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/
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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

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.

La Volpaia Pizzeria

Sunday night we wanted some good pizza. My husband looked up some nice pizzerias and was led to La Volpaia Pizzeria. Located in Ichigaya (Ushigome-Kagurazaka area), it is an offshoot of the fancier Carmine Restaurant, which is the first Italian restaurant to be opened by an Italian chef in Japan. This restaurant is great -very laid back style, delicious food, open atmosphere.

We arrived at about 6 pm on Sunday night. Surprisingly, the restaurant was full and there were two people waiting ahead of us. We decided to wait (must be good if it is worth lining up for, right?!) and it was definitely a good decision.

Unfortunately, the food was so delicious that we ate too much and left with achingly full stomachs! 😉

We started off with the daily recommended appetizer: marinated olives and vegetables. I was sad to see that the toothpicks were speared with anchovies, but my husband greedily gobbled them up, so it was all okay. The vegetables were zucchini, onions, and bell peppers. Although the olive oil and spices used were first rate, and the olives delicious, I hate bell peppers! The olive oil was infused with their taste, so I couldn’t really enjoy this dish (but that’s my fault!). My husband assured me that it was truly delicious.
All customers are served a basket of bread, and we dipped some of this divinely fresh bread (no pics, sorry!) into the leftover oil of the appetizer. I mostly used the self-service bar of olive oil, spicy chili/tomato paste, parmesan, and salt/pepper as my dipping sauce.

Next, we got our pizza. This is the 4 Stagioni pizza. Originally, it is served with olives, artichoke hearts, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and ham. We asked for “hamu-nashi” (without ham), and to our incredulous surprise, they agreed! Not only that, they offered to replace the ham with something, and we chose mushrooms.

Those of you who have lived in Japan will understand how truly shocking it is for a restaurant to agree to change a menu item, let alone substitute something!! Not only that, but having artichoke hearts and olives on my pizza was enough to bring tears of joy to my eyes. The dough was absolutely perfect – chewy, springy, light.

Next, we had our pasta dish. This dish doesn’t take good pictures, but it tastes phenomenal! It is the Tagliatelle al Pomodoro e Mascarpone (Tagliatelle pasta with tomato sauce and mascarpone cheese). The pasta was freshly made, and that makes all the difference!

By this time, we were full! But we still had our second dish: another daily special. It was Risotto with 4 Cheeses and Rucola. Again, doesn’t take such an aesthetically-pleasing picture, but I can assure you that it was absolutely fabulous.

The only thing to detract from the food was the music. It was only August, and already the restaurant was playing Christmas songs! That was so awful that we both wanted to hurry through dinner and get out. Maybe next time the music will be better…
La Volpaia Pizzeria:
Address: 162-0838 Saiku-machi 1-1, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 03-3260-0435
Hours: Mon-Sun Lunch: 11:30 AM-2 PM; Dinner 6 PM-10:30 PM; LO 9:30 PM
Japanese Website: http://www.carmine.jp/

Cafe La Boheme

Tonight, the hubby and I were up for some Italian food. We haven’t had the pleasure of truly good Italian since moving to Tokyo, but he asked some of his coworkers, and they said that Cafe La Boheme is pretty good. Now, I am definitely not the chain restaurant kinda gal, but I have to admit that this place was pretty tasty. We visited the Azabu-Juban branch, which is only a minute or two saunter from the station. Our dinner was pretty fabulous – appetizer through dessert.

We began our meal with two appetizers: Potato Gnocci with Parmigiano Sauce and the Steamed Asparagus “Gado-gado” Salad with Peanut Dressing.

Here is the potato gnocci. Prognosis? Melt-in-the-mouth! The cheese actually tasted like cheese (amazing for Japan!) and the seasoning was just right.

How the Gado-gado salad was served: covered with a plate and the peanut dressing.

Here is the actual salad – asparagus, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, okra, and lettuce. Not such a great picture, but the salad was delicious!

My main dish: whole wheat spaghettini arrabbiata with the optional extra topping of 5 grilled veggies. The pasta was perfectly al dente, the sauce amazingly zesty, and the veggies grilled just right.

Hubby’s main dish: beef lasagna with eggplant, mushrooms, and spinach. Looked tasty (minus the beef!) He says: “Too classy for me!” LOL.

And two desserts (hey, two of us…!) This is the homemade pudding with a brandy sauce, whipped cream, strawberries, and chopped pistachio nuts. The pudding was super rich and creamy. YUM!
And an array of ice cream and sherbet: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. The best ice cream I have had since coming to Japan.
Overall: excellent experience! Glad that I took the time to go all the way to Azabu-Juban even though I was tired!!
Cafe La Boheme (Azabu-Juban branch):
Address: 1F.2F. Green Court Azabu-juban 2-3-7 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0045
Phone: 03-6400-3060
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 AM-5AM; LO: 4:15 AM (lunch hour: 11 AM-2 PM non-holiday weekdays only)

Sizzler Japan

Last night Hubby and I went to Sizzler in Shinjuku. As always, it was fabulously delicious!

This first picture is of the purely “salad” salad I ate – tomatoes, beets, baby corn, mixed lettuce, bean mix, carrots, eggs all with italian dressing. YUM!!

Here is the cold salad plate that I made for myself: baby okra, shredded carrots with summer oranges, coleslaw, kabocha salad, a potato salad with walnuts – just to name a few!! Too delicious to express!

NOTE: Since there are many options, I tagged this as vegan, lacto-ovo, and contains broth.

Sizzler (Shinjuku):
Address: 2-1-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku Mitsui Building 2F, Shinjuku-ku JAPAN

Google Maps: 東京都新宿区西新宿2-1-1
Phone: 03-3342-5814
Hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 AM-11:00 PM; LO: 10:00 PM