Oshiage, in the northeast corner of Tokyo, isn't exactly a food-lover's destination, but we think it deserves a spot on the gourmet map simply because it's the closest station to Spice Cafe. The chef here is a veteran of a hotel restaurant in Kerala, India, and he prepares authentic, first-class curries in this cozy little hideaway. Word is out, though, and most tables are reserved for both lunch and dinner every day.
The cafe-restaurant occupies an old wooden apartment, decorated throughout with fresh flowers. Although the dining area isn't exactly spacious, the open-plan arrangement and the recycled wooden chairs and tables give it a comfortable and homey atmosphere. Attached to the dining area is a small gallery showcasing paintings and ceramic works by young artists.
If you come at dinnertime, we recommend the omakase menu - two starters, three curries, three desserts and coffee or tea for Y3500. What's unusual is that most of the starters are European dishes, followed by Indian curries.
A recent meal began with bacon quiche; a salad of carrots, nanohana greens and shiitake mushrooms; and homemade sausages. These were all well above average in quality, and the homemade bread was excellent. For the main course you can choose three out of the four curries on the menu - chicken, mutton, vegetable and curry of the day. The daily curry is often a specialty of southern India, and it was Kerala-style fish curry on the day of our visit..
We were most impressed by the smooth, subtly spiced chicken curry. The vegetable curry was milder, and the mutton was rich and creamy. The Kerala-style fish curry had an appealing sour flavor, balanced by fresh tomatoes, and we thought it would be perfect with a cold beer on a hot summer day. In general the curries here are less greasy than we've found elsewhere in Tokyo, and incorporate a well-balanced blend of various fresh spices.
Although beer is probably the best match for the curries, wine goes well with the delicious appetizers here. Prices are very reasonable: bottles start at Y2000, with wine by the glass from Y450. The drinks menu also includes unexpected choices like cider, Calvados and grappa. Reservations are highly recommended for both lunch and dinner. The set lunch is Y950, and it includes a curry, salad, dessert and coffee or tea.