The Urban Housewife
3Nov/09

Tokyo A Go Go, Part 1!

I'm back from Japan & wow, what a whirlwind! While I did take in some slower paced sights in Kyoto & Nara, we spent a large portion of our trip in Tokyo, eating lots of food & dodging people on the busy sidewalks. You may be surprised to know that Tokyo has a fair amount of vegan restaurants, mainly due to the macrobiotic scene & their quest for healthy living. We had many meals in Tokyo & were unable to eat at even half of the options available to us! Here's part one of two of my guide to vegan dining in Tokyo, Japan!

Chaya Macrobiotic Seitan BurgerWe started our dining adventures at Chaya Macrobiotic, which is the formal restaurant of Los Angeles based M Cafe de Chaya. Located on the 7th floor of Isetan department store in Shinjuku, this is a popular place for ladies who lunch, so don't be surprised if there's a wait. Chaya has multiple locations with this one having a 1/2 vegan, 1/2 fish menu, but other locations are 100% vegan. We opted for the Chef's Lunch Special, which may seem pricey at approximately $30 per person, but with a starter, drink, rice or bread, & dessert included in the price, it's a fair price for an upscale spot. Chaya Macrobiotic Pumpkin RollWe loved the two breads served to us, one with fruit & walnut pieces, the other wheat with a delicious sesame spread. We couldn't say no when we were offered more! For appetizers, we shared creamy Mushroom & Sweet Potato Croquettes with a tangy tartar sauce, a side of salad, & a cold dish of seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, & beans topped in a soy mayonnaise sauce. For entrees, I had a vegetable curry with plump beans, millet, enoki mushroom, pumpkin, & zucchini, topped in a tofu cream. Ryan had the Seitan Burger, which turned out to be a bread-less, giant meatball in sauce with a side of local vegetables like lotus root & pumpkin. For dessert, I opted for the Mont Blanc, a popular Japanese dessert. While the cake was dry, the moist, thick filling & chestnut paste topping were delicious. Ryan had the Pumpkin Roll, a lightly sweetened, dense pumpkin cake rolled with a creamy filling & pumpkin seeds. We washed them down with rice milk & maple sugar sweetened tea!

Pure Cafe "Soy Vegeburg"After a walk through Shinjuku National Park, where we saw the largest spiders known to man, we headed to Omotesando Hills near Harajuku for dinner at Pure Cafe. Pure Cafe is housed inside the Aveda building down a side street off the main shopping drag & is one of the only places you can dine late in Tokyo with last order bring at 10pm.Apple Crumble, Pure Cafe We showed up quite late, meaning a fair amount of dishes had run out for the day, but there was still a good selection. We started with samosas, which I wouldn't call Indian spiced, but they were tasty. I opted for the Ratatouille which was a cold dish of lotus root, carrot, potato, & other vegetables in a tomato based sauce. Ryan had the "soy vegeburg" which was a flavorful patty made from tofu & spices, a bit mushy, but still good, with a side of seemingly undressed salad. Pure Cafe is known for their desserts, so we had to indulge! The Mocha Cocoa Tart had a thick crust with a bittersweet chocolate tofu filling, much like the chocolate tofu pies that are commonplace for vegan dessert. The Apple Crumble was sweet with soft apples & crusty edges, a maple drizzle, & delicious crumble top; the clear winner in the dessert battle! We also took home peanut butter brioche & banana bread, but I can't say I was blown away by either of them.

