Saturday, 17 January 2009

Chef's V, Marunouchi

For our last evening in Japan, we went to the rather cool 36 storey Marunouchi building near Tokyo station in the business district. It has a wide selection of restaurants. We didn't go to any of the really fancy (and non-vegetarian friendly) restaurants on the top couple of floors; we were originally planning to go to Fujino tofu restaurant on the 6th floor after seeing it recommended (when it was at a different location), but on enquiring at the front the host apologetically told us that much of the food has fish broth in! Boo! Perhaps it has changed a bit since it moved location?

So we wandered around and on the 5th floor stumbled upon a place called Chef's V - 'Vegetable Dining & Wining', with boxes of vegetables outside (good sign!) and a more veggie-friendly menu.

Chef's V

Sorry about the blurry photo below! This is a map displaying where their produce came from in the country, cool! I think the restaurant's selling point is fresh vegetables and other ingredients.

Chef's V vegetable map

We started off with cute mini-potatoes, our only experience with the 'amuse-bouche' that we didn't actually order but did get charged for, which we saw a few blogs complaining about at other places. In this case they were good enough that we didn't mind. I think they were boiled and lightly seasoned, so you taste the natural flavour and freshness.

Potatoes at Chef's V

We weren't really hungry, so we got a selection of different things to share and try. Colourful vegetables salad rolls (or something like that)/ 彩り野菜のサラダロール (¥500) were an interesting twist on sushi/Vietnamese summer roll concept and the peanut dressing went very well.

Salad rolls at Chef's V

Also we had smooth smoked tofu/なめらかスモーク豆腐 (¥300) , which was produced in-house/made their own (燻製 -自家製 ). It had a mild smoked taste, with that a dab of the yellow sauce (not quite sure what that was). I'm generally a fan of smoked flavour food, so was happy to try smoked fresh tofu!

Smoked tofu at Chef's V

We also had some delicious fried avocado/アボカドフライ ((¥400). The frying was very light, rather like when tempura is done correctly, not this heavy batter you get with some of the so-called tempura you get outside Japan. Finally we got this 'hot cocotte cooking' - mozzerella and tomatos with bread and olive oil/モッツァレラチーズとトマトとバジルのオリーブオイル焼き (¥650) cooked in a cocotte dish, which was slightly heavy but very tasty.

Avocado and tomatoes at Chef's V

For somewhere we hadn't been intending to go to this was a really great find, with some cool dishes and an emphasis on fresh vegetables. There were a couple other pasta dishes looked like they should be suitable for vegetarians and would be more substantial if we were more hungry. The food was very well prepared, and the restaurant didn't seem to be that expensive for its location and being in a business district, so overall a pleasant surprise for an accidental vegetarian find!

Chef's V
2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6390 (5F)
〒100-6390 東京都千代田区丸の内2-4-1 丸ビル5F
Tel: 03-5288-9005

Breakfast baked goods

A couple of different breakfasts for this post. First, on our way to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka we bought some small things at Tokyo station to eat on the way. It was from a counter of Cozy Corner. They offered a variety of western cakes and bakery items, and we got a chocolate eclair (¥116) and a 'little bird' custard filled-waffle (¥116). The 'waffle' was not exactly what you would think of as waffle, a bit soft for that, but very nice and fluffy, almost cake like texture with lots of cool and creamy filling! It even came with a little icepack to keep it cool, impressive attention to detail! Cheap and nice breakfast on the go!

Cozy Corner custard waffle
Cozy Corner choco eclair (with the streets of Mitaka in the background
Cozy Corner ice pack

Second, our breakfast on our final day. We made a quick stop at Harajuku again before the weekend mob descended and went to Caffe Solare on Takeshita-dori. We got some (organic but slightly expensive) tea (¥300 each) and some Western style baked goods. They were cream corn bread (¥190), mini pizza bread (¥180) and cream cheese pie (¥170):

Caffe Solare baked things

I love the cream corn bread! Another slightly Asian fusion creation? They were actually not that small, so not bad value and filled our stomach nicely. There are some similar style bakery goods in the Japan Centre in London, so when I miss my Asian style bread I can get my fix there.

