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Kerala no Kaze II: South Indian specials with a Japanese touch

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

“Tiffin” and “meals.” “Uppma,” “vada and “idli.” The vocabulary of South Indian cuisine conjures up images of spices, swaying palm trees and fragrant ocean breezes. In Tokyo, the locations tend to be rather less exotic. But the ride to suburban Omori repays you well, once you arrive at Kerala no Kaze II.

This modest little lunch counter — in its original incarnation, until 2011, it also served dinner — is a classic labor of love. Owner-chef Masahiko Numajiri was posted to Kerala as a salaryman, developed a passion for the cuisine and decided to introduce it to his homeland after he retired.

Now he prepares set plates — meals, in South Indian parlance — featuring rice (of course), crisp papadum, five different side dishes with mostly mild chili heat, along with spicy chutneys and curd (yogurt), with refills to your heart’s content. He also offers a small tiffin menu (a la carte items), including the aforementioned idli (rice cakes), vada (savory deep-fried donuts), uppma (semolina porridge), plus some of the finest dosa pancakes in the city.

Don’t arrive expecting taste bombs: Numajiri’s cooking is flavorful and satisfying, but also light and elegant, cooked by and for a Japanese palate. It is also predominantly vegetarian, though you should confirm this in advance.

Open lunch 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. (L.O.), tiffin till 3:30 p.m. (L.O.);set lunch (meals) ¥1,200, tiffin from ¥300; Japanese menu; some English spoken