Japan has a long and rich reputation of embracing and improving touches of different cultures throughout its history. The origins of ramen are often traced back to China, countless shops full of American vintage clothing are reused to make new fashion trends, and its whiskies are perpetually in short supply. In Setagaya, Tokyo, up a narrow set of stairs and through a small door muffling the sounds of vintage Bollywood vocals, is a small restaurant doing exactly that. And for us, it was a cozy cure for bit of homesickness on a chilly Sunday night.
The restaurant, Shiva Curry Wara, was started a few years ago by Shinsuke Yamato. He and a pair of chefs are the only staff attending to the crowd of locals getting a taste of spicy curries and piping hot naan. The food combined some of our favorite aspects of Indian cuisine like complex layers of flavor and spice, but surprised us with touches of Japanese ingredients. We tried a pumpkin and yam curry, chicken tikka masala, dal and herb salad, which all had a lightness and freshness that didn't put us in an instant food coma.
The dishes manage to take the best aspects of Indian cuisine from all sorts of different regions, and are executed traditionally, but with many Japanese touches that reflect local produce and seasonality. The variety of rotating dishes is a result of Shinsuke taking yearly trips to different parts of India to learn first hand the techniques and complexities of Indian food through classes and a very curious palette.
He takes his understanding of Indian cuisine even further through a small zine he collaborates on with a friend. Currently, each volume focuses on single classic dish and examines it's many regional varieties which apply their own twists. Each zine contains wonderfully styled photographs, recipies, and history on the dish. All of his love for Indian food was clearly apparent to us as we walked out that night feeling content and full, and just a little less homesick.