During the long, uncertain months of the pandemic, curry has cemented its place as Tokyo’s primary go-to comfort food. But it’s not just home-grown versions of curry-rice or soup curry that are in demand: There’s a growing number of chefs offering spice-driven meals that draw their inspiration directly from the original wellspring of South Asia.
Look no further than Adi, a brilliant little Nepalese restaurant that opened last year in Nakameguro. Owner-chef Kanchan Adhikari originally came to Tokyo to study business and, after graduating, decided to open a place serving the kind of home cooking he grew up eating.
His first venture was a lunch counter, Adhicurry, which he ran with his wife inside a rented bar space in Azabujuban. The quality of his cooking quickly won him fans, and generated a buzz that followed him when he finally moved into his own premises in August 2020.
Adi occupies the ground floor of a stylish new building faced in smooth concrete, close to the elevated Tokyu Toyoko Line a mere five-minute stroll from Nakameguro Station. With none of the usual telltale signs — or music, or even aromas — to advertise that curry is on the menu, you might mistake it for a boutique, or a specialty coffee shop.
This lowkey presence is not the only way in which Adi stands out in comparison to other South Asian restaurants around the city. It is clean and uncluttered; service is polished, though always friendly; and, most importantly, the quality of the food is high.
The weekday lunch menu is probably the finest iteration of dal bhat — the Nepalese staple meal of rice and lentil soup, with curries, vegetables and achar pickles on the side — you will find in Tokyo. At ¥2,000 (plus ¥300 for an extra curry), it is pricier than most, but this reflects the quality of the ingredients and skillful preparation.
Dialing back on the usual amounts of oil or ghee, the flavors are subtle and the aromatics carefully modulated. This same dal bhat meal is also offered as takeout (from ¥1,200) and can be ordered ahead of time. In addition, the dal, curries, achar and more are available for shipment from Adi’s online store, Jiunu.
The dining room is compact, with just enough small tables to fit eight people, plus room for three more at the counter by the open kitchen. Such is Adi’s popularity, all those seats are likely to be occupied (fair warning, reservations are not taken for weekday lunch).
But this is only one facet of Adi. In the evenings and on weekends, chef Adhikari pivots to serving more elaborate omakase (chef’s choice) meals — seven dishes in the evenings, four in the weekend lunches — that are both inventive and sophisticated.
A dinner earlier this year, before the latest state of emergency was imposed, opened with katsuo tataki (seared skipjack tuna sashimi) and an aromatic onion sauce. This was followed by momo (boiled dumplings, much like hearty Japanese suigyōza) filled with minced goat meat; deep-fried samosas stuffed with tiny sakura-ebi shrimp and accented with the distinctive citrusy zing of wild Timut pepper; and roti pancakes topped with charcoal-roasted chicken.
As a main dish, amadai (tilefish) was served in the Japanese way, with its scales beautifully crisped. The rice course featured a small curry served donburi-style on rice — as always, a mix of basmati and Japanese Koshihikari. And to close the meal, there was a rich chocolate ice cream and hot chai.
Matching Japanese ingredients with the flavor profile of his homeland, Adhikari is developing a modern take on Nepalese cuisine that is, at the very least, unique in Tokyo. Keep your eye on Adi, there is nowhere else like it.
Kamimeguro 2-46-7, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0051; 050-3184-4491; adi-tokyo.com; open lunch Tue.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., dinner Wed.-Sat. from 6 and 7 p.m., weekend lunch from 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (also open as a cafe Tue.-Fri. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.); closed Mon. (opening days and hours subject to change due to COVID-19); dal bhat lunch from ¥2,000, weekend set lunch ¥3,850, set dinner menu ¥6,600; takeout & delivery available; nearest station Nakameguro; nonsmoking; major cards accepted; English spoken
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