Denny's Japan, Ikebukuro

On our last full day in Japan we met up with a friend to go to karaoke, and beforehand went to get lunch. American readers may be familiar with Denny's as it is a popular place to go at 3am in the morning when there is nothing else open and you are not that choosy about the quality of the food/grease in the small hours! We were reassured by our friend that the Japanese version it is quite different. Apparently the Japanese Denny's are owned by the same company as Seven-Eleven, great conbini (again better than the American version) and one of the few places you can use your non-Japanese debit cards to take out cash. There was a very long queue stretching outside the door of the place and although after a while we did get to sit down while we waited for a table to be free, we did begin to wonder if it was ever going to happen.

Once we eventually got sat down, we got some brightly coloured drinks (yep, the melon soda again and some pinku lemonade). We got free refills, but have just been informed by our friend that they have just stopped doing so as of June, boo!

Denny's melon soda and pink lemonade

The menu didn't have an extensive range of vegetarian options but there was enough to get things we were happy with. There was no English menu, at least we weren't offered any, but there were nice pictures, so even if you don't read any Japanese it's easy enough to figure out the menu. IF and I got a salad to share and each had a pasta dish.

mushroom salad

Like most items on menu, this seemingly 'western' dish showed its Japanese twist. The salad included Asian mushrooms and a light dressing, not a creamy one. It wasn't that big, but tasted decent enough.

spaghetti with tomato sauce and aubergines

The spaghetti with tomato sauce and aubergines was ok. It wasn't anything too special, but it did the job, definitely better quality food than American Denny's. Our friend had her favourite omelette rice (omu-rice オムライス) , another Japanese western creation that I wouldn't mind trying, but unfortunately it came with meat so I only got to try a small bite of it, which was nice. Guess will just have to try making it at home!


The desserts were definitely the winner here, and most definitely in a different class compares to American Denny's! The selections were very impressive! They looked great (as seen in the photo above) and tasted just as nice too!

The prices were quite reasonable (most main dishes were from ¥500-800; steak type entrees were more), though the portions were smaller than US standards, so maybe not so 'dirt cheap' like the American counterpart. They also change their menu quite a bit according to the seasons (the summer menu online now looks a bit different from the one we saw in January). It doesn't have the most amazing choices for vegetarians, so I'd say it's an OK choice for lunch or if you are not too hungry, or only want lots of sweets!

Denny's (池袋東口店/ Ikebukuro east exit branch)
〒170-0013 東京都豊島区東池袋1−13−6 (2F)
Tel: 03-5950-9351

Friday, 16 January 2009

R Burger - Roppongi

We had heard of a few different Japanese burger chains before going, including of course MOS Burger that we tried. On continuing our Roppongi exploration we managed to stumble across one which we hadn't read anything about, and which had some vegetarian options too! Near the famously rowdy Roppongi crossing was R Burger.

The front of R Burger

This place had all of the burgers in different-looking buns that are quite far away from a western burger. We ordered a set meal (¥750) that came with Steamed-Bun Sandwich with Avocado (アボカド蒸しサンド) - steamed five-grain Chinese style buns with avocado, tomato, cottage cheese, mixed salad and mayo sauce. The menu entry on their website for this one actually says 'ベジタリアンでもOKです' - OK for vegetarians! The fluffy buns were quite nice though the sandwich as a whole tasted quite salady - not as good as the MOS rice burger though not bad, healthy for sure and certainly quite interesting to look at! The set included a drink and french fries, but we paid an extra ¥70 to upgrade the fries to tofu nuggets (豆腐ナゲット). Tofu nugget is an excellent concept, and they were as great as we hoped. The portions were not too big, but not a bad price for what we got.

