The Spice Trail was laid out before us; our duty was simply to follow…
So began our journey through eight courses at Spice Lab Tokyo. The premise was slightly outrageous – “the perfect union of new India and Japanese sensibilities” – but definitely intriguing and, from the first mouthful – a beautiful tomato jelly presented as an “Offering” to the “Temple” – it promised to deliver.
We moved on through tamarind-spiked pineapple to a plate of street food “classics” with a twist – chaat as ooba (perilla leaf) tempura with tamarind, mint and yoghurt; the bao with tamarind chicken; the samosa with five-spiced lamb.
Heading toward the Coastline, we encountered mustard ayu, followed by a plum and cumin palate cleanser, and succeeded by the”Emperor”. This was a dish that truly deserved to rule – pillow soft chicken breast cooked at low temperature, morels, broad beans, cashew nuts, fenugreek and saikyo miso (sweet white miso).
Then arrived the biryani cooked in bamboo and filled with summer vegetables and begging for seconds in its own right, and then thirds and fourths when smothered with its accompanying dishes of a fresh avocado and aubergine raita, a peanut and tamarind curry, and a rich and creamy mung bean dal,
If this sounds like a lot of food, you should be aware that all this comes with four kinds of kulcha (Indian leavened flatbread): butter, hojicha (roasted green tea), edamame and blue cheese, and sundried tomato and basil (the ultimate Indian pizza). Whatever combination of rice, sauce, or kulcha, the variety and depths of flavours took me down avenues of adventures, and led my Indian companions down memory lane.
By the time we got to the chocolate chickpea laddu with mango sorbet and passion fruit, I knew I needed to study – fill my ignorance of Indian cuisines. I also knew that the Spice Trail was actually a pilgrimage.
Fortunately, at the end of our meal. we were able to directly pay homage to Chef Tejas Sovani, who worked at Noma among others. He immediately returned our praise with a question: “Were you sceptical before you came?” When pressed on why he would ask, he explains that many do not believe delicate Japanese and robust Indian flavours could ever be married successfully. Indeed, it took hours of experimenting to perfect but Sovani has carved out an exciting new culinary path, and you would be foolish not to embark on the journey.
Spice Lab Tokyo
Daily: Lunch 11:30 – 15:00 (14:00 LO); Dinner 18:00 – 22:30 (21:00 LO)