Vegetarian in Tokyo?

It’s very tough being a true vegetarian in Tokyo. That is not my case, but it is for some of our clients and friends who come to travel, or live and work in Japan. Here are some suggestions for restaurants that are vegetable-friendly. They may not be strictly vegetarian, so be sure to inquire if you follow a very strict diet.
When I am craving vegetables, I make a beeline for Rose Bakery and get the salad lunch. There is a branch in Ginza, but you most likely will find me at the Kichijoji branch.
Sougo is a lovely vegetarian restaurant in Roppongi.
Daisuke Nomura is the owner. His family owns another famous restaurant called Daigo in Atago, also Buddhist vegetarian.
I LOVE Dhaba Indian in Kyobashi for dosa. It is a short walk from Tokyo Station:
I often ask for vegetarian tempura at places like Tenmatsu (there is also a branch in Shibuya):
Kushiage are skewers of vegetables, fish, and meat, that are breaded and deep-fried. Hageten in Ginza said that if you call ahead when making a reservation that they could do a vegetable only flight of skewers.
This is my favorite pizza in Tokyo:
If you like bagels, this shop is also nearby the pizzeria above:
Also, I LOVE TY Harbor restaurants as they are very good about substituting vegetarian dishes for meat or seafood components.
The following are all in the TY Harbor group:
Aoyama Cicada
Daikanyama Ivy Place
Sukiyaki is a dish based on wagyū beef, but if you call ahead, they can prepare a vegetarian sukiyaki.
For Japanese breakfast, the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s Girandole will also do a vegetarian traditional Japanese breakfast, but reservations need to be made in advance for this.
Some other spots from my blog:

Restaurants in Ginza on Sunday

The Ginza district is a popular destination on Sundays for shoppers and browsers. I love Ginza’s restaurants, but surprisingly, many are closed on Sundays, notably the restaurants that rely on Tsukiji Market for fresh seafood. Here is my shortlist of restaurants that are open on Sundays in Ginza.

If all else fails, then head to one of the department stores like Mitsukoshi or Matsuya and check out their restaurant floors.

Bairin tonkatsu

Bairin tonkatsu

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin (Ginza 7-8-1)

Ginza Rangetsu for sukiyaki or shabu-shabu (Ginza 3-5-8)

Tenryu Gyoza (Ginza 2-6-1)

Ukaitei for teppanyaki (Ginza 5-15-8)

Pyon Pyon Sha for reimen (Ginza 3-2-15 11F)

Other blogs on Ginza:

Ginza Cheap Eats 1/2

Ginza Cheap Eats 2/2

Ginza Eats

Monjayaki – Okame Hyottoko Ten

Okame Hyottoko Ten

Okame Hyottoko Ten

Mentai Mochi Cheese

Mentai Mochi Cheese

Mentai Mochi Cheese 2

Mentai Mochi Cheese 2

Tsukishima and Tsukuda are on an island in the Sumidagawa River just as it flows into Tokyo Bay. It is very close to Tsukiji Market and offers two local foods of Tokyo, monjayaki  at Tsukishima and Tsukudani at Tsukuda.

Monjayaki is just one of those foods that everyone should try once in their life if they are wanting to experience different types of Japanese cuisine. I love coming here with my girlfriends, drinking cold beers over the hot stove.

The “Monjayaki Association” has a stand near the exit of the subway station and they will give you maps. If you know where you want to go they can show you where it is on the map and how to get there. They are not very good at answering your question about which place is the best.

Tsukishima near Tsukiji is ground zero for monjyayaki. Similar to the more famous okonomiyaki of the Kansai region, monjayaki is made from a thinner base. Instead of a thick, savory pancake, diners eat thin, crispy bits right off of the teppan (iron) grill, using a small, tiny metal spatula. The environment lends itself to drinking beer or other chilled drinks to keep cooled down while eating off of the hot grill. It’s good to try while you are in Tokyo as you won’t see it much outside of the city.

If you like being in the kitchen, then monjayaki is great fun as you cook your own meals on a hot iron grill that diners sit around. Best to have the wait staff make the first one for you, which they will. The base monja mix has many variations. A popular combination is mentaiko (spicy cod roe), mochi (sticky rice taffy), and cheese. An Italian version would be tomatoes, cheese, and pesto, or a Korean version may include kimchi and thin sliced pork. Ask at the shop if they have any original specialties and try them.

