Cafe Hohokam

Although I despise Harajuku on principle (it’s too crowded and most of the shops are overrated tourist traps), I do sometimes visit a friend who lives there.  One day, I was on my way back to the station and I noticed a sign proclaiming BURGERS!! so I checked to see if they had a veggie option.  Much to my surprise and delight, Cafe Hohokam does, indeed, have an option for vegetarians!  Their fresh vegetable burger does have cheese, though, and I am sure that the buns have some sort of milk product (butter?), so it is not for vegans.

Here is a picture of the Fresh Vegetable Burger with Mozzarella Cheese – vegetables are lettuce, tomato, chopped onion, avocado, and a relish, all served on a natural yeast bun that is made in-house.  I thought it was pretty delicious, but the fries are nothing special.

Try it with a super rich strawberry shake!  This shake is very thick and good, but it does have a bit of an odd flavor for those used to American milk shakes.  Still, very yummy!  I had already tried some in this picture – the cup came very full.

Cafe Hohokam:
Address: 3-22-14 2F Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03-5775-5708
Hours: 11:30-23:00 (LO 22:30)
Bilingual Websitehttp://www.cafe-hohokam.com/

Eat More Greens

Eat More Greens is a restaurant that I frequently visit for lunch.  Although their lunch menu stays pretty much the same all year, I love the way that they change the dinner menu each season!  I try to visit for dinner at least once each season to try their creative seasonal dishes, too.  Sometimes I get lucky when I go for lunch and they have a seasonal dish on the menu.  Today was one such lucky occasion!

This is mabo nasu, a Chinese-based stir fry with Japanese eggplant.  Eat More Greens uses several types of Japanese mushrooms in their recipe and serves over brown rice.  This was a really delicious early summer recipe!

Eat More Greens:
Address: Frenshia Azabu-Juban South 1F, 2-2-5 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045
Phone: 03-3798-3191
Hours: Weekdays: 11:00-23:00
             Weekends: 9:00-23:00

Pomme no Ki – Kamata

I love omu raisu!  It is a great complete meal for lacto-ovo vegetarians, and there are so many great options.  One of my favorite omu raisu restaurants is Pomme no Ki (ポムの樹), a common chain restaurant found in many department stores.  Pomme no Ki is great because they are vegetarian-friendly!  The ketchup fried rice they use has bacon in it, but all you have to do is say “bacon nashi onegaishimasu” and they will make it with no bacon for you!  One thing to note is that there are several rice options… butter rice and ketchup rice are usual and sometimes there are limited menu items with special rice.  I always get the ketchup rice without bacon.

During my last visit, there were some special menu items based on Italian food.  I got the ketchup rice option of Italian Tomato, which had Italian tomatoes, baby leaf lettuce, avocado, and an Italian-based tomato sauce.  So yummy!

Pomme no Ki, Kamata:
Address: GranDuo Kamata West Building 7F; 7-68-1 Nishi Kamata; Ota-ku, Tokyo 144-0051
Phone: 03-5713-6279
Hours: 11:00-22:00 (L.O. 21:30)
             Open every day that GranDuo is open

Farmer’s Kitchen: Ebisu

My husband and I finally visited a restaurant we have been eyeing for a while – Nouka no Daidokoro in Ebisu. My husband and I refer to it as “Farmer’s Kitchen”, as that is the closest English translation.

The great thing about Farmer’s Kitchen is that you have a choice as to how much meat you want in your dinner – the menu is arranged by a Vegetable:Meat:Fish ratio and you can choose from 4:4:2 , 6:2:2, and 10:0:0 — I always get 10:0:0, but it is possible that some dishes have chicken or fish broth in them.

The salad bar is all-you-can-eat, and includes lots of fresh veggies and dipping sauces.  Here is our first selection – udo, raw Japanese eggplant, red daikon, and komatsuna leaves.  We got a garlic miso paste, sea salt, and spinach sea salt to dip into, but we didn’t need them!

Farmer's Kitchen

Although this picture isn’t the best, we were next served a little cup of daikon soup.  This soup was really creamy and actually seemed to be a potage instead of a thin soup.

Now, I am not a big onion fan.  I will eat well-cooked onions if they are used as a seasoning, but I would never bite into a big old onion!  But this looked yummy – a Spring Onion with balsalmic glaze.  I was so surprised at how sweet and tender the onion was!

