of ventilation.

The evening menu looks promising, with dozens of tasty looking dishes available. A delivery service is also available for orders over ¥2,000. Party courses are also offered; ¥2,500 for nine courses, and ¥3,500 for eleven. An all you can drink option costs an additional ¥2,000 for two hours of boozing.

Verdict? Great. Wonderful, freshly cooked curry served with a strangely disarming smile. The naan alone are worth the money. Definitely a great choice for lunch, and certainly deserving of a dinnertime visit.

 

Update 29/04/10: An evening visit proved to be well worth the effort. Despite the place being dead (the Monday before payday, before Golden Week, so to be expected), the atmosphere was still cozy. Service remained excellent, and was always provided with a smile. I was happy to discover that bottled Kirin beer is very reasonably priced at ¥550. 

The menu offered a plentiful array of delicious sounding dishes. However, having already regretted choosing the muglai over the saag, I this time opted for the saag chicken and a garlic naan, while my dining partner decided on saag lamb supported by a sesame naan. Couldn't find any pilau rice, so the plain rice we eventually had was just the normal, sticky white Japanese variety. Nothing wrong with it, but I always feel it does not go well with curry. 

Again, everything was freshly prepared and cooked. Tastes were wonderful. Both saags had a smooth, creamy texture. Almost a buttery taste in there too. If I had to find faults, then perhaps a little more texture from the spinach, and the need for the dishes to be served hot, rather than warm, would be my only criticism. 

The naan where from heaven. Fresh, shiny (but not oily), light and fluffy, and easily over twenty inches in length! The garlic variant was truly awesome. Smothered in green, freshly grated garlic. I must have reeked afterwards, but it was worth it. My dinning partner's sesame naan was also fantastic, although I did find the taste a little over powering after a while. 

In all, an excellent meal. Thanks to the splendidly generous portions, the rice was probably an unnecessary order, especially with so much naan goodness to mop up the curry with. Two diners stuffed with beer and curry for around ¥5,000. Love it. 

Update 17/5/11: Worst fears have been confirmed. Following the quake Jau Hai! shut down, then became busy with what - correctly - seemed to be a refit. Sadly the refit involves a complete re-imagining of the business. The proprietors appear to be the same, but the shop is reopening as "Meiji Dori Wine Bar & Dining." Go figure.  

 

Tel:03-6419-8565

http://rp.gnavi.co.jp/6090083/