We Japanese love rice; we’re quite obsessed with rice, in fact. We all have our favorite brand of rice, depending on the specific type of rice and the location it was grown (yes, location is very important and can greatly affect the price of the rice), and some people shell out a fortune to buy super-expensive “high-end” brand rice. But not many Japanese people are familiar with biryani, the spicy flavored rice common in India and some Muslim countries as well.

One of our reporters at the Pouch site recently had the chance to taste some excellent biryani right in the middle of Tokyo and shares with us her experience. Her report follows below.

Biryani comes in various flavors and styles depending on the country or region, and once you acquire a taste a for it, you’re bound to want to try many different types of biryani. In Japan, you usually have to go to an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladesh Restaurant to get biryani, but we were surprised to discover that there is a specialty biryani shop (probably the first of its kind) right here in Tokyo, called Biryani Masala, run by a Japanese chef who has fallen in love with biryani — and it’s only open on Sundays.

The shop is located in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo, very close to Kyodo Station of the Odakyu train line, and the reason why it’s open only on Sundays is because it’s part of a restaurant sharing scheme (called the “Share Restaurant Rudder” ) where different restaurants open shop on different days of the week using the same location. Business hours can vary but the shop is usually open between roughly 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., and if you’re lucky they’re open for lunch on some days as well. If you’re thinking of going there yourself, you may want to check details on shop hours on the restaurant’s twitter page.

Apparently, the menu also varies depending on the day, but it’s basically an all-you-can-eat buffet with a drink. There are usually 3 types of biryani, which could be chicken, mutton and vegetable for example, and 2 kinds of home-made curry. There are also other dishes such as Uighur style sir-fried mutton, a yogurt-based Indian salad called raita or simple onion salad, all part of the buffet.

All of this sounds assuredly mouth-watering, and according to our reporter, the food doesn’t disappoint — as a matter of fact, it’s simply perfectly delicious, she says. Not only is the biryani cooked expertly, the rest of the dishes too are all guaranteed to satisfy even experienced connoisseurs of such ethnic cuisine. We guess that’s to be expected of a specialty biryani restaurant run by a group of people who have fallen in love with the dish, but it doesn’t make the food any less delightful.

What is also interesting are the unique discounts offered by the shop. There’s the “biryani T-shirt discount” where customers wearing the shop’s original T-shirt get a 500yen ($6.25) discount. Or, if you log in to Facebook and Twitter and upload a post with a photo, you can get 100yen ($1.25) off your order. But what we really recommend any customer to try is the “Eat with Your Hand Discount” where you get a 100yen discount if you eat with your hands, like it is done in areas where biryani is eaten locally.

Our reporter admittedly is crazy about biryani and has tried it in various countries including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and she says that in her experience, eating biryani or local curry dishes using your hands instead of a spoon makes it taste 100 times better. To the Japanese, it may be analogous to the difference between eating onigiri (rice balls) with your hands, which is the standard practice, and eating with a spoon, which we would never think of doing.

Interestingly enough, most customers at the shop when our reporter was there were eating with their hands. Well, if you’re willing to go out of the way to dine at a biryani specialty shop that operates only a very short time of the week, then you might as well go for the full experience. In any case our reporter fully recommends that you try eating with your hands, as she feels it definitely makes a difference in how the food tastes.

Oh, and if you’re concerned about getting your hands dirty, you needn’t worry. There’s a nice little hand-washing area right in the shop, which you’ll know is a very welcome touch if you’ve ever had the experience of eating biryani in other countries.

And last but not least, we can’t forget to mention the price. The all-you -can-eat buffet with one drink costs 2,500yen ($31.25) per person, but you can also have a plate of one biryani, some salad and raita with again one drink for 1,500yen ($18.75). Considering the prices, the buffet seems like quite a good deal, plus you’ll get to taste all three types of biryani. They do have alcoholic beverages and lassi, the popular yogurt based Indian drink as well, but our reporter thought the shop’s original hot chai was particularly delicious and not to be missed.

The restaurant has a nice, even romantic, atmosphere, and all in all, the shop comes highly recommended by our reporter. If you enjoy a bit of spice with your rice, and happen to be in Tokyo on a Sunday evening, we hope you have a chance to try the briyani at this unique and delightful restaurant. And don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

Restaurant Details for Biryani Masala
Address: Arms Kyodo 2F, 2-6-1 Kyodo, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Business Hours: Open Sundays only, Refer to shop’s Twitter page for details

Report and Phots by: Hatopon

Links: Biryani Masala on Twitter (Japanese)
Biryani Masala on Facebook (Japanese)

Enjoy some other photos from the restaurant!

[ Read in Japanese ]