I didn't expect to walk away so happy from Keawjai. The mix of spicy, sour and sweet flavours that is so typical of Thai food but so sorely lacking in most Japanese renditions came out in full force at this drabby basement eatery in Shinjuku.
I got the set ramen lunch (900 yen), which came with Thai-style noodles in broth, a little fish cake with spicy sauce, fried rice and a dessert of sweet beans in coconut milk.
The broth for the noodles encapsulated everything that I find great in Thai food. Small peanut chunks added texture, dried shrimp added an extra layer of flavour, fish sauce added sour, a liberal amount of chile added heat, while coriander and other ingredients added the finishing touches to a dish worth its weight in gold. This was Thai street food at its best.
The fried rice unfortunately didn't measure up, and I had to pick up the Thai spice rack to spruce it up (Thai spice racks usually contain sugar, fish sauce with chile, dried chile flakes and another sauce with chiles floating in it). The dessert was also a bit on the sweet side.
Atmosphere wise, Keawjai does not score high points. It's located on the second basement floor of the Lumine 1 building in Shinjuku, and the place is pretty uninspiring. The jars of jasmine tea with stainless steel cups hanging from the wall waiting for customers to help themselves are a bit of an unusual touch, but otherwise this is not a place to impress anyone based on surroundings.
My take is that you should definitely pay a visit...just make sure you can handle the heat! (My dining companion to my left obviously couldn't and left half her food behind before making a quick exit to what I presume was the toilet or to find some liquid to calm her taste buds).