Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on July 2007
Ten years ago, Ramzan Siddique opened his first restaurant near Shinjuku Gyoen Park. He now has 19 places. My former favorite curry shop happened to be a Siddique outpost in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho, a hole-in-the-wall joint where you insert coins in the menu box outside, get your ticket, then squeeze into a seat on a rotating stool at the narrow counter. Great curries, great nan, very cheap. The perfect spot when you need the red chili solace of a hot curry.
Ramzan’s newest spot, Siddique Palace, lives up to its name. The decor is lush. The great curries are even better. And there is belly dancing.
The tastefully designed space is suitably exotic: richly colored diaphanous fabrics curtain off sections of the dining room. Lampshades glow with crimson glass. Seating includes a sultan-sized banquette on one side of the room and linen-draped tables comfortably spaced on the other. Every table has a clear view of the raised stage, the reserved real estate of the belly dancers. The chefs and waitstaff are from Pakistan and India. The belly dancers are Japanese.
A quick search of the web will reveal that the difference between Pakistani and Indian cuisine is that Pakistani food is richer and more delicious, or that Indian food rules, or that Pakistan uses more meat and India more vegetables. The Siddique staff say the differences are minor, as both countries were once united. No matter how you define it, the cuisine at Siddique Palace is delectable.
The menu offers a wide-ranging choice of almost 40 curries, 17 types of tandoori, plus various salads, starters, nibbles and desserts. Course menus such as the Daily Set (¥1,300); the Lahore Set (¥1,850); or the Siddique Special Pair Course (¥5,000) offer very good value. The belly dancing is free.
The curries and tandoori are some of the best I’ve had. The curries are deeply flavored with a subtle blend of spices and heat. One very interesting dish is the chef’s special curry with its sweet notes of banana, apple and honey, underpinned by a bass note of heat. For a curry with kick, try the Lamb Do Piaza (¥1,350). Hot, but not too, and very tasty. For chili heads craving a capsaicin high, the chef will gladly raise the temperature on request.
The tandoori chicken is superb. It is thoroughly marinated with a rich combination of cumin, cardamom, ginger, garlic and other spices (two pieces, ¥700). If you feel princely, splurge on the tandoori lobster (¥4,800).
Don’t miss the kheer (¥550) for dessert. This creamy mix of basmati rice with milk, cardamom, shredded carrot and sliced almonds is by itself worth the trip.
There’s a full roster of drinks and cocktails, including subcontinent coolers like cassis lassi or mangoyan lassi (¥600 each) and Indian beers such as Maharaja or Kingfisher (¥700 each). Siddique also has a short, but well-chosen, wine list with winners like the excellent William Fevre Chablis at ¥5,500 a bottle—not much over the retail price.
Every weeknight at 7:40 and 9pm, Siddique presents a belly dance show. One waitstaff puts it this way: “Belly dancing has nothing to do with India or Pakistan. But we have to attract customers.” It works.