Western Tokyo’s Dana Chula serves up exotic flavors to locals, servicemembers
Walking into Dana Chula Family Indian Restaurant, a quaint family-run restaurant located near Yokota Air Base in Western Tokyo, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the food, but the smell. That came as no big surprise, though. Dana Chula specializes in Indian cuisine, which relies heavily on a variety of pungent and unique spices — but the fragrant smell that lingered in the restaurant’s dining room was a pleasant one, and not at all overpowering. In fact, it made my stomach start to growl. I was ready to eat.
The friendly waitstaff gave me plenty of time to review the menu — which I was happy to find was available in both English and Japanese, allowing me to order with ease. For the budget-conscious, Dana Chula offers two main options for lunch: a single curry meal for 980 yen (about $8.60), and a two-curry meal for 1,080 yen. Both set lunches also come with a salad, as well as all-you-can-eat rice and naan, a type of Indian flatbread used for dipping into curry dishes.
The restaurant offers a wide selection of traditional Indian fare, such as mutton curry (750 yen) and chicken tikka (300 yen for three pieces), as well as some Japanese-inspired dishes. All curries allow diners to choose their preferred spice level — making Dana Chula a perfect introduction for anyone new to Indian cuisine.
After some deliberation, I chose the single curry meal with Creamy Butter Chicken curry and garlic naan.
Shortly after ordering, my waiter brought over the set lunch salad, which contained lettuce, carrot and shredded cabbage topped with a ranch-like dressing. While the salad was small, the flavor was decent and a nice way to begin my meal.
Looking around the restaurant, I noticed that a diverse mix of American servicemembers and Japanese locals had begun to fill the empty tables. What I assumed was a hole-in-the-wall Indian joint was actually a popular lunch spot for those who live and work in the neighborhood.
When I arrived around 11 a.m., the restaurant was fairly empty — so diners in a rush should plan on showing up a bit early, as I had, to beat the lunchtime crowd.
After polishing off my salad, the main course arrived. As soon as the aroma of garlic and curry hit my nostrils, my mouth began to water. Steam rose off the food in wispy clouds.
I ripped off a small piece of the freshly baked naan, which was warm to the touch and covered in crispy garlic flakes, and dipped it directly into the curry. The creamy richness of the curry immediately brought a smile to my face, as it reminded me of a squash soup my stepmother used to make for me when I was a kid — except this curry had a bit more kick from the Indian spices. The chicken used inside the curry was moist and flavorful, but not too plentiful.
Five minutes after my food arrived, I was surprised and slightly disappointed to discover that I had finished my entire meal. Still, as I finished what was left of my water, I was satisfied despite the small portion size.
Thanks to the courteous waitstaff and well-prepared food, Dana Chula made for a pleasant and unique dining experience close to base — and I’m sure this will now become a regular lunchtime destination whenever I’m in the mood for an affordable, filling meal.
Dana Chula Family Indian RestaurantLOCATION: 3-11, 6 Chome-14-2 Inadaira, Musashimurayama-shi, Tokyo-to 208-0023DIRECTIONS: From Yokota Air Base, turn left out of the East Gate. Make a right at the stoplight next to the nearby 7-Eleven convenience store, then make another left after the first stoplight. Dana Chula is located on the left side of the road a few meters past the intersection.HOURS: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.COST: Lunch sets start at 980 yen (about $8.60) for a single curry meal, which includes naan.DRESS: CasualINFORMATION: 042-520-8143 or online at danachula.weebly.com