Vegetarian Sushi in a Traditional Japanese Home

Just south of Nishi-Ogikubo station on the JR Chuo line is a quaint kominka, traditional Japanese home, with a restaurant and retail shop. Re:gendo offers nutritious meals in a rustic setting that is worth a trip out of the city. A good friend put this shop on my radar and she even knew to pre-order the vegetarian sushi when she made the reservation. The set made with seasonal vegetables is only made in limited numbers and if you don’t reserve it in advance there is a good chance you can’t have it. The shop is popular so it is best to make reservations. The menu is rich in vegetables, but not exclusively vegetarian.

The photo on the left is the menu, which folds out of a what looks like a Japanese wallet. The sushi included two made with fruit, mango and strawberries, along with pickled vegetables, tempura, a savory custard, and a hearty miso soup.

The retail shop features tableware, kitchenware, and ingredients. Many of the items sold here are handcrafted. If you like some of the dishes used for your meal you may find it sold in the shop. The Nishi-Ogikubo area is fun to walk around and carefully peruse, so plan on spending an afternoon here.

After each meal I leave nourished and inspired to eat better and to surround myself with beautiful things.

Re:gendo りげんど

Suginami-ku, Shoan 3-38-20 杉並区松庵3-38-20

http://re-gendo.jp/

 

Tempura-ya That Should Be on Your Radar

On the back streets of Kagurazaka in the basement of a modern building is Tempura Arai. The entrance to the restaurant is a small door that one must bend over to enter. Tempura Arai is the sister shop to the famous Tenko that opened recently and should be put on your Go List. The contrast to the father’s shop is striking as Tenko is a former geisha residence and has some history to it while this is modern with sleek lines.

At the moment Tempura Arai is open for lunch and lunch is very reasonable with the tendon starting at 1,400 JPY and a full course at 5,000 JPY. However, I believe that the shop may only be open for lunch on Saturdays only starting in the new year. The evening course starts at 8,500 JPY which is a good price.

Part of the tempura experience is listening to the items as they fry in the oil. Tempura Arai is intimate enough that you can hear each item as it cooks in the hot oil.

We did the lunch course, the tempura is light and delicate and finishes with a kakiage cake over rice. The shop has sake and a selection of wine as well. The restaurant can do vegetarian only upon request, but I believe the vegetables would be fried in the same oil as the shrimp and seafood.

Tempura Arai 天婦羅あら井

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 4-8, AGE Bldg. B1

新宿区神楽坂4-8 AGEビル B1

http://tempura-arai.jp/

A Rainbow of Pickles

A colorful meal based on Japanese pickles is refreshing and light. Nishiri is a famous pickle shop based in Kyoto. My favorite meal here is the pickle sushi, made with pickles on top of the rice instead of raw fish.

Here are two other set meals composed of pickles including eggplant, daikon stuffed with lemon, turnip stuffed with salmon, and much more. Strict vegetarians should advise the staff that they do not eat fish or meat. The miso soup here is made with kombu dashi and a sweet white miso, Saikyo miso, from Kyoto.

I come to Nishiri when I want some nutrition and the variety of textures and flavors that come with simply fermented vegetables. This shop in Tokyo has a small cafe inside the retail shop, so if you like any pickles, you can buy them to bring home.

Nishiri 西利

Nihonbashi Coredo Muromachi near Mitsukoshimae station

https://www.nishiri.co.jp/mise/coredo/coredo.html

Family-Friendly Sushiya Chain

Going out for sushi as a family cuts out many options. High-end sushiya are out of the question as are many mid-range spots. Our kid loves sushi, could eat it three days a week and when we go out, it’s often for sushi. We eat a lot of sashimi at home and will also make donburi rice bowls and make luscious spreads for temakizushi hand-rolls. But, we don’t make nigirizushi and go out for that.

Sushi Zanmai is a popular chain with branches throughout the city that is kid-friendly and offers a good value. The owner, Kiyoshi Kimura, is famous around the world for having paid $1.76 million dollars for a tuna a while back. Kimura-san is a tuna fanatic and if you love tuna, then go for the maguro-zukushi (maguro-zanmai at his shop) plate which is made with different cuts of tuna. There are about a dozen stores in the Tsukiji/Ginza area alone.

The weekday lunch sets start at about 1,080 JPY ($10). Sushi Zanmai has a variety of shops including kaiten-zushi, revolving conveyor belt sushi, to proper restaurants with a counter and tables. All of the shops we have been to are boisterous. Some shops do allow smoking, so frustrating. At a recent visit we asked to be moved away from a smoking table.

