One thing that never fails to amaze me about Japan is the love for Indian food. Wherever we went, may it be Nikko, Hiroshima or Sapporo we were sure to find an Indian restaurant nearby. And when it comes to Tokyo, they are just everywhere, in lonely streets or sprawling market places, tucked away in basement floors or looking down from high rise shopping complexes. Though in these 3 years of our stay here in Tokyo, as we tried out one restaurant after other, we soon came to know the familiar taste and flavor served in most of them, and I must tell you here that they are actually not like the food we get back home and very few have actually been able to make a mark on our taste buds so much so to remark 'Yes now that's what it should be like'.
Among those chosen few, one that comes closest and serves the best of the South-Indian flavor is the restaurant Dhaba India, located a short walk away from the Yaesu South Exit of the Tokyo station. We actually went there recently for our Anniversary-special lunch and loved the food and the ambience so much that we made another trip pretty soon thereafter.
The first time round we had ordered ourselves some crispy and huge Masala Dosas (Indian pancakes made from milled rice and lentils and stuffed with mildly spicy potato-mash mix) that came with the tangy Sambhar (a typical vegetable stew preparation made with tamarind and split pigeon peas) and some delicious Coconut chutney (a subtly spiced accompaniment made from coarsely ground coconut and curd, infused with a hint of curry leaves). These were so authentic and true to the flavor that we actually felt at home for a while! Given this true to home taste, these were quite reasonably priced at ¥1,370 per plate. We found the menu to be simple and catering to most of the major South-Indian specialties (except Idlis and Uthappams) and also some of the exclusive chicken and mutton preparations too. And that's not all, what added to the fun was the intensely flavored Madrasi filtered coffee, prepared and served the traditional way.
The service was prompt and friendly and the chief Cook himself served us his hand-made delicacies. The décor and ambience was minimal and beautifully done in lovely blue and coppers, nothing like the overwhelming, over the top flashy Indian décor at most Indian restaurants here. It was quite calm, subtle and enjoyable even with a full house on a weekday afternoon. But as we found out soon, that was just a glimpse of the restaurant’s tremendous popularity.
On our next visit to this place on a holiday, a Friday afternoon, we actually were surprised to find a whole crowd of people already queued up, waiting patiently, well ahead of the opening time of 12pm.
This time round it was the holiday-special menu and we got ourselves a South-Indian Thali and a Dosa set. The Thali was priced somewhere around ¥1600 and was a delectable assortment of Rasam, Sambhar, a prawn curry, 2 veg curries and Payasam (traditional sweet dish) along with rice, a huge Poori (Indian flatbread), Papad and some tangy chutney. All the curries and accompaniments were light on oil and rich in taste with each having its own distinctive flavor. The Dosa set had a huge Masala Dosa, Sambhar and chutney along with two Medu-Vadas (Doughnut shaped Indian fritters made from lentils and spices). How much we loved the food here was evident in the extra helpings of sambhars and chutneys. Once again we rounded off the delicious meal with the perfect cup of filtered coffee and wrapped up the afternoon with a few clicks capturing the whole ambience of a well spent and thoroughly relished afternoon.