The best time to come is in the evening as the main street, Nishi Naka Dori Shoutengai, is closed off to cars making it easy to carefully peruse the shops before deciding on one. Most of the shops have low tables at tatami mats so if you are not flexible, look for a shop with tables and chairs. In selecting a shop, go with the one that gives you a warm welcome.

Okame Hyottoko Ten おかめひょっとこ店

Chuo-ku, Tsukishima 3-8-10


11:00 – 22:00, no holidays (Japanese)

Okame Hyottoko is open for lunch if you come during the day. The friendly staff can help you navigate over 100 options. Okame has two other shops in the area if this one is full ask them to direct you to the other ones.

Kintame Kyoto Pickles Restaurant 近為

Kintame Bubuchazuke

Kintame Bubuchazuke

One of the great delights of dining in Japan is the cornucopia of restaurants that specialize in one type of cuisine, as in the recent reviews of ramen at Ivan Ramen.

Another unique dining experience is a meal based on pickles. Kintame, a store based in Kyoto, has two restaurants in Tokyo where diners can indulge in a colorful variety of salty, tart, piquant, and sweet pickles.

This type of restaurant is more commonly found in Kyoto, which is renowned for its pickles. So the opportunity to have this in Tokyo is a fun treat.

Pickles find their way to most Japanese meals. At curry shops the fukujinzuke of seven different pickled vegetables often accompanies the dish.

Yakisoba is garnished with bright red pickled ginger, benishouga. Sushi is served with thin sliced ginger, gari, as a palate cleanser between bites.

What makes Kintame worth the trip? It is the opportunity to try so many different pickles at the same time. There are a variety of pickling methods that include salt (shiozuke), vinegar (suzuke), miso (misozuke), soy sauce (shouyuzuke), and nuka (nukazuke).

Regionality also plays a role. Narazuke, or pickles originating from Nara, are melons and gourds that have been pickled for two to three years in sake lees (sake kasu) and are quite heady. Kyozuke, the pickles from Kyoto, are often delicate and refreshing.

Kintame’s most central location is at Daimaru department store’s restaurant floor (12th floor) at Tokyo station’s Yaesu exit.

The menu is limited, and the suggested dish to order is the bubuchazuke. Select a fish that is marinated in miso or sake lees; it is then grilled and will accompany an impressive variety of pickles, usually over a dozen.

The meal ends with ochazuke (rice with green tea). Come on an empty stomach and delight as you nibble your way through seasonal vegetables that may include eggplant, daikon, cucumber, bamboo shoots, gourd, melon, radish, and ginger, just to name a few.

If there are any in particular that you like, be sure to ask your server who will write down the name. On your way out of the restaurant prepackaged pickles are sold to take home.

Kintame is good for groups but is also great for the solo diner looking to have a nourishing, contemplative meal.

The Monzennakacho location is very popular on weekends and there is usually a line. Also, the schedule changes depending on if there is a holiday, so it is best to call ahead if you are making a special trip.

A meal at Kintame is one that you will remember for a long time. And, if you are lucky, you may be introduced to some new pickles to incorporate into your meals at home.

Kintame at Daimaru
1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,
tel: 03-6895-2887

This article first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

My personal favorite location of Kintame in Tokyo is at Monzennakacho.

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-3





Photo by Chuck Tanaka Peterson

As a New Yorker who visited Japan often in the early ‘70s as a child, I have ingrained in my memory a pizza that was topped with squid legs. I remember the disappointment of the tentacles peeking out from under the cheese almost taunting me. For the longest time I avoided pizza in Japan. Besides, there are so many great things to get here like tempura, tonkatsu, and ramen, why bother with mediocre pizza? GQ contributor, Alan Richman—the “most decorated food writer in history”—encouraged me to check out Seirinkan in Nakameguro. I went, albeit with little confidence that I would be satisfied or satiated.

The first good sign, Seirinkan is easy to find: Just a few minutes walk from Nakameguro station. The restaurant is spread over three floors and a narrow, spiral staircase connects the floors. The owner, Susumu Kakinuma, has an affinity for military souvenirs.

Restaurants like Seirinkan that focus on their craft often have limited menus. Seirinkan’s menu offers simple ingredients like cheese and tomato sauce on handmade dough, heated in a wood-burning oven until crispy and piping hot. You can select from either a Margherita of tomato and buffalo mozzarella or a marinara of tomato and garlic. Pizzas this simple insist upon quality ingredients. Cooked to exactly the perfect moment, the middle ingredients melt together and the outside crust is puffy, scorched, and crispy.