I was in the mood for vegetables this evening, so I took the handrolls which was made of cucumbers, umeboshi, takuan (pickled daikon), shiso, natto, and kampyō (soy simmered gourd). Hit the spot for me.

Below is the link for Sushi Zanmai. On top you can change to language to English to see what is in your neighborhood.

Sushi Zanmai

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

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:

Yamagata Dashi

One of my go to side dishes this time of year is Yamagata Dashi, a classic kyōdo ryōri (regional dish) from where my family is from. I didn’t eat it growing up, and only came upon it once I lived in Japan. It’s the perfect dish for summer as the vegetables for Yamagata Dashi are at the peak of their season.

Yamagata Dashi smells like you are in the garden. It has a crunchy texture and depending on how much nattō kombu and okra you use, it can be very slippery. I love the aromatics from the shiso and myōga, the crunch from the cucumbers, and it took a while for me to get used to eating raw eggplant, but I love it now.

The main ingredients are cucumbers, eggplant, myōga (ginger buds), okra, and shiso. Nattō kombu, finely minced dried kombu, is another key ingredient. I picked up this pack of nattō kombu なっとう昆布 or 納豆昆布 at the Yamagata antenna shop in Ginza.

https://foodsaketokyo.com/2011/05/02/yamagata-antenna-shop/

Soak a small amount of the nattō kombu in water while prepping the vegetables.

I like to blanch the okra and remove the seeds, but if you are in a hurry or don’t want to be bothered with turning on the stove, you could mince the okra while raw.

Finely chop the cucumbers, eggplant, and okra. Mince the myōga and shiso.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and season with either soy sauce or tsuyu (seasoned soy sauce used for soba or udon noodles). Serve over rice. If you can’t be bothered cooking rice, use the precooked rice that only needs to be microwaved.

Serve immediately. Best to make only what you can eat as the texture changes if it sits overnight in the refrigerator.

Yamagata Dashi 山形だし

kyōdo ryōri 郷土料理

cucumbers – kyūri 胡瓜

eggplant – nasu 茄子

ginger buds – myōga 茗荷

okra オクラ

shiso しそ

nattō kombu 納豆昆布

Do let me know if you try making this dish. Curious what your reactions are.

 

 

Renkon Chips

Lotus root (renkon, 蓮根) are a vegetable that is hard to forget. The first time one comes across one it is fascinating to see the natural holes in the vegetable. It seems like a work of art at first.

Lotus root start to come into the market in the fall, in September and October, and continue until about January. It has a lovely dense texture and can become a bit slippery when it is cooked.

It is lovely as kinpira, sliced thin and stir-fried in a sweet soy sauce and then accented with some red chili (tōgarashi, 一味唐辛子) or seven spice (shichimi, 七味). It can be cut into thick slices, stuffed with ground meat and fried. Grating lotus root and mixing it with potato starch (katakuriko, 片栗粉) makes a chewy mochi when fried.

It is found in regional food as a local dish from Kumamoto called karashi renkon, the wholes are stuffed with Japanese karashi mustard.

At Izakaya Sakamoto we love frying it into chips. The earthy chips are great on their own or add a nice depth as a topping to salads. With a Benriner mandoline, thinly slice the lotus root. Set it on a bamboo plate or on newspapers and let it air dry in a sunny spot for 30 to 60 minutes. This extra step makes it much easier when cooking in oil. Deep-fry until it turns a golden brown and season immediately with salt.

On a side note, we were hoping to get our cooking school up and running last year, but have been so busy with our Food Sake Tokyo tours that we have not made much progress. We do currently offer cooking classes, but only to those who have kitchens in Tokyo. We will start posting recipes on this blog and will keep you updated on when our cooking classes begin.

 

Shibuya Shunju 春秋 – Colorful Vegetable Salad Bar

** Updated Sunday, 16 April 2017. Shibuya Shunju no longer offers the vegetable salad bar. The restaurant is still a good choice for lunch in this part of Shibuya. Arigato, to David Richards for letting me know the buffet was not there when he went recently.

Buffet lunches abound around the city. Some of my favorites include the New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Motif at the Four Seasons Marunouchi, but these gorgeous buffets deserve a leisurely long lunch so that you can enjoy all that is offered. I was meeting a girlfriend for a casual lunch in Shibuya and wanted somewhere that offered a vegetable-friendly meal.

