By Sarah Crago
Have you sworn off animal products altogether? Tokyo can be a tough city for vegans, but not quite as unforgiving as it used to be. With the selection of exclusively vegan restaurants growing slowly but steadily, you'll be sure to find something to your liking. Read on for our top picks – all conveniently located near the city centre.
Not quite that strict? Check out our picks of the city's best vegetarian restaurants.
Four fine vegan joints
Occupying the second floor of a modern building just off Aoyama-dori, 8ablish is a versatile dining space which can comfortably host a casual lunch or a dinner date. Despite being 100 percent vegan, meat eaters will not find themselves craving that missing ingredient. Lunch sets start at ¥1,550, with a daily special that comes with rice or bread and a side salad.
Dinner boasts an extensive menu of appetisers, salads, soups, mains and sides. Innovative dishes such as tofu, tempeh and vegetable souvlaki with soy tzatziki and pita bread come beautifully plated and will have you savouring every bite. To wash it down they serve organic wine by the glass or bottle. The dessert menu is equally mouth-watering: you’ll be hard-pressed to pass on the gâteau au chocolat de luxe with vegan vanilla ice cream or the dark cherry and pistachio tart with griotte cherry sauce.
Ain Soph Journey is a calming vegan paradise where you can catch your breath away from the bustling streets of Shinjuku. One of now four all-vegan restaurants in the Ain Soph family, Journey boasts a relaxed, unassuming atmosphere over two floors where you can find a cosy corner table for one or share a larger table with friends.
The place is famous for its ‘Heavenly Pancakes’, which will fool any foodie into believing they must contain eggs and butter to reach such fluffy heights, but if you can see past the dessert menu the set lunch and à la carte dinner menu is where Ain Soph really shines, with organic salads, soups, hearty curries, tortillas and more. The set lunch is great value at ¥1,100 and portion sizes will satisfy even the hungriest of diners. Whether you’re a strict vegan or just craving a healthy veggie boost in between your fried chicken, Ain Soph is a great option.
Hailing from London, Neal’s Yard is all about organic health and beauty products with a focus on natural remedies for the body. The flagship store in Omotesando extends across two buildings, one housing the retail store and the second a café, with a leafy courtyard joining the two.
Fitted with low wooden tables and soft furnished stools with alchemist cupboards partitioning the open kitchen and the café, Brown Rice Canteen radiates genteel calm. Bundles of rice straw hang from the ceiling as a centrepiece, and even the staff appear to be dressed in natural fibres. Currently only open for lunch, they have a simple menu made up of three set meals, all of which are vegan.
Two staples are the basket steamed vegetables, consisting of ten types of seasonal veggies served with brown rice and miso soup, and the vegetable curry, also served on brown rice. The third is the dish of the day which comes with three sides, brown rice and miso soup. Everything on offer is simple, tasty and focused on bringing out the essence of the natural produce. Just the way we like it.
The fun thing about Cityshop is that you get to create your own meal. Essentially a salad bar, it is packed with fresh vegetables, leafy greens, grains, pulses and superfoods. Although not strictly vegan, it provides enough options to make it a go-to. The deli offers 15 different pre-prepared salads, of which you will always find two or three vegan options like Japanese hijiki, lotus root and pumpkin, or pumpkin soy milk potage with chia seeds. You can then customise your choice from the ‘Green Bar’ ensuring it’s exactly to your liking. A set including a custom green and two deli options plus bread and a coffee or tea will only set you back ¥1,400 – great value considering the portion sizes are also very generous.