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Uttappam, idli, vada, masala dosa — for me, dinner at Dharmasagara is more than just a roll call of favorite foods. It’s an incantation that summons up India’s sun-baked streets of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.

For over a decade now, this simple, uncluttered second-floor dining room on the fringe of Higashi Ginza has been a go-to for honest South Indian cooking. At lunch, you pick from a selection of quick curries and set meals served on gleaming metal trays. But it is the dinner menu that really transports me.

I like to start with a dosa pancake, either plain or masala (stuffed with spicy potatoes). A serving of vada (deep-fried chickpea croquettes) goes well with an Indian lager — the Haywards 5000 packs a punch at 8 percent alcohol. Then, if I’m with friends, we order a few curries and eat to satiation.

When I drop in solo, I invariably go for the top-of-the-line vegetarian set meals (¥3,400), topped with a giant puffed-up puri (deep-fried flat bread).

It may not be the very best or spiciest Indian food in town, but when the cravings hit, it serves its purpose: to satisfy my palate and subcontinental wanderlust.

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