Dhaba India - South Indian *****
Address - 2-7-9 Yaesu, Chuo-ku
Opening hours - 11:15 to15:00 & 17:00 to 23:00 (Saturday and Sunday 12:00 - 15:00 & 17:00 to 22:00)
Telephone - 03-3272-7160
Menu - In English and Japanese
Some time ago a reader wrote me about Dhaba India and how good it was. Later, I saw that the Tokyo Food Page gives it two stars (a very high rating), while Robbie Swinnerton raves about it.
Since I am extremely fond of Indian food, and South Indian food is a rarity, I decided to go as soon as possible. Now that I have been there, I can say that I agree with all three. Dhaba India is indeed excellent, and a must if you like Indian food. Eating there feels like taking you sunglasses off to look again at a beautiful landscape you thought you knew well. All feels new, brightly colored and exciting. A day when you feel depressed, make yourself a present and go: it will make you feel better.
What a pleasant place like that is doing in the middle of a desert like Kyobashi I don't know, but there it is. It doesn't look like most other Indian restaurants, but it's definitely very pleasant.
The menu is as interesting as I hoped it would be. We had a biryani, a kheema dosa, lamb ribs, a southern Indian fish curry with coconut milk and more. All were excellent. Especially good were the numerous dips that accompanied most of the dishes. For example, the ribs came with the best Podina chutney I have ever tasted.
This is not, however, a place like A. Raj. Whereas A. Raj serves excellent, simple stuff prepared the way Mom used to make it, Dhaba India is polished and more sophisticated. Which of the two is better is a matter of taste. I like both.
Prices are reasonable, but not dirt-cheap. Expect to spend about 3000 apiece without drinks.
: From Kyobashi station's exit number 5, turn right and then take the first street to the right again. You will see Dhaba India's sign.
Letter from reader A.B. (December 2004)
I have just discovered your web site. You must be well rounded by now from all those reviews. A suggestion: Dhaba India, South Indian, very near the Yaesu Book Center. It is not yet 2 years old, I believe. Although I do not go out as much as I did in my first 2 decades here, I am familiar with a number of Indian restaurants and am quite confident that Dhaba India beats all of them hands down, eyes closed. Excellent Kerala fish curries, and even the thali is a delightful change, served on banana leaf. And they know how to make a salt lassi. Here's to bliss!
Gandhara - Ginza ****
Address - Ginza Five Star Building 4F, 5-8-13, Ginza, Chuo-ku
Opening Hours Every day from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Menu - In Japanese and English
Credit Cards - OK
I have a way of testing Indian and Pakistani restaurants: it they serve Podina Chutney (a mint and yoghurt concoction) with meat dishes, they are close or at the top. Most Indian restaurants don't bother teaching foreigners about this beautiful aspect of their national cuisine, and this is why I found it to be such a good indicator of quality: so far, the system has always worked, and indeed the few places like Marhaba that have this or any other Chutney are invariably among the best.
Gandhara is one of the very few Pakistani restaurants in town (why is it that there is such an inflation of Indian restaurants, but Pakistani ones are so rare?), passes the test with flying colors, is a good venue for vegetarians (dishes like channa masala and dahl abound) and carnivores (the grilled meat section has a shocking number of entries) alike, is halal and offers great value for the money.
I guarantee you are going to get lost in its menu, but trust the pictures and your instinct and try to order what you don't know, because much of what's available here you won't find anywhere else. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, they prepare nine different kinds of bread, including naan, roti and pratha, offer sheep brain curry (if you are not afraid of BSE) and you can choose the spiciness of your food.
What else... Drinks include Japanese and Indian beer, wine from various nations (France and Italy among others), variously flavored lassis (e.g. pomegranate lassi) and cocktails, all at a very reasonable price. A good meal shouldn't set you back more than 3000 yen per person, including a moderate amount of drinks.
I am often told that my site has a bias towards Asian food. It's true, Asian cuisines interest me more than European ones, even though yesterday for example I had a great meal at La Dinette, a budget French restaurant I love, and places like Gandhara are the reason for that bias. Not only they offer good food, but for a couple of hours they take you to a foreign land, to enjoy and learn.
Junko Okabe's Review
Gandhara is a restaurant with a long history (it opened in 1981) whose customers are mostly Pakistanis. Small and cozy, it serves food more like the home-cooking you get at Rajput (see review) than what you usually find in Indian restaurants. The menu is very long and includes both tandori meats and almost 30 curries, among which I particularly liked the Chicken Karahi, or dry chicken curry, which is a best-seller also at Rajput. Again as at Rajput, they will make curry as spicy as you like. Just tell them how you want it at the time of ordering. We also had naan with almonds, samosa, channa masala and chutneys. All was very good and we had the opportunity to talk to the owner. All in all, a great find to eat good food at reasonable prices in a place expensive as Ginza.
web - www.gandhara.net
(mostly in Japanese)
Raj Mahal - Indian *****
in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza and Roppongi
: Peace Bldg 5 FL, 3-34-11, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
: Jow Bldg 5 FL 30-5 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku
: Centergai Hakuba Bldg 4 FL, 26-11 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku,
: Urban Bldg 4 FL, 7-13-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku
: Taiyo Bldg 4 FL, 8-8-5, Ginza, Chuo-ku
Menu - in English and Japanese.
Opening Hours - every day from 11:30 am to 10:30 pm.
Credit Cards - OK.
Telephone numbers -
: 03-5379-2525 (2580)
: 03-3770-7677 (7680)
: Centergai 03-3780- 6531 (6508)
: 03-5411-2525 (2526)
: 03-5568-8080 (8081)
Raj Mahal is a restaurant I don't know very well: I have some very good Indian restaurants much closer to home. Still, over the years, I have visited their Shibuya and Shinjuku branches several times and have always found the food good, even though I wouldn't be able to give you details about it. I feel therefore confident that you will like it, especially the curries, which seem to me better than the meat dishes. Finding it in Shibuya is not very hard. From Hachiko go straight towards Harajuku, take the first to the left, go ahead until the road forks and you see a police box right at the intersection. Raj Mahal is at the fourth or fifth floor of the building to the immediate left of the police box.The Shinjuku branch is meters from My City, on the East side of the station. They have a 1000 yen all-you-can-eat deal every day for lunch.
Rereading now this review in the light of the meal I had at Raj Mahal yesterday I find I have been much too stingy with my praise: Raj Mahal is an excellent restaurant that offers gorgeous curries you won't find so easily elsewhere together with other rarities like an excellent Bhatura (a wonderful type of fried bread). Explore the menu and you won't be disappointed. And don't forget to get a Ras Malay for dessert.