Nataraj - Indian Vegetarian *****
Aoyama, Ogikubo, Ginza
: 5-30-6 B1F, Ogikubo, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 167-0051
: Minato-ku, Minami Aoyama 2-22-19
: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, 6-9-4 Ginza Kozaka Bldg 7-9 F
Opening hours - Open every day from 11:30 am to 11:00 pm
Menu - In Japanese and English
CC - OK
I personally concluded as soon as I had a head to think that the idea of man being the center of creation was a crock of shit. The obvious fear animals have of death makes me therefore very sympathetic to a certain type of vegetarian sentiment. Nonetheless, having realized time and again how vegetarians are often stuck-up, rigid missionaries always more ready to raise the finger than to use their brains, I was sort of cautious about Nataraj: it is managed by the Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh people and its name is one of Shiva's other names. I expected religious zeal and militancy, but found just very good cooking and a long menu to explore.
Nataraj in Ogikubo is a huge, bright, and quiet room with white walls and many plants, truly relaxing and clean. It was almost empty when we arrived, and the very cute, but distant, Indian waitress brought us the menu right away. It turned out to be extremely interesting. Six traditional appetizers to open the meal, after which come no less than 26 different curries. Nataraj offers also seven different types of bread, a first in Tokyo, among them Roti, Puri, Bhatura, Chapati and Paratha, three different types of rice and seven typical Indian desserts, even the rare Saffron Kulfi and Halwa.
We started with Onion Pakora, then had a creamy Nataraj curry and Matar Panir with Bhatura and Yellow rice. Aftter the meal I couldn't resist a Saffron Kulfi. Everything was excellent, every dish fragrant with cumin, cashewnut, cardamon and laurel. The bill? A paltry 2000 yen apiece. A crime I didn't go before. Now I think it's probably the best Indian restaurant, vegetarian or otherwise, in town.
BTW, they might not sell meat, but they have plenty of alcohol: whisky, beer, wine and cocktails.
October 10, 1999
NEW DOUBLE REVIEW
It was really funny: when I entered the new Nataraj in Gaienmae last week, the waitress started saying "Irasshaimase", but then she saw my face and the second half of the salute didn't make it to her lips. Used as she was to seeing me in Ogikubo, she didn't expect to meet me in Gaienmae. I must say the surprise was mutual, and that my heart sank when I saw that Sadananda, the great cook that used to work at the Ogikubo branch, was here with her. How good is the original Nataraj now without him, I wondered? Well, in terms of style, the new one is nothing to write home about, because it's as anonymous and grey as the neighborhood it's in. I don't think Gaienmae was a happy choice, far from any point of interest as it is, and potential customers seemed to agree with me: the place was deserted from six thirty until nine, and almost empty thereafter. Given Sadananda's presence, the food of course was no surprise: it was the usual, excellent fare I was already familiar with. Unfortunately, the extremely capable Japanese man who makes chapatis, naans and bhatura in Ogikubo didn't make the move, so the amazing variety of breads available there isn't present here. All you can get is naans and rotis.
Some time later I had dinner at the Ogikubo branch, and I must say that the new cook is ALMOST as good as Sadananda. Almost ... The menu is the same as always and of course the exceptional bread-maker I mentioned above is still at his tandoor, so I would say that, on balance, this is the best of the two branches. Gaienmae is too far away, too anomymous for my character, but cooking without using meat is difficult, so this remains one of the two only places I know where going vegetarian doesn't mean having a mediocre meal.
May 10, 2001
web - www.nataraj.co.jp/index_j.html
Café Devi - Indian
Address - Via Harajuku B1F, 1-15-1 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Opening Hours - 11:30am to 5:00 am from Mon to Sat, Sun from 11:30 am to 10:30 pm
Telephone - 03-3478-8089
Menu - In Japanese and English
Eliza Walsh has dropped me a line about her favorite restaurant. It sounds good, and I will give it a try as soon as I have a chance.
"My favourite Indian restaurant is a place called Devi Cafe, which I was surprised not to see in your listings. It is the best place I have ever tried. Their Kashmiri naan is fantastic, as is their raita and spinach/tomato curry. You will see some original curries here too.
It is in Harajuku. To get there: from Harajuku JR exit Takeshita Dori end. Walk down Takeshita Dori and about half way turn right at the street there (there is a takoyaki stand on the corner and a seven eleven before it) It will be on your right down a few steps in a B1 level. It is on a path that is called Brahms' Path that runs parallel to Takeshita Dori."
: Brahms Path begins right in front of a Seven Eleven.