Ali’s Kitchen is a basement Pakistani and Arabic restaurant that is so cramped it can hardly contain the outsize personality of restaurateur Ali Zaidi.

The chef flits between the kitchen, where he handles the cooking, and diners in the restaurant. And in-between taking and delivering orders he has fun with his customers. When he delivered my rice and kebab he told me I had three options: eat it all, take the leftovers home or leave it and he’d finish it.

The length of the menu could be Zaidi overcompensating for the size of his restaurant: there are more than 600 specials listed on the website, including dishes from Turkey’s Bosphorus region right through to Pakistan’s Peshawar. A Pakistani friend of mine, who is a regular at Ali’s, directed me to the biryani rice and chapli minced kebab, which is essentially a plate-sized mutton patty. They both lived up to Ali’s billing as being some of the best Pakistani food in Japan.

The biryani is exceptional: chunks of mutton, some still on the bone, with cloves, coriander leaves, cumin, ginger and cardamom pods paired delightfully with the fluffy rice. And the chapli kebab was one of the best kebabs I have had in Japan. I’ll be back to work through the other 600 dishes.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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