Spice and Everything Nice: nandi
I confess: I am a spice addict. I have a shelf in my tiny kitchen that’s brimming with turmeric, paprika, garam masala, cinnamon, whole cloves, cardamom pods, herbes de provence, even some Old Bay from my native Maryland, among others. So believe me when I say that local curry legend nandi know their spices, and it puts their authentic curries ahead of the crowd. [日本語]
It’s a Sunday right in the middle of a three day weekend when me and my gracious friend, a connoisseur of good food in her own right, arrive at nandi and there’s a group of five good-natured gentlemen waiting outside to be seated, each debating what to order. The restaurant itself is relatively small, a natural white facade with a simple line-painting of an endearing cow at rest on the wall. After a short wait, we’re welcomed inside and take our seats at the counter (which has the best view of the kitchen). The promising smell of different spices mixed with the sunlight streaming through the windows and the door makes the place feel even more warm and cozy. The kitchen is also modest where the proprietor simmers up curry magic and sets plates with domes of golden rice infused with turmeric and mustard seed, accompanied by two different types of pickles, one with a hint of spice and the other more mild.
The menu features several different curries, each with a short description, and after some debate, I decide to try the Winter Vindaloo and my companion settles of the classic Butter Chicken Curry, and of course, a post-meal chai.
The chef doles out different curries from well-used, well-aged, heavy-set pots. You can tell alot about a place by looking at the pots and cooking ware, and to me, there is no surer sign of a good meal to come than when I see blackened pots mottled with patches of dull silver-gray. These pots are home to curries that have been given time to simmer and mature, that have sauteed vegetables, meats, and whole spices, and their oils are flavorful and rich.
The Winter Vindaloo arrives glossy with big, tender pieces of simmered pork shoulder that come apart with the slightest pressure from your spoon. Minced garlic and onion give the curry a fantastic texture and consistency, perfect for pairing with rice. Spicy, but not too overpowering, and tempered with just enough vinegar, this vindaloo is an authentic Indian experience. Alternating between bites of rice, steamed slightly on the sturdy side to better serve as an escort to the curry, crunchy pickles, and buttery-soft pork shoulder, each of the different textures builds on the other, creating a complete taste experience that’ll have you reluctant to put your spoon down.
And then came the chai. So, I’m a bit of (even more of?) a snob when it comes to chai because it’s a drink that is so near and dear to me, having perfected my own version after being dissatisfied with most readily-available chai. But after trying the vindaloo, I was certain that nandi would not let me down, and I was right. Served in a petit enamelled pot, complete with two hunks of sugar and a small glass all on a tin tray, this chai had me at hello: rich and caramel-colored, bursting with vibrant spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. What better way to end a beautiful meal than with this beautiful chai?
In a small corner of Hiroshima City, there’s a place where the spice flows. A place where spice addicts can congregate, where curry enthusiasts can find repose. Nothing extraneous, nothing extra, and everything good, nandi is proof that simple is best.
Oh, and the Butter Chicken Curry? In a word: Exquisite with a capital E. But you’ll have to experience that for yourself.
Address: Komachi 6-20, Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
Opening hours: 11:00-22:00
Thursdays run until the curry runs out; check their Facebook page for details)
A schedule of their days off can also be found on Facebook.