15 July 2013

Tokyo: Nataraj

It’s always time to either get coffee or eat in Tokyo.  Shelley and I literally got up from Starbucks (did I mention it’s the only place you can reliably get an iced tea with soymilk in the area?) with the express purpose of going to lunch.  We would’ve been at lunch within 15 minutes if not for Lonely Planet’s map impotence.

Okay okay.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Lonely Planet.  Whenever I start planning a new trip, I rush out to buy the newest LP on the destination because they have consistently proven to be the best all-around travel guides, especially for people of my generation.  So you can know that when I’m talking smack about this particular map of Ginza in the 9th Edition Lonely Planet Tokyo of August 2012, I have ample cause to complain, but still would endorse Lonely Planet on the whole.

The problem wasn’t so much that the map itself was wrong, just that Nataraj – the reportedly fabulous and highly recommended vegetarian Indian restaurant – was mislabeled.  Try as we might, Shelley and I couldn’t find a trace of the place within a two-block vicinity of where the map claimed it was.  We asked a few Tokyoites and the address and map confused them too.  We searched for half an hour, considered giving up a couple of times, and felt our hunger sharpen by the minute.  (First world problems.  BUT.)

A nicely dressed expat American eventually saw us and took pity on us – he asked us what we were trying to find.  “Nataraj, the Indian restaurant?” we said.

“Oh, the vegetarian place!  I’ll walk you over.”

Success.  Lonely Planet map be damned.  It said Nataraj was #22, but it was really located at #38, where LP reports there’s a store called Natsune.  We rode the elevator up 7 floors and promptly forgot all our problems as we stuffed our faces.

Several times, did we stuff our faces.
Oh look, an accurate map.

… It was a lunch buffet.  What.

7th-9th floor, 6-9-4 Ginza
Chuo-ku, 104-0061 Tokyo
+81 3-5537-1515

Being a vegetarian restaurant, the vegan items were clearly labeled in English, which made filling our plates a breeze.  Lunch was ¥1100 ($10.87).  All you can eat.

We were pleased as punch with the salad.  The Japanese dressing was miso-based and delicious.  I mean, not like you can really ever go wrong with miso, but somebody in the kitchen knew what they were doing with that stuff.  The vegan nan, as they spelled it, was crispy and chewy at once, just as good as the ones I make on my own griddle.

Each of the 3 curries sang with flavor.  The Dal was nice and simple, the classic taste enhanced by quality ingredients.  The Mixed Bean Curry had a kick and a zing, with more chunk and another fabulous curry taste.  And the Baigan Musalam was like amazing tomato soup, mild, smooth, and with these incredible bits of eggplant that had soaked up the flavor and made you want to hold them on your tongue forEVER.  That was our fave.  All three were a little watery, but I didn’t mind soaking the extra sauce up with more nan.

After that amazing meal, and after marking up our Lonely Planet map, we bounced out onto the streets, full of energy, and headed up to the gardens of the Imperial Palace.  As we entered the grounds, our feet fell upon a path not of nice paved road or sidewalk, but of gravel.

“Oh good,” I said.  “Gravel.”

This was the funniest thing either of us could have said.  In retrospect, maybe we were drunk on dal.  Or, we’re hilarious.  You decide.

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