2 March 2013
I am in Kamla Nagar, have just got the new Airtel SIM card that, everyone assures, will usher me into a new level of connectedness, a veritable new avataram; now I look for a place to eat, turn a corner and see this sign: “Harajuku: Japanese Sweets and Snacks”. I enter excitedly, harbouring visions of tempura, mochi (sticky rice) and azuki bean paste sweets, despite the over-the top and overwhelming pinky pinkness of the “get-up” (thank you, Madhav)–after all, there ARE models of food in the windows.
Well, it only takes a few seconds for me to become rapidly disillusioned — the waitresses wear pink dresses and white aprons, the first panel of foods on the wall menu consists of – crepes. Gelato, yoghurt…what?!? I hurriedly pass to the next panel — sushi, ah, that sounds better. So I ask about it. Two kinds, I’m told–non-vegetarian containing chicken, and vegetarian containing…you guessed it! PANEER! Six pieces in a plate. I swallow and ask, doubtfully, would you give half and half of each kind? Nahin ji, aise hi aataa hai, ham badal nahin sakte. Okay, that decides it.
So I look at the other items, and pick the (chicken) teba (what?? I am disbelieving, but have since discovered that fried chicken wings are a favourite in Japanese pubs…hmm), which comes with fried rice or…you guessed it! PANEER!!. I order it, anyway, with green tea (after some discussion while I convince them that no, I DO NOT want bubble tea) and sit down to wait, with many misgivings.
Misgivings that grow when I read some of the other items–the snack crepe, for instance, is a crepe filled with, yes, indeed, you guessed it, paneer tikka, fresh salad and potato salad…and on.
Finally, my dish arrives: the green tea is a Twinings tea bag in a paper cup, and the teba comes in a cardboard box. I gingerly open it, and find in it one battered and fried chicken wing. Feels a bit like being back on Long Island, I think, and go on to examine the other items on offer. Sliced onions topped with a green dollop! Wasabi!!?? I jump at it in excitement, dip the chicken wing in the green mass, but my nose betrays it even before my tongue meets–the dhania-pudina chutney. Sigh.
So it may be, after all, that the only things Japanese about the place are the food models.