Monday, 14 November 2011

Nan Station in Shimokitazawa

Back in Canada, particularly in Vancouver, I used to go out for sushi pretty often.  In Vancouver, sushi joints are everywhere (kind of like combinis in Japan), more often than not run by Korean immigrants, inexpensive and tasty.  What I didn't really think about back in Canada was how un-Japanese the sushi I actually ate was.  Sure I wouldn't refuse a piece of kappa or oshinko maki, but the rolls I usually ordered were usually stuffed with avocado, an assortment of vegetables, or yam tempura.  Try to find sushi like that in Japan and you're going to be sadly disappointed.   And sadly disappointed I was, and also in need of a new fallback cuisine.  Right on cue, Bollywood dancing into my heart, came the Indian restaurant.

Don't get me wrong.  I've always been an appreciator of a good Indian meal.  Living in Montreal I savored many a dirt-cheap and oh-so-satisfying thali.  But living in Vancouver or Montreal, with such an abundance of amazing vegetarian and vegan restaurants (and clearly marked options, or comprehending staff in omni places), I just didn't rely on Indian places in the same way.  In Japan they've become the safe bet that I'll take when in an unfamiliar neighborhood and not in the mood to do a lot of menu deciphering and explaining.  Indian places are also a good bet for dining with omni friends who, despite being cool about my dietary choices, would rather bite into something meaty.

By our old house in Higashimurayama, we had a favorite Indian place that we went almost once a week.  Since moving to Setagaya last December, and having a few places we liked close down or take a dive in quality, we had been on the hunt for a cheap and tasty Indian place, which also had to be in one of the areas we find our selves in often, namely Shinjuku, Shibuya, or the Shimokitazawa area.  Our hunt was over when, about 6 weeks ago, a friend and I decided to try a little place in Shimokita called Nan Station.

Nan Station is a pleasant little hole in the wall, with just two tables inside plus bar style single seating.  Outside on the patio there are two more tables, and the whole place is open air as during the warmer months.  The prices are unbeatable, with their cheapest curry and nan sets costing only 500¥ (or 340¥ for  just curry)!  The lovely staff speak English, and said they can prepare vegan curries and rice on request.

It's not the prettiest curry I've ever ordered, but consistently tasty, and undeniably a bargain.
If you go to Nan Station I highly recommend that in addition to your curry, you try an order of aloo achar.  This server translated the name of this dish into English as potato pickles.  I can't say it was like any pickles I've ever eaten, but this flavorful dish of cooked potatoes with chilies, spices and sesame oil  was a big hit with myself and both friends that have accompanied me to this restaurant.  Recently, A-chan and I have taken to splitting one order of nan between two curries, so that we can each order our own aloo achar without feeling like gluttons  You won't find this item on the regular menu they hand you, but rather on a separate appetizer list, which seems to get handed out when the restaurant is less busy.  So if you don't see it on the menu, ask for it by name (potato pickles also works)!

aloo achar (potato pickles)

Nan station is also a comfy place for a meal for one, as there are always a few singles seated at the bar.  It also seems to be popular with expats, as there always seem to be a few non-Japanese faces around, often seen chatting with the friendly staff.

So if you are in the Shimokitazawa area with a hankering for curry, do give Nan Station a try.  You just might become a regular!

How to get there:  From the North (北) exit of Shimokitazawa station, head to the right for a few blocks. When the road comes to a T, head to the left.  You'll soon see Nan Station on the ground level on your left.

Address: 東京都世田谷区北沢2−30−11北沢ビルB1F

Kitazawa Building, 2-30-11 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

telephone: 03-5454-3006

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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Vi-Sand: Vietnamese subs in Shimokitazawa

(somewhat) vegetarian friendly restaurant (will customize on request) CLOSED

Youthful, eclectic Shimokita is a cool little area not 10 minutes away from Shibuya on the Keio Inokashira line.  It's only about a 15 minute walk from my house, and I'm often there on weekends, poking around, perusing my favourite thrift shop or picking up some groceries.  So it's a bit surprising to me that in the last 6 months of blogging, I've only mentioned something specific to Shimokitazawa once, in my natto vending machine post back in June.  The truth is, despite it looking very much like a place that I would imagine to be a veggie hotspot, Shimokita has failed to deliver in the veggie restaurant department.  If you know of any places, I'd be happy to be proven wrong!

In the meantime, I have had some tasty veggie meals in some onmi restaurants, including a newish restaurant by the name of Vi-Sand.  Specializing in Vietnamese sandwiches, you're not going to find a lot of veggie options on the menu, but I can recommend the tofu and vegetable sub.  This sandwich usually includes liver pâté, so make sure to tell the staff if you are vegetarian and would like yours without!  Your baguette will come stuffed with tofu, fresh veggies, your choice of cilantro or mint, and hot sauce if you so desire.  When I dined there on Friday evening, my sandwich and mini side of potato salad came to 750¥.  While it's not an especially filling meal if you are a big eater, it would be a nice size for a sensible lunch, or to compliment with dessert, or perhaps another dish to share with a friend.

Vi-sand is quite easy to find.  From Shimokitazawa's South (南) exit, head towards the McDonalds, through the archway and straight down the street for one block.  Take the first left after the McDonalds, where there is a Docomo shop on the corner.  You'll see Vi-sand just ahead on your left.

This restaurant has closed.  
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