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Monday, April 20, 2015

Komaki Syokudo

April 6, 2015


After a morning spent soaking up the cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Gyoen, Cindy and I set off for an afternoon of video games, anime and nerd culture in Akihabara (see a few highlights in the slideshow at the end of this post). We kicked things off with lunch, at a venue whose quiet vibe was at odds with the rest of the neighbourhood: Komaki Syokudo. This is another place that's quite tricky to locate - the address that Google Maps gave us was clearly wrong, but the Happy Cow directions and map were bang on. The restaurant is attached to a fancy grocery store under the train lines in the Chabara building, and it's well worth wandering through the store after you've eaten to marvel at all the interesting ingredients on offer.

Komaki Syokudo is tucked over on the right hand side of the supermarket and is fairly unassuming. There are a handful of tables, a counter with clearly displayed food options and not much else. There's an English menu, which makes figuring out the system pretty easy. For a set lunch you order one dish from the middle shelf and two dishes from the bottom shelf; throw in miso soup and a bowl of rice and lunch will set you back 980円 (~$10.60). If you're hungrier, you can order the full set of 9 dishes for 1530円 (~$16.50). In either case, choosing brown rice over white will add an extra 150円 (~$1.60) to the price. The cuisine-style is shōjin ryōri, done a lot cheaper than the high-end versions we've had in the past.


We split our meals - on the left above is fried gluten (top shelf) with a mushroom and greens dish plus a curry-seasoned lentil-cabbage dish. On the right, a crumbed rice croquette with a mushroom, carrot and bean salad plus another side we couldn't really identify, based on some sort of mashed root vegetable. It was simple but delicious, with one of the best miso soups of the trip and some nice seasoning on hand to add some punch to the rice.


We wandered happily around the neighbouring grocery store afterwards, scoping out all the amazing ingredients on sale (but saving our money for the toy shopping to come). Komaki Syokudo is a relaxing way to prepare yourself for the hectic madness of the rest of Akihabara - it's the perfect starting or ending point for a few hours of wandering the streets.
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Both Japan Vegan and Sweet Potato Soul were impressed by Komaki Syokudo.
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Komaki Syokudo
8-2 Kanda Neribeicho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan 101-0022 (in the Chabara building)
menu: one, two
http://konnichiha.net/komakishokudo/english.html

Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up as you come into the building. The restaurant area is small and a little crowded. You order and pay at a high counter. The toilets are located in the nearby supermarket and are gendered.
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Banwarou

April 5, 2015


We spent the afternoon in Yokohama dodging the drizzle where we could, walking by Kanamara Matsuri and the port, grabbing some bar snacks (including burdock chips! recommended) and focusing on Chinatown (there are a few photos in a slideshow below). We sought out Banwarou for dinner, a Taiwanese restaurant mentioned on Happy Cow.

Although Banwarou serves meat and does not have menu printed in English, it's not too hard to cobble together a veg-friendly feast. 'Vegetarian' is printed on the door and the restaurant owner is keen to assist in limited but enthusiastic English and a side of gesticulation, including a check on whether or not we eat eggs. Inside and out, the walls are lined with photos of their food, and one side is especially dedicated to their vegetarian options.


Our haphazard pointing brought rich rewards - crispy spring rolls (650円 ~ AU$7.00), mochi (which we are more accustomed to calling radish cakes, 650円 ~ AU$7.00), gyoza (650円 ~ AU$7.00) and stir-fried soy beef and mixed vegetables in a salty cornflour-thickened sauce (1890円 ~ AU$20.40).


One of the highlights was a plate of slippery, sweet chilli eggplant (1470円 ~ AU$15.90), which reminded us of the fish-flavoured eggplant in Melbourne's Dainty Sichuan.


The fabulous finale was pulled off with the help of a bilingual vegan Kiwi at another table. At his and the restaurant owner's joint recommendation, we ordered the vego mapo tofu (1100円 ~ AU$11.90) and the sesame noodles (850円 ~ AU$9.20); tossing but not stirring the sesame noodles with chopsticks, then scooping the two dishes into our individuals bowls as a saucy, hearty, rich and spicy melange.


Without Happy Cow's help, we would've walked right past Banwarou - many of the meal photos are meaty and the interior is cramped with few apparent frills. But the restaurant's warm and outgoing owner is undoubtedly its best feature, with the veg-friendly food a firm second.
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Banwarou has also been blogged by Vegan Marathon Runner.
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Banwarou
139 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Japan
045 663 3113

Accessibility: The entry is flat and the interior is small and very densely packed. We ordered and paid at our table. The toilet is inside, narrow and unisex.
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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ain Soph Jouney II

April 5, 2015


On Sunday morning we explored Shinjuku, where we were staying. We sheltered from the rain in various department stores, marvelling at the toys and too timid to try on the clothes. Michael had four veg-friendly lunch destinations up his sleeve but the first one, Chaya, had a queue of more than a dozen hopefuls seated out front. We were time- and train-sensitive so opted for the next closest venue, Ain Soph Journey.

We'd visited Ain Soph last year for dinner and so knew roughly what to expect. The menu mostly contains English translations, has many instructive and attractive photos and appears to be entirely vegan, so it's not too difficult to pick out a meal. Our waiter, however, didn't speak any English and valiantly continued to speak Japanese to us throughout our visit even though we tried to make it clear right away that we couldn't understand.


