Pina Khana Kobe opened its doors in March this year, the latest incarnation of a chain of restaurants that at one time could be found up and down the country. Meaning literally wine and dine in Hindi, the Pina Khana brand has been nurtured by its founder Ravi Sharma, a 60-something entrepreneur whose adventures in Japan began way back in 1970.
After a stint as a hotelier and fashion retailer, his foray into the restaurant business began in 1990 with a tiny 40m/sq establishment in Osaka’s Kappa Yokocho, an arcade of hole-in-the-wall eateries tucked behind Hankyu station in Umeda. From this small place was born a recipe for success that Ravi used as a template to rapidly launch Pina Khanas all over Japan during the ‘90s. Most have since ceased operations, however, with the last remaining vestige to be found at the Universal City branch. Until now that is.
The spacious, open-plan interior of restaurant number 25, Pina Khana Kobe, contains many of the details one might find in Indian restaurants the world over – Ganesh statues, indian textiles, screens showing Bollywood movies, and… wait a minute, is that a gramophone? Antiques and curiosities accumulated by Ravi over 40 years help add to the ambience,but the functional table settings and laminated menus remind us that we’re here to dine, not to browse.
Two chefs busy themselves behind a long wooden counter under Ravi’s watchful eye. We’ve ordered the Indian Thali set for two, a generous selection of three curries, tandoori chicken, rice, salad, naan bread, poppadoms and dessert. A veritable feast, and at just ¥2,980 it’s great value.
The Saag Chicken (spinach and chicken curry) is mild, yet incredibly moreish, a perfect foil to the rich, creamy sauce of the Butter Chicken Masala and the complex blend of a zillion spices that is the Keema curry. All three curries mop-up exceedingly well with the freshly baked naan bread and there is plenty for two people. Drinks are extra, but an iced-cold Indian Kingfisher or Golden Eagle lager pairs well with curry, as does a soothing lassi when things get a little too spicy.
• Address: 652-0035 Hyogo-ken, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ku, Nishitamondori, 1-3-31 1F (3min from Hankyu Kosoku-kobe Stn, or 8min from JR Kobe Stn). Parking available.
• Tel: 078-576-7838
• Open: Lunch 11am–3pm, Dinner 5pm–10pm
• Price range: ¥787–¥4,000
• Go to dish: Butter Chicken Masala
• Best bit: Mint chutney. Slap it on the tandoori chicken and enjoy
• Worst bit: Location. Great if you live in the area, but a little out of the way otherwise
The homemade mint-chutney that accompanies the succulent Tandoori Chicken is a real treat. It isn’t often that the entire serving of any one condiment gets polished off, but this tangy sauce will have you reaching for more, and more. As with everything else on the menu, I am reassured that the recipe has remained unchanged for 20 years. For many that have enjoyed dining at a Pina Khana before, this new Kobe location will provide a welcome chance to enjoy such perennial favourites as Saag Paneer (spinach and cheese curry) and Butter Prawn Masala once again. For everyone else looking for some top-notch indian dining in Kobe, you won’t be disappointed to seek it out.