Struggling to come up with meal ideas for her family, Matsuko from the animated film 'My Neighbors the Yamadas' finally took a stand and boldly proclaimed that she would make Japan's de facto national dish, curry and rice.
Japanese curry and rice, that is. For the purists, however, Indian curry is still number one. Spicier than Japan's version, Indian curry restaurants are almost a dime a dozen in Tokyo. Wherever you go, you can be assured that an Indian curry joint won't be too far away.
Arguably the best deal for Indian curry will be found at Mantra in Ueno, Tokyo. Serving both buffet and set courses, this little restaurant right by the famous Ameyoko-cho shopping market features an open kitchen where you can watch the chef making naan bread. Mantra also caters to vegetarians, tandoori chicken lovers and. with its halal menu, Muslims too.
The weekday lunch buffet, of course, is where you'll get the most bang for your buck. For a measly JPY998 Mantra will offer four different curries, rice, naan, and some salad. Curries change but always feature vegetarian options. For the carnivorously-minded, butter chicken is always popular. The fare is simple but if your belly is aching to be filled, Mantra's weekday buffet has simply got to be the best value lunch in Ueno.
If you're able to prise your stomach away from the lunch deal, there are grander options of lamb, chicken and vegetable available. Single dishes like mutton vindaloo and bhindi masala start from around JPY1200. Drinks are also available.
Simple and authentically fair, Mantra is an Ueno belly-pleaser priced to please. Perhaps Matsuko should have brought her family here instead.
Take the JR Yamanote line, Hibiya subway or Ginza subway line to Ueno station. From the JR station's Shinobazu Exit, head across the road into Ameyokocho. Mantra is on the third floor of the Nagafuji Annex Building, on the right as the path splits into two.