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Monday, April 27, 2015

Hang Out

April 10, 2015


On Friday afternoon we snagged the matinee session at the Robot Restaurant, one of Tokyo's cheesiest tourist attractions (see the slideshow below for a hint of the neon pantomime we experienced). We held off on the popcorn and sought out snacks afterwards from Hang Out, a laid-back surfer-inspired vegan bar in Shibuya.


An English printed menu full of photos was available, so we had no problem browsing independently. Before Matt even arrived we demolished a plate of seasoned fries'n'sauce (480円 ~ $5.15). Stomachs thus lined, we were more polite in sharing many more bar snacks over an hour or two, including the hemp potato croquettes (580円 ~ $6.20) and a saucer of kimchi (580円 ~ $6.20).


The rainbow vegetable salad (880円 ~ $9.40) was a gesture towards fresh vegetables that really paid off, the abundant fresh greens decorated with pretty and refreshing radishes, and pots of avocado and sesame-based dressings besides. The gyoza (580円 ~ $6.20) were pretty good too, but we didn't figure out the dipping sauce protocol in time.


Our mock meat of choice (Jamaican jerk vegan chicken) was sadly sold out but there were plenty of others to choose from. The Japanese fried wheat gluten (680円 ~ $7.30) reminded me of Fry's, and was garnished with pickles, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. The fried tofu with tartar sauce (880円 ~ $9.40) was a surprise stand-out, with some lively seasoning and crunchy snow pea sprouts.

The staff spoke English well and were very relaxed. We happily loitered at Hang Out through a couple cycles of customers, watching the wall projection shift from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Dead Man and loop around to Dead Man once more. It was the ideal haven from the bright lights and city sounds on yet another rainy night.

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Hang Out
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Udagawa-cho, 3-12 RIKA Building 3rd Floor, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
03-64553562
standard menu, daily specials

Accessibility: Hang Out is located up a couple of flights of narrow stairs; we didn't see an alternative entry. Inside tables are well spaced and it's quite dimly lit. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. The toilet is elevated by one or two steps, unisex, and narrow.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saishoku Kenbi

April 10, 2015


Our trip to Tokyo coincided with another vego friend's holiday, so we arranged to meet up for lunch on Friday at Saishoku Kenbi, in the Korean neighbourhood near Shinjuku. We visited this place for lunch on our first trip, but they've switched things around since then from buffet meals to a la carte. The restaurant is attached to a small Buddhist temple and is tucked away down some back streets - keep your eyes peeled for the green sign and the happy white Buddha to guide you there.


The interior is plain - the buffet table has been replaced by more tables for diners, but otherwise not much has changed. The staff speak minimal English and the menu is all in Japanese but it's clearly illustrated, and thus relatively easy to figure out what to order. The food on offer is a mix of Western-inspired stuff (sandwiches, spaghetti bol, pizza, etc.) and more Japanese-style food (dumplings, noodle soups, rice-based dishes).

Cindy ordered the set lunch (1300円 ~ $14), which was a combination of the two traditions - miso soup and rice, served with a British-style Sunday roast and a little coleslaw-ish salad with a wonderful nutty dressing. The miso soup was loaded up with veggies and herbs and a lighter broth than what we'd had with our previous lunch sets. The roast had a meatloafy texture and was slathered in a rich soy-based gravy. The set came with a cup of tea, a couple of bikkies and some fruit as well, and was probably the best value meal of our trip.


The rest of us all ordered soupy lunches (780円 ~ $8.40). There's a mushroom soup, a hammy soup and the one I ordered - a curry laksa-style soup. This was just what I was after - spicy and warming, with plenty of veggies and and minced mock meat sharing the soup with the noodles. I also grabbed a small taste of Cass' mushroom soup and it was excellent as well.


Sishoku Kenbi is a must-visit - it's cheap, the food is excellent, the staff are lovely and you can even stock up on frozen mock meat and other veggie groceries if you're looking for home-cooking ingredients. I'm a bit sad that the buffet-style lunches are over, but there's still an excellent value meal to be had here.

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Read about our first visit to Saishoku Kenbi here. Only Mindful Wanderlust and Japan Vegan seem to have blogged about this place since our first visit.
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Saishoku Kenbi 
2-21-26 Hyakunin-cho, Shinjyuku-ku
03 5332 3627
set lunch, menu pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Accessibility: There's one small step up on entry. The restaurant is reasonably spacious, with orders taken at the table and payment at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Patisserie Potager

April 8, 2015


Our morning in Kamimeguro was wet and bookended with food failures. First, Michael navigated us towards vegetarian cafe Rainbow Bird Rendezvous for an early lunch. The only word we could read from the hand-written sign on the door was 'Wednesday', but it was pretty clear that they were closed especially for that day, a Wednesday. Later we circled the suburb twice trying to locate Potager Marche before confirming that it had been replaced by a barbecue restaurant. In between, there was a warm dry refuge and cake at Patisserie Potager.


We visited Patisserie Potager last year, and I was keen to try more of their pretty vegetable-charged desserts. The burdock gateau chocolat (470 円 ~ $4.90) was a little dry in the crumb but balanced out with a cream dollop. Tiny cubes of roasted burdock added texture and only the subtlest flavour to the cake.


The Japanese leek baked cheese cake (470 円 ~ $4.90) was bolder, the dense dairy giving way to a squishy centre of caramelised leek. Melding sweet and savoury this well takes skill.

For all the frustration around it, I'm so glad we were able to return to Patisserie Potager. These vegetable-based desserts might be a silly novelty, but they're also damn delicious.