The side dishes round out the menu with salads such as Caprese, or ruccola and Parmigiano, sliced prosciutto, and broccoli in a garlic olive oil sauce. The staff suggested that we save the garlic infused olive oil to dip the pizza crust into. Brilliant advice and it has become a regular part of every visit since.

Service is simple as is the menu. My only complaint is that the staff opened the wine before bringing it to the table. My three thirsty friends looked at me disappointingly when the server presented an opened half bottle. I wanted to refuse the bottle but my Japanese companions were too embarrassed.

Seirinkan is open for lunch and is often on the quiet side. Dinners can be very busy. Note that Seirinkan’s website advises diners that the restaurant will close early if they run out of pizza. While my craving for pizza no longer exists, the search for an authentic bagel continues.

Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 2-6-4
Tokyo, tel: 03-3714-5160, Web: 

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

Two Rooms

Two Rooms

Two Rooms

Two Rooms near Omotesando has one of Tokyo’s best dream teams at the helm of the restaurant. In the kitchen, chef Matthew Crabbe’s impressive resume includes the New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt and Kyoto’s Hyatt Regency. Eddie Baffoe was the popular bar manager at the Oak Door at the Grand Hyatt. Rounding out the team, Nathan Smith’s most recent position was as the Food and Beverage Director at the Park Hyatt. The stellar trio bring to the table enough experience between them that expectations are high, and they do not disappoint.

Two Rooms consists of a dining room, complete with counter seats overlooking the open kitchen, communal tables and booths along one wall. The other room consists of a bar overlooking a well stocked wine cellar. One of the central highlights of the space is the open-air terrace. The ideal late afternoon cocktail can be enjoyed on the outdoor patio, and the evening brings a cool and lively vibe to the bar area.

There is a great list of cocktails including mojitos based on fresh fruit juice like passion fruit and mango. The 1,800 bottle wine list is one of the better ones to be found in Tokyo. Mostly filled with new world wines, regions like Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. are well represented. Classic wines from Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and a handful of Italians round out the line-up.

The Two Rooms Caesar salad is a well-seasoned delight and the fresh local fruit tomatoes are sweet and juicy, served with Italian buffalo mozzarella. Well-selected meats are simply seasoned and grilled. Options include pork from Iwate, Fukushima chicken, and marbled wagyu beef from the Hida Takayama area. If you prefer meatier steaks, you might want to lean towards the Australian cuts from Rangers Valley. Popular sides include the fried fat cut potatoes and the mushrooms sautéed with hazelnuts.

Two Rooms excels at using local ingredients, and this continues with the dessert menu. Amaou strawberries bursting with flavor and aroma are served as a bavrois with lemon meringue. The crème brulee is based on Shizuoka matcha green tea and is paired with kinako (roasted soybean powder) ice cream and Okinawa brown sugar.

The bar menu includes a popular Two Rooms burger as well as prime steak on ciabatta. Sunday brunch tempts diners with Kyoto carrot cake loaf, rum raisin banana French toast, and eggs Benedict.

The dining room is filled with a fair mix of locals and foreigners. Service is professional while maintaining a casual air that evokes the charm of a high-end Western concern. The best part of Two Rooms is the feeling that you are welcome and that this is somewhere one can easily call home. Regardless of the occasion or the time of day, Two Rooms is a great place for food or drinks.

Two Rooms, 5F AO Building 3-11-7 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, tel: 03-3498-0002

This first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal.

Ginza New Castle Curry ニューキャッスル – CLOSED

New Castle Exterior

New Castle Exterior

New Castle Menu

New Castle Menu

New Castle Curry

New Castle Curry

So sad to say that this is now closed. We will miss you New Castle.

New Castle ニューキャッスル

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-3-1


11:00 – 21:00 (Saturdays until 17:00)

Closed Sundays and holidays

No website

An old style curry shop, in an old building in a very modern part of town, catches your eye. The shop opened in Showa 21 (1946) and it looks like nothing in the shop has changed since then. New Castle has long been famous for its curry rice, which can be topped with a sunny-side up egg. The menu items are named after train stations on the Keihin-Tohoku train line including Kamata and Shinagawa, the difference being the portion size and if it is topped with an egg or not.