Next I got a spring vegetable appetizer.  This is a piece of asparagus wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and put on top of kuzumochi that had been flavored and colored with green spring vegetables.  The orange stuff is carrot sauce.  Doesn’t this dish bring to mind a new shoot of grass?!

My husband got one of the 4:4:2 choices, and his appetizer was this fish and veggie patty thing.  He said it was sort of à la meunière, but tomato-based.  The perfect transition from the salad bar to the main courses!

This is an agar and vegetable dish served with matcha sauce.  The vegetables included daikon, yellow bell pepper, carrot, and mixed lettuces.  The agar was flavored somehow… a little salty and some light vegetable taste — so yummy!

My main course was veggie steaks – and wow! they were delicious!!  Japanese eggplant, yellow bell pepper, nanohana, and shiitake mushrooms served with balsalmic vinegar and matcha salt.  I felt like I was eating the flesh of the earth!

Not to leave out our meat-eating friends… this is my husband’s main dish – a chicken and vegetable stew.  The vegetables were carrots, bell peppers, potatoes, onions, and komatsuna leaves.  My husband reports that the chicken was mainly used as an accent for the veggies, and was quite pleased with the dish.

And finally, we got a vegetable miso soup, rice, and lightly pickled daikon.  The soup was awesome!  Lot of vegetables simmered for a super long time – my guess is that they use the trimmings of vegetables and simmer all day.  Very complex taste!

Farmer’s Kitchen, Ebisu:
Address: Ebisu South One 1F; 1-7-8 Ebisu-Minami; Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0022
Phone: 03-3719-4831
Hours: Lunch: 11:00-15:50 (L.O. 14:40)
             Dinner: 18:00-23:00 (L.O. 22:00; Drink 22:30; Last Entrance 21:45)
            Open Every Day except New Year’s Holidays and during renovations (see website)

Tenya – Meguro

It’s crucial to be able to find cheap, fast food sometimes.  There are very few options for vegetarians, and almost none for vegans.  One decent place is Tenya, a Japanese fast food chain that serves tendon, short for tempura donburi.  Basically, it is vegetables and seafood fried in batter, dipped in a soy-based sauce, and served on top of steamed white rice.  The nice thing about Tenya is that they have a vegetable-only selection – the yasai tendon (野菜天丼).  It is important to note, however, that the batter has eggs, the dipping sauce has fish broth, and the vegetables and seafood are fried together.

I went to get some tendon the other day, and decided to try the spring vegetable tendon set, which is served with miso soup and a small bowl of udon.  The vegetables were Japanese eggplant, umeboshi, kakiage (carrots and onions that are minced and mixed together), sugar snap peas, sweet potato, and daikon.  I added a lotus root and green bean topping as extras to mine.

Well, my reaction was a bit mixed.  I have to say that umeboshi should not be fried!  Otherwise, everything else was pretty good.  I won’t say that Tenya is the most delicious restaurant in the world, but it is good quality for the speed and price.  Another thing that is great about Tenya is that they are located all over Japan, and if you are in a big city like Tokyo you can find them just about anywhere.

Tenya, Meguro Station:
Address: Kami Osaki 2-16-4 甲陽 Building 1F; Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-0021
Phone: 03-3280-1708
Hours: Weekdays: 11:00-23:00
             Weekends and Holidays: 11:00-22:00

Autumn Heaven

Anyone who has ever lived in Japan for even a short time knows that Japan is a country of 4 seasons. Every season is completely different – not just in terms of the weather, but also in terms of what food is eaten. For me, Spring is mountain vegetables like zenmai; Summer is white peaches; Autumn is matsutake; and Winter is mikan.
Now, it is officially Autumn. The Autumn Equinox is today, and my husband and I were feeling especially seasonal when we spotted some matsutake for sale at a small grocery store. I first ate matsutake when visiting Kyoto, and fell in complete love with a dish known as dobinmushi, a type of soup made with matsutake and served with mitsuba, ginkgo nuts, and sudachi. Heaven, indeed!
Well, unfortunately matsutake are very expensive! We got 4 for 2500 JPY, about $25.00. These came with 1 sudachi. Not enough citrus for me! That’s okay, we visited another grocery store and got the other ingredients. So, here we go. Our recipe was:

Matsutake mushrooms. We only used one mushroom for the soup. We used another to make matsutake rice, and stored the last two wrapped in paper for the next day.

