It is truly amazing what a friendly smile and a little bit of incense can do to alter your palette. I know that my taste buds were positively biased by the time I sat down at Magic India. No sooner had we walked into the second story Indian restaurant, in the middle of Numazu’s Nakamise, we were greeted by one of the cheery Indian cooks. The two other Indian cooks poked their heads out from the kitchen with another set of sincere smiles while the sweet perfume of Chandan incense and pungent spices from the kitchen curled their way into my nostrils. I was sold before I even sat down.
Our little group was seated by a window that afforded an excellent people watching spot of the Nakamise. The youngest of the cooks greeted us shyly in some words of English and waited patiently for our orders. I ordered the Chicken Masala with Naan bread dinner set for 980 yen (you can choose rice if you want too) and my wife ordered the smaller two curry dinner set, of mushroom and saag curry and butter chicken curry with Naan that set her back a mere 850yen.
As the rest of our group ordered it became evident that the cook’s level of Japanese was limited to restaurant lingo pleasantly interspersed with a few English words. For an expat like me with an equally limited grasp of Japanese, I felt quite at home and I wanted to make him feel as welcome serving us as he was making us feel. He was one of us.
Our meals arrived, trailing steamy vapors enriched with cinnamon and cardamom. Great wedge shaped Naan billowed over our plates as our table became obscured by food. Our conversations ceased, or were muffled, as we dove in.
I tore of a chunk of freshly baked naan and spooned curry onto it. The light, slightly chewy texture of the bread and the creamy curry made for a great combination. The curry was mild but full of flavour that was accentuated by fennel seed, its sourness subdued by the coconut milk. The first bite of curry laden naan is the best. As you take your first chew through the bread you can feel and then taste the curry pour onto your tongue. The bread sustains the curry’s richness in your mouth longer for your pallet to interpret each nuance of spice. The tastes lingered in the mouth as kudos was dished out to our friend who suggested this eat.
Somewhere along the line one of our party suggested that the naan was so good that they had to order another. I was up for the challenge too and ordered a second naan. Although the cheese naan or the cheese and bacon option looked tempting I was thoroughly enjoy the simplicity of the original bread. This time round I asked one of the cooks if I could catch a glimpse of them baking it. They were more than happy to oblige.
Walking over to the open kitchen I noticed that the cooks were actually using a traditional Indian wood fired clay oven. No wonder the bread tasted so good. One of the cooks was slapping away at a ball of dough until it made its traditional wedge shape before he palmed it onto the inside walls of the oven. Even before they put the lid back on the oven you could see air pockets starting to rise on the bread through the rippling heat emanating from the coals at the pit of the oven.
Was my opinion of my meal influenced and manipulated by warm smiles of the cooks, the burning incense and the clay oven? Of course it was. Though I imagine I would have had a great meal without these little sensory bonuses, I know that a meal is much more that what you consume. It is your attitude, the company, the aromas and the atmosphere that plays an equally important role in dinning. When the two come together, as they did for me at Magic India, you know you will be in for a treat.
English menu: Some English on the menu.The rest is mostly in Katakana.
Picture menu: Yes some pictures for you to make your selection.
Gaijin Friendly: Sure is. Run and operated by real live Gaijin like you and me.
Phone: 055 962 8202
Cost: A dinner set will cost your between 850yen to 1000yen. Lunch comes in cheaper at between 700yen to 850yen. Most side orders start at 250yen.