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Kao Thai Restaurant in Takadanobaba

Fill up on tasty Thai food at a cheap lunch buffet

Takadanobaba is a university area, and with lots of bars, restaurants and cafes competing for the student yen, there are plenty of good deals to be had, especially for lunch. One that I found is the lunch buffet at Kao Thai, handily placed off Waseda-Dori just three or four minutes' walk from the station, where for a mere ¥920 you can fill up for an hour on tasty Thai food.

Inside it's more like an old-school neighbourhood izakaya than a restaurant: there's a counter round the U-shaped bar and a handful of tables, including one longer one for bigger groups to sit at, or where small groups can meet each other if the other tables are full. One wall is dominated by huge pictures of a floating market and close-ups of some good-looking dishes, while the rest of the space is a jumble of beer posters and Buddhist knick-knacks, with portraits of the Thai King and Queen looking on from a corner. It was pretty busy when I was there, with the chatter of students, shop staff, office workers and shoppers mixing with the perky T-pop music to create a lively atmosphere.

I took two passes at the buffet, though other customers went more often and piled their trays higher. There are two kinds of rice and a number of main dishes to choose from, plus a selection of salads and soups; some of them are fairly hot, like green curry, tom yum kun and minced pork with red chili. Others are milder, such as the pad thai fried noodles and crispy friend chicken; there's also a bowl of smooth, light tapioca dessert, which I enjoyed as a pleasant, palate-soothing way to round off my lunch.

There are take-out lunch boxes available for ¥500 if you're in a hurry, and the restaurant also opens for dinner, when there's a wider range of dishes available: as well as standard Thai fare there are more exotic choices such as grilled beef sirloin, green papaya salad, and stir-fried crab with egg curry sauce, generally coming in at between ¥800 and ¥1200. So while I've only been there for lunch so far, when I next find myself in 'baba in the evening I might well find my way back for a little taste of Thailand.

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