Konbu. This is essential for the broth, especially if you want to make a good vegan broth.

Our broth wasn’t vegan, as we added Katsuobushi. I know, not even vegetarian! But we only used it for the broth, and I am okay with dashi – it is sort of a requirement in Japan.

Mitsuba. Chopped finely – a key ingredient to make the flavor of the dobinmushi.
Ginkgo nuts – we bought them in a clear plastic bag (this many were about 700 JPY) and repackaged in a Ziploc as they go bad quickly. We used 6 nuts for the soup.
Sudachi. One per person is how we do it – we both love citrus!

Dashi Recipe:

800 ml water
12 g konbu
10 g katsuobushi (if you are going vegan, try shitake mushrooms instead, maybe…)
-Wipe konbu with a wet cloth, but don’t wash
-Put konbu into cold water and heat
-Just as the water comes to a boil, remove konbu (if you leave longer, it will taste bitter)
-Over weak heat, add katsuobushi
-Boil lightly until katsuobushi begins to float
-Filter katsuobushi from dashi
-Cool
Dobinmushi Recipe:
3 cups dashi
1 matsutake mushroom, cut into small slices – DO NOT WASH! Wipe with wet cloth.
2 tablespoons cooking sake
3/4 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ginkgo nuts
2 tablespoons mitsuba, chopped
2 sudachi
SERVES 2
-Boil dashi, soy sauce, salt, and cooking sake, then add ginkgo nuts.
-Pour into pre-heated dobin pot
-Add matsutake, cover, and heat about 7 minutes
-Remove from heat, add mitsuba, and serve with cups and halved sudachiClick here for a great video of matsutake no dobinmushi preparation. (Not me!)
How the matsutake should look. Make sure you cut off the bottoms, too.
Our konbu strips, before cooking.
Katsuobushi, in the strainer, being weighed. That’s a lot!
Straining the dashi after cooking.
Cracking the ginkgo nuts – they are hard to crack!
After cracking/shelling, before cooking.
We boiled the ginkgo nuts for a while (about 2-3 min in water – until the brown/white membrane peels off and you are left with the green nuts) – we froze the ones we didn’t use.
We sadly don’t have dobin pots. Instead, we used our tea pot. I know, pathetic!! Also, we had no way to directly heat the pot, so we improvised by using a vegetable steamer in our biggest pot and steaming the tea pot and dobinmushi that way.
Our finished – and DELICIOUS dobinmushi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In a tea cup to sip, with a sudachi on the side. We got about 2 cups each, so I used a whole half of a sudachi in each serving. YUM!
Usually, you eat the stuff from the soup first. Our tea pot didn’t allow for that because the opening was too small. We put our delicious matsutake, mitsuba, and ginkgo nuts into the tea cups and ate this way. YUM!!!

Obento

With the economy as bad as it has been lately, I decided that I would start making my own lunch to take to work. Obento are Japanese style lunches, and are ever popular in Japan. Moms compete to see who makes the cutest bento lunches for their kids and even adults take their own lunches, neatly made up into healthy and attractive portions. Apparently, having five colors in your meal is ideal – it means your meal is more balanced. Even in America, bento-style is catching on.

I went to the dollar store (actually, the 100 yen shop) and got myself a sandwich box, a bento box, and a pair of portable chopsticks (much more eco-friendly!). Total cost: 330 yen (about $300). As you see, it is very plain, but cute, too!

I aimed for 5 colors, with protein, carbs, and a little fat. My choice for carbs was genmai onigiri coated with gomashio instead of the more traditional nori. On the side, I added two little umeboshi. So far: white, black, red.

For the rest of the meal, I wanted lots of veggies and a little protein. Genmai does have protein, of course, but I added tamagoyaki (hubby made this for me, as I have never made it before) for extra protein and some fat. I cut up some fresh cucumbers and washed some cherry tomatoes (both red and yellow ones, but they are hidden by the grapes) and added a small bento-sized Kewpie as the “dressing” for my salad. I lightly steamed some sliced carrots. For dessert, some fresh grapes finished my meal. So here I add: green, orange, yellow, and purple. I had 6 colors! Yay!

The meal was yummy – not bad for my first attempt at making bento! Plus, altogether it was way cheaper than buying something at the local conbini or going to a restaurant. Hopefully I will be able to make better looking obento in the future.