‘Is shrimp okay?’ Being vegetarian in Tokyo, you get used to hearing questions like this all the time – the well-meaning but rather clueless attempts of restaurant wait staff to comprehend how and why someone would choose not to eat delicious yakiniku or the best sushi on the planet. Yet life has improved for the capital's long-misunderstood herbivores: as diners get increasingly health-conscious, we've seen farmers' markets become a regular feature on the urban landscape, more places are indicating which dishes on their menus are suitable for veggies, while the floor staff seem to be getting savvier (even if there are still plenty of exceptions). Still, sometimes you just want to go somewhere you can enjoy your meal with having to triple-check about whether there's bacon in the salad or katsuobushi flakes on the tofu. Read on for a comprehensive intro to vegetarian Tokyo – you'll start feeling hungry in no time.
This is a beautiful, inviting space that gets packed at lunchtime yet still retains an intimate atmosphere. It really is like finding the treasure at the end of a long hunt. The food, of course, is just as much a part of the reward. Their signature set lunch, Tamana Teishoku (¥1,890), includes about 40 different ingredients to maximise nutritional balance and incorporates traditional recipes.
A true rarity in Tokyo, this Ebisu café and restaurant serves up 100-percent vegan raw food at reasonable prices. In order to maintain those healthy enzymes, all ingredients are either completely raw or prepared at temperatures under 48 degrees, and of course you won't find any artificial additives or other chemicals here either.
You'll first get sucked in by the garlic edamame beans. We have no idea what goes into that garlic sauce but it turns what is usually a fairly bland dish into something we now crave. Then you'll be seduced by the crispy vegan gyoza and the creamy 'detox curry'. But the more you visit Olu'Olu Café, it's not just the 'vegan junk food', as the owners call it on their blog, that will inspire you to return, it's also the atmosphere.
It's all about the vegetables, beans and – yes – brown rice at this long-running veggie stronghold in Omotesando, a staunch adherent to the 'whole food' philosophy. The terrace seating is a real draw in the warmer months, and they also do reasonably priced bento boxes.
This tiny eatery, located in a quiet residential area between Nishi-Nippori and Tabata, is a true hidden gem. Using only fresh, seasonal veggies for all dishes, the chefs here are particular about bringing out the original tastes of the ingredients, forgoing all kinds of artificial seasoning.