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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 Later we circled the suburb twice trying to locate Potager Marche before confirming that it had been replaced by a barbecue restaurant.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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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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