We visited five or six years ago this Indian restaurant that ended up not leaving any memorable impressions on us, if not that it was managed by what seemed to be people from the sub-continent. Without knowing that the restaurant's name and owners had changed in the meantime, I since kept on passing by the sign "Spice Kitchen Moona" thinking how bizarre such an average restaurant could stay alive in the fierce competition that face all the businesses in Shimokitazawa.
Looking on the internet for a place to have lunch the other day, how surprised was I to find out that not only the south-Indian cuisine restaurant "Spice Kitchen Moona" was getting rather glowing reviews, but that it was now managed by a Japanese family.
Loving Indian food, we quickly headed for the joint that is located on the top fifth floor of a multi-tenant building, the fourth floor being occupied by the famous musician Keiichi Sokabe's cafe-restaurant-record store "City Country City". The elevator stopping at the fourth floor, we got out and climbed the few remaining stairs to reach the colorful entrance.
Once in, we were first quite amazed at the view from the windows. It is no world heritage landscape for sure, but you don't often get to see the center of Shimokitazawa from such heights. The surrounding is crammed and rather ugly to be honest but it's got that metropolis "Enter The Void" feel to it that I like about busy Tokyo neighborhoods.
The second surprise came from that funny "Ghostbusters" rip-off notice on the table (with a Nan replacing the ghost) which says they don't serve "Nan" (Indian bread) but would rather have you eat their curries with Kaori-Mai (Jasmine rice or Thai fragrant rice). Typical of south-India cuisine where rice is staple food. They serve flat Indian bread "Roti" from 16:00 though.
There is only two lunch menus at noon, a one-curry set (¥980 if I remember well) and a three-curries set (¥1,100). We opted for the little expensive latter to sample a little bit of everything. Each set comes with a large plate of rice topped with what I think was Daikon (Japanese radish) and eggplant pickles and a little bit of non-sweetened home-made yoghurt (not in the picture)
I started by attacking the fish curry first. The fish seems to change time to time and the one we got on that day was one of my favorite "Sawara" (with the amusing English name "Japanese Spanish Mackerel"). Wow, it was cooked to perfection! Sawara can be the most tender fish if nicely prepared and boy they knew how to stew it! The curry was sweet tasting though quite chili hot, with an obvious coconut flavor, almost like a Thai curry. South Indian cuisine uses a lot of coconuts in its recipe, and "Spice Kitchen Moon" does the same. It definitely does wonders with that "Sawara" curry as it prevents the sauce from being too fishy. Good good stuff.
I then plunged my spoon in the pale-colored vegetable chowder "Sambar", a traditional and typical south Indian dish. I know it is usually based on Toor Dal (pigeon pea), but I have NO idea whatsoever if they used it in their recipe, so feel free to ask if you visit this place.
I have to say I was not blown away by that dish. Not that it was bad, but just that it was rather dull. This may be due to the fact that I ate the hot fish curry first, so I would strongly recommend that you start with the Sambar first to really be able to taste it fully.
As crumbled as the vegetables were, I still managed to recognize some onions, green beans and probably potatoes in the broth. The fresh coriander leaves you see on the picture are a leitmotiv in this restaurant, so tell them beforehand if you don't like these, as you'll probably spot them on every single curries.
The curry I kept for last was the good "Chicken Curry" which tasted pretty much like the fish curry. Coconut flavored, spicy, hot and more soupy than pasty (Please remember to check out the Sag Mutton Curry at "Spicia" if you're into pasty curries). Just like the fish which was very nicely stewed, the chicken detached itself from the bone with no particular teeth effort, but still managed to offer some resistance and flavor when chewed to.
I can not end this post without a little comment on the delicately flavored long grain rice. I am unfortunately not gourmet enough to tell you whether there is a chance it might actually be an Indian Basmati rice (though they would probably mention it somewhere if it was), but the presumed to be Jasmine rice was just dry enough to go along very well with the overall quite soupy curries. And the Nan freak that I am did not long for the bread so I guess it says it all.
I am definitely going back to this place. The family running it seemed very friendly, the little expensive lunch was still way worth it and they have few inexpensive items in the menu that definitely got me VERY curious: "Chinese pepper seasoned tomato salad", "Mushroom and fig salad", "Rice-Duck pate with Roti", "Deep fried mutton Keema pie and cheese, stewed in tomato sauce", "Cold shrimp marinated in seven spices"...
Spice Kitchen Moona is closed on Mondays
11:45am to 15:00pm and 17:00pm to 23:00pm (L.O. 22:30pm) from Tuesday to Friday
Noon to 23:00pm (L.O. 22:30pm) on weekends and National Holidays
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-12-13 5F
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