At lunch time Ain Soph tend towards set menus - a multi-course banquet runs to 2800円 (~AU$30.20) but other savouries with salad are 1800円 (~AU$19.40). Salads are piled up into pint glasses and served with salty soy and vinaigrette dressings. Michael's green curry (one of the cheaper lunch specials) was like a palak paneer with three tofu cubes replacing the cheese, tasty and soupy with brown rice and more fresh greens on the side.


Ever the sweet tooth, I ordered from the dessert menu. Unfortunately, given our limited ability to communicate with our waiter, this meant that Michael had finished his salad entree and his entire curry before this was brought to the table. He couldn't help but pick at my fluffy vegan pancakes (1400円 ~ AU$15.10) - they were really good! Toppings were abundant - aerated soy cream, date icecream, berry compote, fresh fruit slices and a scattering of nuts and seeds. My wild strawberry tea (600円 ~ AU$6.50) was the ideal tangy, fruity accompaniment.

Our previous review of Ain Soph Journey was tepid, but this time round they proved themselves capable of much more than we'd given them credit for. We only regretted that we didn't have time to linger over their banquet.

Retro J-pop at Disc Union
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You can read about our first visit to Ain Soph Journey here. Since then it's received many positive reviews on other blogs, many of them in Japanese - see Tokyo Chillin', Bon Voyage Vegan, NPO Japan Vegetarian Society, meg, Happy Lucky, Tokyo Today Tokyo, Active Vegan and My Secret Place.
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Ain Soph Journey
3 Chome 8-9, Shinjuku Tokyo, Japan 160-0022
03-5925-8908
big lunch sets, small lunch sets, desserts, drinks
http://ain-soph.jp/top.html

Accessibility: The entry includes a half-flight of stairs. Half the tables are downstairs and another half are up a full flight of narrow stairs; all tables are densely arranged. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mominoki House

April 4, 2015


After our lunch, Matt and and I went for a wander through Yoyogi Park, enjoying both the cherry blossoms and the hordes of people out celebrating their arrival. Before we knew it it was time for dinner, and the Happy Cow App on my phone pointed us in the direction of the nearby Momonoki House in Harajuku. I was too distracted to take photos of the interior, but it's quite lovely - a handful of wooden tables, including a couple of elevated booths and a big blackboard with a detailed menu (including English translations). There is something a bit dated about the vibe, but that's probably understandable given it's been around for 39 years.

Mominoki House isn't entirely vego - there are a handful of meaty options, but the majority is meat-free. There are gluten dumplings, potato croquettes, deep-fried natto and a whole bunch of other small plate dishes, but Matt and I both went for set bigger meals from the specials board. For Matt, a tofu steak with ginger sauce and shallots, with sides of eggplant, beans, lotus root and carrot (picture above, 2200 ~ $24.25).


I grabbed the tempeh steak, which came with a soyish sauce, mushrooms, tomato, a slice of radish, bean curd, some sort of bean paste and decorative greens and flowers (2000円 ~ $22). The food was delicate and beautifully prepared, with an impressive array of ingredients. It's pricy, but you're paying for something a little bit fancier than you get at most of the vego places in Tokyo. It was pretty quiet the night we visited, and the atmosphere was a bit flat, but it's a fun place to check out if you're in the neighbourhood and have a bit of spending money.

(more unrelated cherry blossoms from Shinjuku-Gyoen)
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A vegan in Japan and vegan like a boss both enjoyed their visits to Mominoki House.
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Mominoki House
2 Chome-18-5 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
81 3 3405 9144
Menus: one, two, three, four, five
http://www.mominoki-house.net/

Accessibility: Mominoki House is down a flight of stairs and is quite crowded inside. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nagi Shokudo II

April 4, 2015


A fortunate turn of events meant that Cindy and I found ourselves in Tokyo for a week over Easter. While she worked on the Saturday, I caught up with my brother for lunch at Nagi Shokudo in Shibuya. We'd dropped in for dinner on our last trip, but this time I got to sample the lunch menu. It's 1000 yen (~$11) for a lunch set. You choose 3 dishes from a list of 10-15 options and get them served up with a salad, some rice and a bowl of miso soup.

I ordered the fried soy meat (bottom right), the dahl fritters (bottom left) and the tomato and ginger tofu (top right). This was an excellent way to get back into the swing of eating in Japan. Set meals at lunch are almost always a cheap and filling option, and this set had the added bonus of a bit of flexibility and excellent execution. The tofu and soy meat in particular were brilliant - really top notch.

This is nowhere near Nagi Shokudo, but is Shinjuku Gyoen, where I spent my pre-lunch hours enjoying the cherry blossoms.

The place is lovely too - hard to find, but worth the effort. The staff speak a decent amount of English and the menu is translated, which makes life a bit easier for hopeless monolinguists like us. They have an array of zines and CDs for sale as well and seem to be a bit of a meeting point for Tokyo hipsters (the Portland band Sad Horse were lunching there on our visit).
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Read about our previous visit here. Lots of other bloggers have enjoyed Nagi Shokudo - see Big Tent Vegan, Vegetus, Vegetablian, Cascadian Abroad, Kitty and Buck and JoJo + Japan for positive reviews, while VegOut Tokyo and Bon Voyage Vegan had more mixed feelings.
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Nagi Shokudo
15-10 Uguisudanicho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
050 1043 7751
http://nagishokudo.com/

It's on the quiet south-western side of Shibuya station and you'll need to make sure you have good directions/map screen shots. Even when you find the right intersection the place can still be hard to spot - it's hidden low in a little cluster of restaurants - look for this sign.



Accessibility: Nagi Shokudo is down a handful of stairs and is pretty crowded inside. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.