Shunju, just across the street from Bunkamura music hall and museum, was exactly what I was looking for. There is a small, but thoughtfully assembled organic salad bar and diners choose a main course. I opted for a simple onigiri as my main course. The other options included fish grilled over sumi charcoal, chicken, and pork. The buffet lunch with onigiri starts at about 900 JPY ($9 USD). For a supplemental 500 JPY you can add a protein main course to the meal.

Yellow and orange carrots, red cabbage, simmered lotus root, tempura eggplant, and a creamed cabbage were some of my favorites. The carrot juice at the salad bar was sweet enough to stand in for dessert. The only meat product on the buffet was some ground meat in the miso, an umami-rich dip for the vegetables.

The restaurant was busy at the noon hour. Mostly young girls making several rounds to the salad bar. Shunju has a few other branches around the city, and I imagine that they also offer a similar lunch.

Note that the buffet is on weekdays only. On the weekends the restaurant is course lunches only. Arigato to David Richards for sending this helpful information via the blog. Arigato and thankful for your notes.

Shunju 春秋

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-23-12, Fontis Bldg. 1F

渋谷区道玄坂2-23-12フォンティスビル1F

http://shunju.com/

Dominique Ansel Bakery Tokyo

For my birthday we went to Dominique Ansel Bakery’s Cafe on the second floor of his shop. The menu has always intrigued me, especially since I saw a photo of his avocado toast.

New on the menu is chicken pot pie, which was the best pot pie I have ever had. A crispy golden crust over an umami-rich stew packed with chicken and vegetables. I woke up the next day thinking about this. The avocado toast comes with créme fraiche and a salad. The butternut squash was accented with cinnamon marshmallow squares.

The first floor of the shop is almost always full. The cafe has a full drink menu as well, including champagne and wine. There is an open kitchen and on my way out I could see a lobster roll being assembled.

Menu: http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Dominique Ansel DKA

We were so full from lunch that we celebrated at home with chef’s signature DKA, Dominique’s version of the kouign amann. This pastry is very popular in Tokyo and many bakeries serve their version of it. This one is not too sweet, has a rich texture from the buttery dough.

The shop is very popular and the line can be very long on the first floor. Reservations can be made for the cafe and sweets from the first floor can be had in the cafe, along with a drink order. The only thing that is only sold on the first floor is the cronut. From what I hear from friends in NYC, the line here in Tokyo is much shorter for cronuts.

The bakery is in Omotesando, just off the main street. It is worth the short detour if you are in the area of Harajuku, Shibuya, or Meiji Jingu Shrine. The first floor opens at 8 a.m. and the cafe opens at 9 a.m. A great spot to start your day in Tokyo.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-7-14 渋谷区神宮前5-7-14

shop information and access:

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en/contact

http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/wp/wp-content/themes/dabjp/pdf/DAB_MENU_2F.pdf

Kyobashi Domenica Soup Curry

IMG_0155

Hokkaido’s soup curry is a great change-up on the regular Japanese curry. I remember the first time a girlfriend served this to me. I thought she had messed up the recipe as the curry was so watery, but she explained to me that this is what soup curry is. Once I got over the mind shift that I should not compare this to the thick Japanese curry we are most familiar with, I could enjoy it for what it is.

Domenica, a soup curry shop in Sapporo, has a branch in Kyobashi, just between Ginza and Tokyo Station. The Special Vegetable Curry (Tokusen Yasai Curry 特選野菜カレー) comes with a dozen vegetables and half of a boiled egg. The vegetables are about 300 grams, and in Japan it is said that 350 grams is what your body needs daily, so pretty good for one bowl. The vegetables here are deep-fried and then put into the soup curry. It was a colorful selection including kabocha squash, carrot, young corn, and much more. Chicken can be added to the soup curry.

There are four soups to choose from:

original – kombu, Japanese-style dashi, chicken and pork

tonkotsu – thick pork

tomato – tomato

tonyu soup – soymilk

The original was a nice combination of meat and seafood. When picking your spiciness you tell them a number from 1 to 10. I think I did four and it had a nice heat, but not unbearable.

I asked if the soups were vegetarian and was told that it wasn’t. Sadly, this wouldn’t be good for strict vegetarians, but a good place for those craving vegetables.

Domenica

Chuo-ku, Kyobashi 3-4-1, TM Ginza Bldg. 2F

中央区京橋3-4-1TM銀座ビル2F

www.s-curry-dominica.com/

There is also a branch near Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-2-21, Nihonbashi 2-Chome Bldg. B1

中央区日本橋2-2-21日本橋2丁目ビルB1F