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Tandoor Bar Kamalpur: Comfortable as your local izakaya

by Robbie Swinnerton

Contributing Writer

No prizes for guessing what’s on the menu at Tandoor Bar Kamalpur. The familiar, beguiling aromas that greet your nostrils as you arrive are much the same as you’d expect at any other Indian eatery in Tokyo — or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

Look over toward the compact open kitchen, and you will be reassured to see that the chefs all hail from the Indian subcontinent, and so does the tandoor oven promised in the restaurant’s name. But there is much about this modest restaurant in unfashionable Kiba that sets it apart from other run-of-the-mill Indian joints around the city.

For a start, it doesn’t look or sound like one. It’s not decked out with gaudy baubles or tourist posters. There are no statuettes of Hindu deities, no keening Bollywood soundtrack music, no videos playing on endless loop. With its well-worn wooden counter looking into the cooking area and small tables shoehorned along the walls, Kamalpur feels as comfortable as a local izakaya tavern.

And that is very much the way it operates. You’re not expected just to enter, order, eat and leave. Instead, you settle in with a drink or two and a couple of starters, working up to more substantial dishes when you’re ready, but always eating at your own pace.

Kick dinner off with an order of bhuna oysters, a small plate of piquant pan-fried bivalves. Or try the chicken gizzards — mysteriously translated as “sand lever” (sic) on the English menu. Both make excellent nibbles, as does the chickpea salad.

Be sure to also scan the daily specials menu. If you’re lucky, it will include one of Kamalpur’s signature dishes, masala namerō. This is a brilliant adaptation of a classic Japanese recipe — basically a tartare of coarsely minced Spanish mackerel sashimi, seasoned with miso and finely chopped spring onions — but here imbued with spices and served over shredded salad greens. This is not to be missed.

But it’s the tandoor oven that is the main draw, and here, too, the chefs get a bit creative. Besides the more usual brochettes of chicken, lamb and prawns, they offer pork, duck — a whole breast that is basted, roasted in the oven, then sliced and served with crushed cashew nuts — and even whole sardines.

And then there are the kulcha flatbreads (“Indian pizza” is the description in Japanese). Alongside the regular cheese or minced chicken keema versions, there is also a deluxe option made with Gorgonzola. You won’t regret it.

When it comes to the curry, skip the butter chicken, the keema and the creamy prawn options; the not-to-miss choice is the Kamalpur special soup-style fish (mackerel) curry. The broth is light and fragrant, with enough chili to leave your lips tingling and to warm you through for the five-minute stroll back to the subway station.

Kamalpur’s lunch menu is much simpler, just a short selection of curries. Even so, you will often find a line outside. In the evening, reservations are essential.

Lunch menu from ¥1,000; dinner a la carte (around ¥3,500/head); English menu; some English spoken