Shibuya: Middle Eastern
Carvaan (Shibuya: Middle Eastern)
Open 11am-2, 5-10pm (LO) daily.
Sun: Open Sundays
decor: Notable decor
no smoking: No smoking

Carvaan is one of central Tokyo's few proper Middle Eastern restaurants (as opposed to informal kebab shops), and their kitchen turns out some very good dishes, although they can be inconsistent. The dining room is nicely appointed and has a lively atmosphere at dinnertime, and service is cordial and personable.

It might not sound very Middle Eastern, but the Arabian Burger is one of Carvaan's standout dishes. It's a voluminous lamb burger served with a harissa-tartar sauce and a Greek yogurt dip, and together they really bring out the flavor of the meat. The burger is topped with an appetizing combination of Feta and Monterey Jack cheeses, tabbouleh, grilled onions and tomato. Another menu highlight is the very meaty lamb tajine, infused with an invigorating blend of spices, swimming in a rich sauce ready to be soaked up by some aromatic cumin rice.

The Arabian Messe Plate isn't nearly as exciting though. At least the falafel is well prepared, but it feels like the spices in the dips are toned down, and the bread can be quite dry. The moussaka with ground lamb is also blander than we're used to for this dish. Meaty main dishes, though, seem to be the kitchen's strong suit, and there are a lot more to explore, such as Arabian Roast Lamb, Egyptian Grilled Chicken and Zoroaster Chicken Curry.

Carvaan's diverse wine list features bottles from a wide swath of Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia. Most wines are priced at around Y7,000-8,000 per bottle or Y1,000-1,300 per glass, and overall the wine list didn't leave us feeling like we were getting a bargain. They also serve eight beers from their own brewery, starting at around Y1,000 per glass.

The lunchtime menu is on the high end for Shibuya; for example the Arabian Burger, which is Y2,500 a la carte at dinnertime is somehow priced at Y3,000 for lunch. Budget around Y5,000-7,000 in the evening for dinner with drinks.

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-12, Shibuya Scramble Square 12F.
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Venue listing from Bento.com4 Star Rating: recommended