It finally happened. I’ve reached an age where I’ve conquered my self-doubt to be confident enough to protest paying for a meal when it’s not up to scratch. Even so, it takes a bit of steeling and it can leave a taste that is worse than the food.
Drastic though this sounds, Moti was really asking for it. Moti are taking their customers for a ride so hard and so fast that you’ll reach the moon and back before you’ve blinked twice.
Last Friday night, I had been volunteering with a friend at the Lee Mingwei exhibition (which I discuss here) at the Mori Arts Museum in Roppongi Hills. I’d nestled into a sofa in the ‘Living Room’ and spread out a few of my personal belongings on the coffee table to see who might stop by for a chat. No ‘Free Hugs’ sign needed, it was a great way to spend the evening communicating with strangers. As well as spouting a load of gobbledy-gook Japanese, prompting one old lady to check her wristwatch in dismay, I got to chat Korean food with Koreans and anime with an animator from Pixar! I love the concept of how an interesting conversation or an intriguing connection might be in the person standing right next to you, but you just never thought to speak to them.
Enjoyable though hosting was, it was approaching 10pm and I was ravenous. In fact, I’d been hungry before I’d turned up and had been repeatedly muttering: GIVE ME INDIAN FOOD. None of this sweet stuff or smoky fish broth! Give me spice! Give me spices! The cravings were very strong.
To our delight, Moti showed up in Google about 5 minutes walk away with a respectable 4 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor. How bad could it be?
We were shown to a table and were immediately asked whether we were paying by cash or card. This seemed a little abrupt but it was late and we guessed they wanted to be efficient about things.
The manager arrived to take our order – I took a mixed curry dinner set for 3,150 yen and prayed that the price was reflective of quality and not Roppongi, a wealthy expat area of Tokyo.
The manager asked whether I would like tea or coffee to follow the meal. I told him I’d decide later, at which point he froze and gave me a pointed look as if to say, “Why do you have to be difficult?” Bemused, I ordered tea.
The food arrived and I tucked into the tikka chicken. Except I think it was once a chicken but had subsequently been cooked and microwaved to give it a moisture content equivalent to the Sahara Desert. I immediately called a waiter over and asked for a replacement. Without a word, he disappeared. A game then ensued, called ‘Let’s see how many members of staff can visit our table before a new piece of chicken arrives.’
The new chicken piece did eventually arrive – a great fat brick that tells me that the chef at Moti clearly subscribes to the mantra ‘bigger is better’. Well, I can assure you that – in this case, at least – it really isn’t. It might actually have been worse. As my companion put it, the chicken was inoffensively bland until it broke into little dry balls in his mouth and soaked up any saliva he might have.
I told the manager it was still very substandard and the curries were underwhelming. He seemed nonplussed and sauntered off.
The curries are not worth describing in detail, although it’s worth noting that they hadn’t even been heated through properly. Think bland, poor quality meat steeped in lukewarm sauces that were so excessively rich and creamy that I felt quite unwell. The faint tingle of when the tongue detects something spicy was but a distant memory.
Yet, despite all these atrocities committed in the name of Indian cooking, it wasn’t the food that undid Moti: it was the service. One waiter was designated the bill pest, which resulted in him pestering us no less than three times with it before we’ve finished eating. He must have finally got frustrated because he came over to our table, picked it up, turned it over, and held out his hands for cash!
Whilst I would love to pretend this was a scene from a Tokyo spin-off of Fawlty Towers, this was very real and very alarming. At strike 3, I sent the waiter away, finished eating what I could of the mush, and asked to speak to the manager.
To his credit, the manager finally remembered how you’re supposed to treat customers and apologised, although he emphasised that the service was due to the fact it was late and they close at 11pm. This was an interesting excuse because we exited the restaurant at 11pm on the dot, even after this rigmarole. There should be a sign outside that reads ‘If you enter past 10pm, it’s time to play by different rules.’ He also waffled on about how the food was not to our tastes but loads of celebrities and Bollywood stars love the food. Because being able to dance is a clear marker of good taste.
We offered to pay 2000 yen each, but he waived the fee. Not once did he answer my simple question:
‘Would you serve this food in India?’
Moti, Roppongi 1/5 – For service so bad its comedic and dire imitations of Indian food, don’t fail to stop by!
Where: 2-14-31 Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
When: Preferably never