In the early 1980s, you could count the number of Indian restaurants in Tokyo on the fingers of one hand. Top of that list, by dint of its size, prestige and the standard of the cuisine, was The Taj, close to Akasaka-Mitsuke. Sadly it went under, following a fire.
A couple of years back, though, the name reappeared phoenixlike but without fanfare, under different ownership and in a different part of Akasaka. The basement digs are more modest but the food is well worth checking out. Under the slogan “much more than just curry and naan,” it delivers a contemporary take on Indian food that is admirably simple, healthy and flavorful.
Instead of using ghee (clarified butter), the dishes are cooked with vegetable oil (canola oil), making them lighter and a lot more digestible. The chefs have all worked in the restaurants of five-star hotels around India, and their cooking is as bright and modern as the restaurant’s decor. Adding to the untraditional feel, the music on the sound system is not Bollywood soundtracks but a constant diet of the blues.
At lunchtime, Taj Akasaka serves simple one-plate lunches, as well as a ¥1,200 all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. At dinner, half the menu is devoted to updated versions of hawker foods, served in the kind of small portions that are ideal for nibbling on with beer (draft lager or the ubiquitous Kingfisher) or wine (BYOB encouraged). And while there is no shortage of curries — served with basmati rice or naan, of course — the quality is well above average for Tokyo.
Taj Akasaka, B1, 2-12-33 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo; (03) 6234-0888; www.tajakasaka.com. Open Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (last order) and 5:30-10 p.m. (last order); Sat. and holidays dinner only (5:30- 9 p.m.); closed Sun. Nearest stations Akasaka (Chiyoda Line), Tameike-Sanno (Ginza and Namboku lines).