Three steaming curries, quintessential tandoori chicken, one green salad, two side veggie dishes, rice, two types of naan, soup, a light dessert, hot tea, iced coffee, and iced tea. Oh, and papadom, that crispy flat cracker, loaded with taste. This is what I feasted-on at Taj Akasaka’s buffet lunch for 1,200 yen.
For 800 yen, I could have chosen the smaller curry lunch. Yes, I could have saved 400 yen, but think of what I would have missed. Well, I’d have a bowl of curry, a large naan, rice, drinks from the buffet, and salad. Not terribly exciting. My 400 yen indulgence bought me trips to the buffet, where I ladled one daal curry, two other curries (one by the name “Grandma’s chicken curry” and the other featuring hard-boiled eggs basking in…you guessed it, curry. All were medium-spicy. I would have loved variety to the levels of spice, but the point is, I had a buffet of options and two varieties of naan to eat alongside. (I confess I later went back for a second masala naan–a kind of spiced potato-paste, smoothed between two thin and chewy pieces of naan). This restaurant uses zero-cholesterol vegetable oil, not butter, or even clarified butter (ghee). Taj Akasaka also chooses to use local produce (when available), domestic spices, and they steer-clear of food additives or coloring.
The tandoori chicken is something the menu and website boast. The cooks use a charcoal-fired tandoor oven and cook all tandoori dishes the traditional way, sans food coloring.
This is not just a “curry-naan” joint. Also, that curry? There are about one hundred various kinds of curries Taj Akasaka cooks; everyday is a different combo. Those lunching business men and women in surrounding buildings sure are lucky. I realized my own fortune on my way to get mild chicken soup, more masala naan, some iced coffee, and a small side of salad, that this was indeed a feast!
I tend to be an Indian food snob. I was raised on the stuff! Creamy daals, gobi masala, turmeric, that intense otherworldly-orange of tandoori-cooked meats? This is exotic comfort-food. All this to say, I was highly-impressed by the rich yellow daal on the buffet. Its spice also knocked me around a little, as did the other two curries. I actually took a spice break with a dainty bowl of cool yoghurt and chopped bananas and apples. Then, I promptly went back for more daal.
Sure, there are lots of Indian joints throughout Tokyo, but what caught my (cheapo) eye was their Bring Your Own Bottle policy for wine or champagne during dinner. Whereas some restaurants participating in BYOB charge anywhere from 2,000-5,000 yen corkage fees, Taj Akasaka charges a mere 500 yen per bottle which is waived if you eat 1,000 yen’s worth of delicious food. What’s to think about there? Of course, in lieu of wine, I’d rather settle down with a nice Kingfisher or the Sapporo on tap to compliment and cool my sweltering taste-buds.
Also, be sure to print-out a coupon from Taj’s website where they offer one free drink (draft beer, softdrinks & tea, and the house wine) with your reservation and a printed copy of the coupon. Scan for other offers–Taj Akasaka will help you save on your all-you-can-drink or all-you-can-drink-and-eat-evenings. As if delicious Indian food in a fairly easy to navigate area isn’t enough incentive. Located easily from The Namboku line or Ginza line, Taj Akasaka is just a few blocks away from Tameikessano station in Akasaka, Chiyoda-ku. Also on the dinner menu? Indian Street Foods, a kind of tapas menu ranging from 400-700 yen. Hello, relaxing evening tasting and sharing with friends.
After my fancy lunch feast, I feel as if I’ve just collected another badge—a kind of member’s pass. I’m one of the cool kids who knows where the good stuff is. And I’ll be back for another buffet, some BYOB, & a dinner touted for representing all of India—the north, the south, all over. Kashmir, Punjab. It’s not hard to be hungry for more of that masala naan. I wonder how long it would take to taste & power-through all one hundred of Taj’s curries…
|Location:||2-12-33 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052|
|Closest Station:||7 minutes from Tameikesanno Station, Namboku & Ginza Lines|
|Phone:||(03) 6234 0888|
|Business hours:||Lunch: M-F 11:30-2 Dinner: M-F 5:30-10Sats, holidays 5:30-9|
Tokyo and Japan have a reputation for the strange and unusual museums.