By Chris Barnes
Japan is famous for many things: cherry blossoms, temples, tea, martial arts, curry … curry? Well, they may not be famous for it, but the Japanese sure do like curry. I have been enticed a couple of times to try the Japanese style curry, and while tasty, it just doesn't hold a candle to home-style curry of Mother India. If you want the purest, most original form of anything, you must go straight to the source. That is exactly what I did when my curry craving crept up on me. I ventured down the road to the local Indian curry hot spot, Taj Mahal.
My husband and I took our German friend for his first Indian restaurant experience. We opted for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet (1250-1500 yen). A good choice for a novice curry eater, the buffet offers three curries; chicken, vegetarian, and seafood, rice, chicken salad, curry fried noodles, papadam, fresh made nan to order, and a lassie (yogurt based drink) or chai tea.
We entered the restaurant and were immediately greeted by Kashi (maitre‘d extraordinaire) with a warm welcome and an endearing handshake. Almost to say "I have been expecting you, what took you so long to come here and try our delicious curry?" He showed us to the booth, explained what the buffet offered, took our drink order (three chai teas) and told the chef to fire off three pieces of nan. We lined up at the buffet table and Kashi handed us a traditional metal plate divided into 5 sections, so as not to allow the curries to blend together. My plate was topped with one scoop of each curry, two papadams, and a spoonful of rice.
Shortly after we returned to the table with our meals, Kashi brought out three piping hot pieces of nan accompanied by equally hot chai tea served in beautiful clay cups. Now, for me, all I need in order to tell if an Indian restaurant is good or not is to taste the chai and nan. So I did just that. Sweet, creamy, spiced chai — it was perfect! I tore open the steaming nan, and took a bite; chewy, savory and sweet, just the way nan should be. After the chai and nan passed the test, I had no doubts about the curry. My theory continues to be correct because all the curries were delicious. The rice was topped with cashews and the chicken curry sprinkled with almonds, both were unique and balanced additions to the dishes. All of the curries had different flavors giving variety to the palate. My personal favorite was the chicken curry, it was on the verge of being butter chicken, but with a little more spice. The veggie curry was a close second with its rich tomato based sauce.
Kashi was attentive and we enjoyed chatting with him throughout our meal. When we asked if we could have one more piece of nan, his reply of “Why not?” was so spot on we all burst out laughing. Along with more nan he brought out a sample of one of the dishes on the menu, Kastury Tikka; the most tender and perfectly spiced chicken kabob I have ever tasted. He shared the ingredients with me, but not the process on how they make the meat so tender. I think the key is to love what you are doing, which is evident in the actions from all the staff. We really felt welcomed and appreciated, which made dining at the Taj Mahal more then just eating food, it was an experience for all senses.
The room was true to Indian style, with copper wares, dark wood, traditional music, colorful hanging fabrics, and truly hospitable staff. Our German friend put it best when commenting on the decor by saying that, "It is charming to the eye".
The comfort of the room, the kindness of the staff, and the deliciousness of the chai extended our stay there to almost 2 hours and I enjoyed every minute! After indulging in two plates each (the German had 3), we decided to walk it off, but after a three-hour hike all of us were still full.
Gochisousamadeshita, Thank You, Dankeschön, Namaste!
If you don’t have time for a sit down lunch, visit Dave at Curry in a Hurry, a to-go division of Taj Mahal, located beside Seicomart.
Here is the ingredient list for Kasturi Tikka:
Paste of Garlic, Ginger & Spinach
Sugar & Salt
Fenugreek & Garam Masal
The quantity of each ingredient and how to make it will have to be trial and error. Bon Appetite!
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