Formerly known for its South Indian cuisine, Taj Akasaka has widened its menu over the last two years. Now offering customer-requested staples like naan and tandoori, chef Ami and his team are also keen on introducing diners to regional street foods they might not have tried before.
A starter is the rassam soup (¥400) from the southern Tamil Nadu area, a house specialty. The hot, sour play of tamarind and tomato broth and other spices was a sharp wakeup call for our taste buds. It set a tough precedent for the rest of the meal. Paired with a simple bottle of Kingfisher lager (¥650), it settled us into a Bollywood state of mind.
Next was the Goan dish chicken cafreal (¥700)—legs and wings marinated and slathered in a popping mint and coriander paste, then grilled and served with lemon and salad. The grilled calamari (¥700), a South Indian favorite, seemed bland after the lively rassam soup. Following came the sookha (¥700), a northern dish of chunked mutton with a spicy dry rub—almost BBQ-style—tossed with garam masala and crunchy bits of fried garlic.
The aloo tikki chaat (¥600) is a street hawker food ubiquitous in India. These mashed-potato cakes, reminiscent of veggie burgers, are fried crispy on the outside, but softy and fleshy inside, filled with veggie goodness. Served with a slightly sweet tamarind mint sauce and a chutney, these were gobbled down quick, bringing understanding of why their name (chaat) means “devour with relish.”
Westernized classics are still on hand, such as samosa (¥500), palak paneer (cottage cheese cooked in spinach) and butter chicken with naan and rice (both ¥1,300). Asahi Super Dry is on tap for ¥500 (¥2,500/pitcher), with wine, etc. from ¥500, and chai or lassis if they are more up your street-food alley (¥400).
The challenge of the Devilz Egg Curry couldn’t be passed up. Hard-boiled eggs simmering in curry look innocent enough, but sautéed peppers and onions smolder in the spicy tomato sauce with peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom and a wicked garam masala. Be warned: the heat is a slow builder that leads to a very necessary lassi. If you can make it through (without the yogurt crutch), the dish—normally ¥1,300—is free.
We finished up with the chicken tikka masala—and my notes say one thing: “Delicious.” This is Ami’s thick, spicy take on butter chicken (not the overly sweet version) with a creamy, fire-orange sauce soaked up by cubes of tandoori chicken.
Add a vegetarian/vegan friendly menu, some interesting set menus and a bumper ¥1,200 lunch buffet, and the variety of Taj Akasaka’s hawker-style menu is something to return for again and again.