Top 3 Indian restaurants in Tokyo: recommendations from an Indian ‘Gaijin’

I rarely go to Indian restaurants. It’s not that I dislike them. I’m just very fussy when it comes to Indian food. Don’t you dare put anything on my plate that my mum won’t approve of. Food that is heavily catered to the Japanese palate is not for me. I’m also not a fan of the greasy takeout type restaurant. I want soul food. You know what I’m talking about. I want a meal that takes me back to my thousands of years of heritage with that first bite. 

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On the rare occasion that I do walk into an Indian restaurant in Japan, an awkward three seconds ALWAYS go by. Oh… you’re one of us. Brown people are rare in Japan. A brown woman with no husband or kids? I might as well be a unicorn. In my line of work, I mainly deal with Japanese people and the occasional Westerner. I’m used to being an outsider. I’ve been one of them for so long that I’m almost startled by the revelation that I can also be one of us

To date – the best Indian restaurant I’ve been to in Japan has been in Kobe. That was over two years ago and I wish I remembered the details of the restaurant. Ah well… You live, you learn. In the meantime, let me tell you about my favourite Indian restaurants in the Tokyo area.

3. Ganesha

This place is near Tokyo Tower and easy to access if you’re in the area for sightseeing. A friend of mine who’s a big fan of Indian food and a regular at Ganesha brought me here one evening. The menu is pretty standard – but the food is good, fresh and authentic. The service is warm and the prices are reasonable. Oh and we all got free lassi on the house. My friend was super jealous. He’s been going there for years and never got free anything. He said my presence also magically made the food spicier. The joys of having brown friends. 

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Salty lassi. Image courtesy of Raksanand.

2. Dhaba India

Ok – now this place is special. Firstly, they have dosai. YAY! I love dosai. It’s an old childhood favourite of mine. They’ve also got other South Indian specialities like green banana and cauliflower coconut curry, Mangalorian crab curry and the like. A lot of the dishes were new – even to me. I approve. This place is always super busy so be prepared to wait. I HIGHLY recommend Dhaba India if you’re looking for something that’s not same old same old. YUM YUM YUM. Drool…

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1. Mumbai

Mumbai is a chain restaurant that has branches all over the Tokyo area. I’ve been to the one in Mark IS Place in Yokohama and let me tell you – I’m still in awe of the palak paneer. It was to DIE FOR. The naan was outstanding and the paneer was soft and delectable. The cuisine here is pretty standard and features all the old restaurant favourites. Having said that, it’s the most value for money place I’ve been to in Japan. Generous portions. Good price. Great food. Friendly staff. And yes – I got a lassi on the house. The joys of being my brown. My mum would love this restaurant – and when you think about it, that’s all that really matters. 

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Author: Dipa

Tarot Tales from Japan

20 thoughts

  1. Wow, now I am craving Indian food. I haven’t tried it too many times, but I look forward to trying the vegetarian options. Although, I do live in the Midwest USA… I might have to make a meal myself as options here are quite limited to pizza and hamburgers.

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    1. There are loads of simple recipes that you can make at home yourself 🙂 I prefer eating in to going to a restaurant anyway…

      Where in the Midwest are you?

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      1. Oooo I’ve never been. I should come check it out when I’m back in the US… at some point…

        Maybe I’ll write a couple of recipe posts soon 😀

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  2. Starving here, too. 😃 Love the part about your mother approving the food. The spices issue always cracks me up. A friend once invited me for dinner, and she’s the only person in the world who will use the same amount of Cayenne pepper as I do. She’s also part Hungarian, even though Hungarians are more inclined to use paprika (I like both).

    In Hungary you have lángos, this flatbread type thing. I think I mentioned this in a previous post. You’re meant to put savory things on it. Apparently they’re selling it to the Germans with a Nutella spread. That one really cracked me up. I get adjusting to the local palate (although I’m not a fan of that practice), but this was really a whole other extreme.

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    1. I’ve never actually tried Hungarian food – but now you’ve got me REALLY curious. I wonder if there’s a restaurant somewhere in Tokyo that I could go to…

      Hahaha – I love spicy food! I mean – non-spicy food is good, too… But there are few things as satisfying as having your mouth on fire.

      I hear ya about the flatbread with the langos.. Gotta get the locals accustomed slowly… NO BIG CHANGES. NO TOWERS. SCAAARRRYYY!!!

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      1. You know, there might be one, actually. The joke is there are as many Hungarians living outside of their country as there are living inside. It’s all the tragedies and occupations, you see. We had to leave.

        Hungarian food is very fatty and very spicy, bread and dough. And paprika. If you have some meat, so much the better. I’m a terrible cook, and when I do cook, I tend to make what I call pseudo-Asian cuisine, because I’ll use all the spices I love such as ginger, lemon grass, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, and coconut milk. And I try and remember what I liked about Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Thai food. Results vary. The other option is pseudo-Italian, because I also love oregano and basil.

        Never paid much attention to spices, they were always just there, until I moved to England and people told me their way of cooking was to not mask the flavor of the food with spices. I’m standing there going, “spices are what bring out the flavor.” Love the Brits. The food, not so much. 😃

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      2. well – if you come to Japan – feel free to be in touch! You’re welcome to come over for dinner of course 😀

        I’ll also take you to all my favourite restaurants.

        You’ve got me REALLY REALLY curious. I must find me a Hungarian restaurant. Might be tough in Tokyo. I need to move to a more cosmopolitan city…

        HAHA – my mum’s side of the family is British-Indian… I must say – the UK has the best Indian food I’ve ever had.

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      3. Thank you! And the same goes for you! I’d be really curious to see what they have in terms of Hungarian food in Tokyo. But if you ever do come here, I’ll take you to some places with really authentic Hungarian food.

        I learned to cook in the UK, because food. But the Indian food was out of this world.

        Wrote a whole comment previously and lost it, so hitting reply before the same thing happens again.

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      4. I’ll tell you what I find in terms of Hungarian food – if I find anything at all… HAHA!

        Indian food in the UK is EPIC. Not that keen on traditional British food either.

        Growing up, my dad used to joke, “What would the British have done without the Indians?”

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      5. Oh now I’m really curious. You have to let me know if and when you do. You’d have better luck with Swedish cuisine. Thought I remembered an article on a village in Japan that had deliberately turned itself into a mini-Sweden.

        Not just the Brits. Think of all the poor tourists and people living there. I’d be willing to bet though that the wave of chefs coming out of the UK had everything to do with Indian food. As in, “gee, you *can* put spices in food after all. Let’s see about what else we can do.” Apologies for the ridiculous pun. It’s late here, and I still haven’t mastered written comedy (not sure about the other kind, but I’ve been known to make a few people laugh. Btw, my humility comes from being a Gemini).

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      6. Haha – you’re a Gemini! My life has so many of them…! I’m a Pisces, by the way.

        I will let you know if I find Hungarian food… Although I must admit – I’m not hopeful…

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      7. I love Pisces. They always seem to come into my life when I’m looking for something, well, in need of something really. I’ll pm you soon. It’s been really busy, so hopefully will have some downtime soon. Fingers crossed for the Hungarian food. I’m actually in a Japanese restaurant picking up some food, because I wanted to try this place. 😃 We’ll see.

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      8. Actually better than most Asian options here. I think I mentioned this already, Hungarian cuisine is outstanding. As long as it stays Hungarian. You’re making my mouth water! Same here, I mean looking forward to hearing from you! Btw, could you please send me an email to budapesthelsinki? I can’t find your contact form. And FB won’t let me post from my blog page. Trying to keep accounts separated, because I’m having a standoff with my phone to see who will last longer. 😆

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