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TACHIKAWA, Japan — Curry has never been my first option in the dining world — and I wouldn’t say that’s changed entirely. But a recent outing to The Taj in Tachikawa at least bumped it up on the list.

The authentic Indian-owned restaurant sits on the ninth floor of Takashimaya department store and is more refined than its name indicates. The Taj is part of a Tokyo chain that also includes locations in Sendai, Akasaka and Tamachi.

My aversion to curry dates back a few years. Just outside Yokota Air Base’s East Gate, I had a less-than-ideal experience at Coco’s, perhaps most famous — or notorious — for its dishes measured on a spicy scale from 1 to 10. Despite a love for hot wings, I figured I’d better go with a "3."

It didn’t help. I couldn’t even finish half my plate, but the flames in my mouth burned on for a couple more hours.

I’ve since heard Coco’s described as a place people go to fill up before bedtime after a night of partying. There’s something similar where I’m from in the South. We call it Waffle House.

Coco’s certainly appeals to a large segment of the audience. It just wasn’t for me.

The Taj, however, offers a unique variety of spices and blends to satisfy anyone’s taste, even one as finicky as mine. Rather than simply curb the munchies, this is a place where you want to sit down and savor each bite.

Ramji Yadav, The Taj’s manager in Tachikawa, says he wants to "personalize" every dish that emerges from the kitchen.

"We must give our customers good, delicious food," he said. "I want to make them happy, and I want to keep them coming back."

The homestyle chicken curry with tomato sauce was superb. A small dish of mango ice cream made for the perfect ending.

I have always preferred Tachikawa over downtown Tokyo for a night outside the gates. It’s less expensive than Roppongi or Shibuya and easier to get around. But the restaurants and bars are just as trendy and charming.

The Taj, Tachikawa, Japan

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with lunch specials until 2 p.m.Prices: Appetizers 500-1,000 yen; entrees go for 1,500-2,200 yen; beer and cocktails 500-1,000 yenSpecialties: Authentic homemade curryEnglish menu: YesDress: CasualClientele: Mostly Japanese locals in their 20s to 40s. Great spot to bring a date or hang out with friends in a low-key but trendy setting.Location: From Yokota Air Base, go to JR Fussa Station. Take the Ome Line to Tachikawa Station, seven stops away. Turn left out the North Exit and go across the first breezeway on the right. Walk straight past Isetan department store and head into Takashimaya department store. The Taj is on the ninth floor.Web site:www.thetaj-jp.comPhone: 042-528-6686


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