Ginza Kyubey 銀座久兵衛

Ginza Kyubey

Ginza Kyubey

Ginza Kyubey 銀座久兵衛

Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-7-6


11:30 – 13:30, 17-21:45

closed Sunday and holidays (English)

Kyubey Sushi, is famous as a top-class sushi restaurant in the city. It is so popular that it often turned away customers. To accommodate everyone they have opened a bekkan (annex) across the street. They are accustomed to foreigners coming in and you may be seated in front of an English-speaking chef. It is popular with Japanese as well as tourists. The sushi chef may ask you if he should change the size of the shari (rice) or the amount of wasabi. This thoughtfulness is especially appreciated by the ladies who lunch there who may want to have a little less rice as they may be watching their weight. Kyubey is a nice option if you are looking for a top quality sushi experience but want to avoid the prohibitive prices at some shops that are only open for dinner. The lunch here is very reasonable for classic Edo-style nigirizushi.

COREDO Muromachi コレド室町

Coredo Muromachi

Coredo Muromachi

Nihonbashi has a rich food history as it was the original home of the fish market before it moved to Tsukiji. The new COREDO Muromachi building is filled with restaurants and food shops, some dating back hundreds of years.



Pick up Japanese knives at Nihonbashi Kiya or taste the smoky bonito stock or dashi based soups like kabocha and chicken potage at Ninben’s Nihonbashi Dashi Bar.

Ninben's Dashi Bar

Ninben's Dashi Bar

Fresh fish is grilled over a sumi charcoal pit at the casual izakaya Nihonbashi Kinoshige.

Paris Brest-Aimee

Paris Brest-Aimee

And perhaps one of the most talked about food item at COREDO Muromachi is the traditional Paris Brest-Aimee at Patisserie Aimee Vibert.

COREDO Muromachi

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-2-1

Nihonbashi Kiya, 1st floor, 03-3242-0010

Ninben, 1st floor, 03-3241-0968

Nihonbashi Kinoshige, 2nd floor, 03-3548-9917

Patisserie Aimee Vibert, 1st floor, 03-6225-2551 (Japanese – can click through to English but very limited information)

2011 Top Ten Best Ramen Restaurants in Tokyo 2/2

The February 2011 issue of Shokuraku magazine lists not only the top ten new ramen shops in Tokyo, but also their top ten ramen shops in the metropolis. As most of this information only appears in Japanese I hope by including it in this blog that more people can come to explore these popular ramen shops. This post includes numbers five to one.



5. Yakumo 八雲

Meguro-ku, Ohashi 1-7-2


11:30 – 15:30, 17:00 – 21:00 (or until supplies last)

closed Tuesday  (Japanese)

The wantan men is packed with juicy won ton dumplings. The soy sauce used is a shiro shoyu or white soy sauce.

Ramen Tenjinshita Daiki

Ramen Tenjinshita Daiki

3. (tied for third) Ramen Tenjinshita Daiki らーめん天神下大喜

Bunkyo-ku, Yushima 3-47-2 Shiroki Bldg. 1F


11:30 – 15:00, 17:30 – 22:00 (until 21:00 on Saturday)

11:30 – 15:00 on holidays

closed Sunday (Japanese) (Japanese)

The shio (salt) ramen is a clear yet rich broth.



3. (tied for third) Hototogisu 不如帰

Shibuya-ku, Hatagaya 2-47-12


call ahead for hours but basically 11:45 – 15:00, 18:00 – 21:30

Thursday 11:30 – 15:00 (or until supplies last)

closed Friday  (Japanese)

The shoyu (soy sauce) ramen’s broth is made with pork, seafood, and hamaguri (clams).

Chuka Soba Tomita

Chuka Soba Tomita

2. Chuka Soba Tomita 中華蕎麦 とみ田

Chiba-ken, Matsudo-shi, Matsudo 1339


11:00 – 16:30 (or until supplies last)

closed Wednesday (Japanese) (Japanese)

This shop is known for its tsukemen (noodles dipped in a broth). The hearty noodles are dipped in a rich, thick soup that is made from tonkotsu (pork bones) and seafood.

Ramenya 69’N’Roll One

Ramenya 69’N’Roll One

1. Ramenya 69’N’Roll One ラァメン家69’N’Roll One

Kanagawa-kun, Sagamihara-shi, Kami Tsuruma Honcho 4-34-7, Machida Green Heights 102

No phone

11:00 – 15:30 (or until supplies last)

open daily (call ahead to confirm) (Japanese)

The soy sauce used here is aged and the cha shu is made with Iberico pork. It is a bit out of the way if coming from Tokyo so do call ahead to confirm that they are open.

2011 Top Ten Best Ramen Restaurants in Tokyo 1/2


2012 Best New Ingredients Ramen in Tokyo