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You can read about our first visit to Patisserie Potager here. Since then it has received mostly positive write-ups on A traveling foodie's gastronomic diary from around the world... and 도쿄 동경 베쯔니 블로그 (in Korean).
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Patisserie Potager
2 Chome-44-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro, Tokyo 153-0051, Japan
03 6279 7753
http://www.potager.co.jp/

Accessibility: Entry is flat from the street and tables are moderately spaced. All the cakes are displayed at a low-to-medium height. I ordered and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Brown Rice Cafe

April 7, 2015


We wound up spending Tuesday afternoon and evening wandering around Harajuku buying plastic toys and other ridiculousness (Kiddy Land toy store is a must-visit if you want to load up on Gudetama-related goodies). The rain kept coming down, meaning we just wanted somewhere nearby for dinner - luckily Brown Rice Cafe was right around the corner.

Brown Rice is attached to British organic cosmetics shop Neal's Yard, and is tucked down a little laneway just to the North of Omotesando station. Like seemingly everywhere in Tokyo, it's much easier to find if you have a detailed map/functioning mobile phone. The layout is sleek and spare - wooden floorboards and tables elegantly arranged, with some nice botanical prints on the walls. There are English menus - vego restaurants in Tokyo seem to be well aware that a big chunk of their market is foreigners. The food is macrobiotic, and heavy on the veggies - you can enjoy a terrine made of 10 kinds of vegetables (1200円 ~ $13) or a mix of veggies cooked using the five principles of Japanese cooking (1300円 ~ $14.10). There are intriguing sounding tofu tasting plates (800円 ~ $8.70), salads and a range of other small plates.

I'm not sure if it's standard or not, but this cute little square of sesame tofu and crackers came out with our drinks (beer for me and a 700円 ~ $7.50 tangerine juice for Cindy) - the tofu was smooth and the sesame flavour worked well with the light sauce it was served with.


We took the easy option and ordered the brown rice dinner set - brown rice, miso soup, some sides and a choice of main for 1700円 (~$18.40) The options on our visit were steamed vegetables, Okinawa-style tofu cutlets or miso dengaku - we chose the cutlets and the dengaku and shared them.


The miso dengaku was a serve of lightly grilled tofu with a strong miso sauce splotched on top, served with an impressive array of pickled vegetables and greens. It was all pretty simple, but I really enjoyed it - the seasoning on the brown rice was a surprising highlight. The Okinawa-style tofu reminded me of crumbed fish as much as anything, right down to the sweet mayo and lemon juice.

We managed to leave just enough room to squeeze in a shared dessert - the tofu lemon cake with berry coulis (750円 ~ $8).


This was a solid rendition of the vegan cheesecake format - they clearly know their way around tofu.

We had a lovely dinner at Brown Rice. The atmosphere is a peaceful escape from the madness of Harajuku and Omotesando and the food is artfully prepared. You're probably best off ignoring the slightly mystical claims in the menu, but the mix of tofu, pickled and fresh veggies, miso soup and brown rice did feel like a healthy way to finish the day.

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Brown Rice Cafe
Green Bldg 1F, 5-1-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
03 5778 5416

Accessibility: There are a few steps up on entrance. The interior is spacious and there's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Olu 'Olu Cafe

April 6, 2015


Given that I was working on our first day in Tokyo, I spent the third one wallowing in cherry blossoms for hours (see slideshow below). I was still glowing (and, let's be honest, a little sunburnt) when we met up with Matt for dinner in Sangenjaya. Michael had picked out Olu 'Olu Cafe, a small vegan restaurant with a Hawai'ian theme, decorated with palm fronds, surfboards and fairy lights.

The staff were able to supply us with an entirely English menu and it proved extensive and varied - macrobiotic soups and greens, natto, Hawai'ian and Indonesian fried mock meats and bruschetta appeared on the specials board alone!


I was impressed by the list of non-alcoholic beverages too, which included flavoured vegan milks, teas and sodas. Their iced ginger lemonade (650円 ~ AU$6.10) struck a perfect balance of fruity sourness and a little throaty heat, and was served unsweetened with syrup on the side.


We started out with a plate of pungent garlic edamame (830円 ~ AU$9.00) and sucked as much flavour from the pods as we could. The boiled macrobiotic greens of the day (360円 ~ AU$3.90) were less shareable than we'd hoped, but nonetheless vibrant, tender and expertly seasoned with soy.


We each went our separate ways for mains. Michael had an excellent Mochiko chicken bowl (1030円 ~ AU$11.20) - battered mock chicken pieces in a sweet and spicy sauce served with brown rice and fresh salad, hailed as 'one of the major Hawaiian local foods'. Matt's fish'n'chips (880円 ~ AU$9.60) were less Hawai'ian but just as delicious, with flaky fillets of bean curd skin. My pork and ginger bowl (930円 ~ AU$10.10) didn't conjure up the promised spice but was comforting regardless.

The staff were unfailingly friendly (and explicitly welcome pets too!) and I was sad that we were unlikely to make it back to try more of the menu.


We capped off the night with some bar-hopping, most memorably at corridor-sized Queensland. The bar owner was a lovely and youthful septuagenarian with fond memories of the Gold Coast, a generous supply of burdock pickles and sweets, and penchant for karaoke.

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Olu 'Olu Cafe has been blogged previously and positively on 25Cafes.com, Bon Voyage Vegan and TOFUsenshi.

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Olu 'Olu Cafe
1-11-1 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Sangenjaya, Tokyo, Japan
03 3795 6060
specials, appetisers, mains 1, mains 2, drinks, info
http://ameblo.jp/oluolucafe

Accessibility: Olu 'Olu has a flat entry and a crowded interior. We ordered at the table and paid at a high counter. The toilet is inside, narrow and unisex.
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