Food & Drink | TOKYO FOOD FILE

Calms: Bringing Bhutan's spicy cheese stew to Yoyogi-Uehara

by Robbie Swinnerton

Special To The Japan Times

What are the odds for this? Tokyo now has not one but two restaurants serving Bhutanese food. And not only are they both in the same Uehara neighborhood, they stand face to face on opposite sides of the same street.

It’s been several years since the diminutive Gatemo Tabum popped up in Yoyogi-Uehara, turning on the local populace to the mostly spicy delights of that remote Himalayan kingdom. Now, it has sprouted an offshoot, Calms, that is every bit as enigmatic as its name.

First, it only offers one dish: datshi, the fiery, cheesy stew that is considered Bhutan’s national dish. You have four different kinds to choose from: either the basic version made with potatoes (kewa datshi) or with the addition of extra tomato, mushrooms and/or pork.

All contain a few chilies guaranteed to make your tongue tingle and bring beads of sweat to your brow. They are served in hand-carved wooden bowls along with a mound of rice and a nifty paste redolent of hana-sansho, the aromatic, mouth-puckering flowers of Sichuan-style sansho pepper. Like an exotic version of Mexico’s chile con queso, it is addictive and tasty.

Calms has taken over a light-filled shop space that was until recently a late-night bar. Besides leaving the furnishings virtually intact — with a few token Bhutanese artifacts tacked to the wall to add a little color — it also adopted the bar’s name. Initially, at any rate, this one-man operation is only open on weekdays for lunch.

Datshi stew from ¥950; Japanese menu; English not spoken

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