Mominoki House's delicious Croquette!We were lucky enough to be in town during Tokyo VegeFood Festa, so on Sunday we headed to Yoyogi Park with the Tokyo Vegan Meetup Group to taste a selection from over 100 vendors, everything vegan! One of the couples we met was Lara & Benno, the Wandering Vegans, who's blog I had found before our trip & used in my research. We browsed the many booths & started with Tsubu Tsubu Cafe, a macrobiotic vegan cafe that specializes in millet! The hot dog was very small, but packed a flavorful punch! We had heard about Taco Rice from a few people, so when we saw it on their menu, we decided to order some. This tasty dish was rice topped in sorghum, flavored with taco style seasoning, lettuce & tomato. Vegan Taiyaki!Finally, we ordered a Pizza which had a soft, doughy crust but was topped in tomato sauce that almost seemed like tomato paste, & polenta with corn pieces in it. Strange! It was hard to try just one of the many vendors, so next, we had delicious potato croquettes & perfect sticky brown rice in a curry sauce from Mominoki House. It was so good we wanted seconds! We walked around & sampled sweets from many vendors, but my interest was struck by a sign saying "Dango Curry". Dango is a small chewy ball made of rice flour served as a dessert, but this vendor had them in a curry sauce, something that is not commonplace. Well, it was an interesting treat, & Dango Curry is not bad, but it's not for me. Instead, the dessert I truly enjoyed was a fish shaped pastry called Taiyaki, filled with red bean paste! The outside tasted like a ice cream cone filled with a sweet, smooth azuki filling. People waited in a long line for this treat, a Japanese standard that's typically not vegan, & it was well worth it!

Vegan Healing Cafe is home of infamous "Fur Is Dead" PETA mobile Com Am Phu at Vegan Healing Cafe& seemingly one of the only places you'll find animal rights & veganism connected in Japan. We showed up one night around 8:40pm, about 20 minutes before they closed, only to find Japanese restaurants have a "last order" time 30 to 60 minutes before closing. We explained to the staff that we were vegan & asked for other restaurant options, but they graciously offered to feed us & boy, were we very grateful! We ordered the Tempeh Sausage dish; 3 soft, spiced sausages in a creamy sesame sauce with brown rice, as well as the Beans stew, a curry of sorts with a scoop of brown rice to absorb the sauce, Ryan likened it to Cream of Mushroom soup. We finished with the Apple Crumble, which had a firm top with not a lot of flavor, but nice apple chunks & the Soy Whip Cake which had great fluffy, whipped frosting coating a dense vanilla cake. On another visit to Vegan Healing Cafe, Ryan opted for the Fried Soy Meat which were chewy mock meat bites, fried & coated in a tangy, sweet sauce with brown rice & a salad. I had the Com Am Phu, a delicious dish with cumin scented rice, fried cabbage, carrots, peppers, & finely chopped soy meat, topped in sheets of rice paper. It was certainly my favorite dish there!Potato Corn Mayo Pizza from DevaDeva Cafe

On another night, we headed out to Kichijoji to meet up with new friends & Portland Vegans, Dan & Laura at DevaDeva Cafe. DevaDeva is vegetarian cafe that is mainly vegan, with an English menu where you'll find your options clearly marked. They're known for their Yogi Burger, a veggie burger patty that comes in all sorts of flavors. Ryan opted for the Teriyaki version, which was good, but lacking in the sauce department a bit. Apple Cake at DevaDeva CafeThe paprika dusted chips were good though! At the suggestion of Dan, I ordered the Potato Corn Mayo pizza & well, it's just how it sounds. This pizza had a very thin, crisp crust, almost like a tortilla, topped in chunks of soft potato, corn, & a baked on mayo sauce for cheese. It certainly wasn't what I would call a pizza, but it was pretty darn good! I went all out & ordered 3 desserts, as they looked too good to pass up! The Orange Scented Bio Kakao Fudge Cream Cake was a bit beany & grainy, but it's chocolate flavor with a hint of orange was quite nice. The Banana Cake was a large un-frosted slice of bready cake with soft, tasty sections of banana, walnut pieces, & bits of chocolate in the top. Finally, the Apple Cake was the best of the bunch with tasty apples in a plain cake with a somewhat beany, but creamy frosting.

Overall, dining in Tokyo is pretty tasty! Stay tuned for part 2 of Tokyo A Go Go, as well as reports on Kyoto, Nara, & vegan convenience foods. Until next time.. さよなら, aka Sayonara!

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