Puru Nima (Kansai Scene, July 2005)

Puru Nima Indian Restaurant and Bar, Shinsaibashi

Puru Nima, an Indian restaurant tucked in behind the landmark SpoTaka sporting goods shop in Shinsaibashi, opened for business in December of last year. It is a 3rd-floor L-shaped room and you can sit at the tables along the windows or take a seat at the horseshoe bar tucked into the foot of the L. The lighting is gentle and adds a cosiness to the place. When I dropped in, in late-May, a large TV screen showed the latest Indian music videos, which set just the right tone without deafening patrons and passers-by. Some evenings, Bollywood movies are shown, or anything else the customers, by consensus, would like to see.

Puru Nima has several set menus (lunch sets range in price from ¥650 to ¥1200; dinner sets range from ¥1500 to ¥1900, with a special ¥3000 couple’s course – ¥2500 for vegetarian). I assembled my own dinner from the menu, starting – I’m Canadian, after all – with a bottle of beer (Maharajah, ¥500). On the staff’s recommendation, I tried their own original dish, garlic chicken (¥1200). To go with it, I tried the aloo-bengan, a potato and eggplant curry (¥900), and a cheese naan (¥450). Mr Ganesh, the chef, is from Northern India, and his dishes have been adapted from recipes from that region to suit local tastes. In other words, if you want your food really spicy, you should request it beforehand, and he’ll be happy to oblige. For those of you who carry their taste buds with them in a little box, the way a pool hustler carries his cue, Mr Ganesh can ratchet up the spiciness of his curry by about 50 levels. I took his word for it and settled for level 3. And I’m still here to tell the tale.

The garlic chicken is a kebeb marinated in a garlic sauce, cooked in a tandoor –an Indian oven – and served sizzling and unskewered on a hot iron dish, buried in shreds of finely-sliced onion. The aroma alone is worth the price. The garlic sauce is sweet and full-bodied, but not overpowering, and the onions aren’t decoration: they go great with the chicken.

You might expect, when you order an eggplant-potato combination, to get a dishful of something fairly colorless. You’d be wrong; tomato, slow-cooked into the curry mixture, gives the aloo-bengan the hue of a Japanese mailbox. The eggplant mixed well with the ginger in the curry, and the potatoes were firm but not crunchy: in other words, just right. The cheese naan, a generous basket of tasty triangles, helped mop it all up. For that matter, all the dishes were generous: I had help eating all this and was still full when I got up (laboriously) to leave.

The management told me they wanted to run a shop where people could feel free to come in and request dishes to suit their own taste – like coming over to a friend’s place to eat and hang out. As if on cue, someone did just that – an Australian fellow, a recent arrival, was out looking for an izakaya to bring some visitors to. He came across Puru Nima’s ground floor sign, brightly painted up in Indian-flag colours, and wandered up to the 3rd floor to check it out. He ordered up a meal, and declared himself pleased, saying he was done izakaya-hunting and would probably bring his mates to Puru Nima instead. I’ll bet they weren’t disappointed.

Sidebar (unpublished){Once upon a time (1989), when I first washed up on these shores, a curry was a curry was a curry: a bland, pasty thing made from a brownish-yellow block which you bought at the store (or the cook, at the restaurant you went to, bought at the same store), and there would be four ingredients (beef, onion, potato, carrot) and there would be no other, amen. Osakans have a lot more choice nowadays, and the real thing is now readily available all over the city.}

Until recently, Hindi on a menu would make patrons break into a sweat even before ordering their meal. It’s now commonplace, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with Indian food (or the Japanese translations), here are the basic curry ingredients: try them in various combinations (with or without meat).

Aloo – potato
bengan – eggplant
bhindi – okra
chana – chick peas
daal – lentils
gobi – cauliflower
navrattan – mixed vegetables
paneer – Indian cheese
saag (or palak) – spinach (usually pureed in a curry)

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