Burning food adds to the flavour?
Posted on 05 / 04 / 2014
I'm always reluctant to write bad reviews for vegetarian restaurants, especially an institution like Nataraj, who have been keeping vegetarians in Japan alive for years. But I think their reputation has got to them too much, and after my recent experience I feel I need to share it with anyone considering going there for dinner.
We ordered a typical meal for two: two drinks, poppadoms, pakoras, two curries and their vegan naan. When we got the Aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) it tasted horribly burnt, and the whole cumin seeds in it were charcoal black, so it was obvious they had burned the curry, or possibly just the curry powder. We politely told the waitress (who I think is the manager) that it tasted burnt and asked if she or the chef could try it to check it was how it was supposed to taste. She took it out the back and from where we were sitting we saw the chef try a spoonful.
The chef came out and told us that it was supposed to taste burnt like that, that it always does, and that it was perfectly fine and healthy and nothing to worry about. While their curries are rather insipid (even after paying the extra 100 Yen for them to add chilli powder so it tastes like a curry) it doesn't take a five-star Indian chef to know that burning a curry doesn't make it taste any better. The chef then told us that its easy to burn aloo gobi because its a dry curry (which is true) but still tried to pass it off as intentional to add flavour.
We finished the whole meal except for the burnt curry, and as I got up to pay the manager came over and, seeing that we hadn't eaten it, apologised again for it being burnt. She then proceeded to charge us for it!?! So after a 7,000 yen meal for two we left feeling hungry and unsatisfied, and with a burnt taste in our mouths - literally!
Also beware that they don't include the tax in their prices, so especially with the recent increase your meal will cost significantly more than you expect, and certainly more than a much better meal would cost at Govindas, Gopinathas or my personal favourite Veggie Herb Saga. Their lunch buffet, however, is still the cheapest filling meal in Tokyo, so if that's what you want it may be worth a visit. But their dinner menu is simply not worth the cost, even if you can convince them not to burn your curry.
cheap lunchtime buffet
burn their curry to give it flavour???, small portions (a la carte), expensive (dinner)