R Burger avocado bun and tofu nuggets

Looking at the menu online it also offers 'green stick salads' (salad wrapped Vietnamese summer roll style) as well as tofu cake (as in sponge cake!), so definitely one of the most vegetarian friendly fast food places. There are also 2 other branches in Tokyo area (Ginza and Hachiōji), and interestingly 2 additional branches in Bangkok. If you want healthier, and certainly more interestingly and refined fast food, you should check out R Burger!

R Burger - Roppongi Branch
港区六本木4-9-8 リラビル1F
TEL : 03-6805-3119

Koots Green Tea - Roppongi

Tonight we set out to look at the some of the cool new buildings and the famous nightlife in the Roppongi district. After our huge lunch, we figured we didn't need a big meal and would just grab whatever looked good along the way. We started out at Tokyo Midtown, a 6-buidling (including the tallest building in Tokyo) mixed-use development that opened in 2007. It houses a number of fancy shops and restaurants, but we decided to get something cheap and small in the Plaza/B1F level to exercise some money saving measures when coming near the end of our trip/ assaults on our bank accounts. We figured that most of the fancy stuff would not have been vegetarian anyway!

We decided to give Koots Green Tea a try because it has something a bit more substantial than Starbucks or cakes on offer, and their menu with English in front of the shop made it easier as well.

I guess they get quite a lot of foreign visitors at Tokyo Midtown, since a number of international companies like Xerox and Cisco have their offices in this building, and the server spoke some English. We ordered some onigiri (around ¥200 each and much larger than you get for a similar price in the UK) and were told we had to wait a few minutes for them.

Onigiri, 3 kinds

From right to left, the onigiri were perilla and hijiki, green perilla and leaf mustard, and edam and olive. All were good but it was the edam and olive was the best and most interesting, with slightly melted cheese working surprisingly well with the rice. Definitely worth the (short) wait and not something you're likely to get anywhere else than Japan.

We also had ice tea and a green tea cream an-mitsu, green tea soft cream with red beans (¥790 as a 'dessert set' together).

Koots Green Tea
Koots Green Tea ice cream

Tasty but we had better green tea parfaits! The place was not somewhere you would go and sit to eat for too long but for a quick stop and some interesting onigiri it might be worth a go if you are in the area and want some comparatively cheap eats.

Koots Green Tea (Tokyo Midtown branch)
東京都港区赤坂9-7-2 B-B101
TEL: 03-5413-7131


After visiting the magnificent Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, located in the western side of the greater Tokyo area, we went for lunch somewhere that was further west from the centre of the city. The Granduo department store in Tachikawa (立川), which was right next to the JR rail station, has a 'China Street' on the 7th floor that houses a number of restaurants that serves various Chinese regional cuisines. We were there for Chien-Fu (健福), a Taiwanese vegetarian restaurant. Chien-Fu also follows the same buddhist vegetarian principles as was at It's Vegetable!, so the food here did not contain strong-smelling plants such as garlic, onion and leek. The name of the restaurant means something like good health and good fortune.

Front of Chien-fu restaurant

Yes, they had an even larger number of food models outside than most places! Less need to spend time studying since everything was vegetarian. Inside the restaurant looked really nice. They had backlit pictures of vegetables up on the wall (you can sort of see them in the middle of the photo above) which were quite arty and cool.

They had rather large menu, with a range of starters/side dishes on offer. Among these were very nicely pan-fried vegetable dumplings and pan-fried turnip cakes (大根もち). You could also get steamed turnip cakes at Chinese dim sum restaurants, but pan-frying gives a crispy exterior which is better in my opinion. Most of the turnip cakes in normal Chinese restaurants come with ham and dry shrimp, so we took advantage of the opportunity to indugle ourselves! We are dumpling fans, so we got some pan-fried dumplings (焼餃子) as well.

Fried dumplings and turnip

And for good measure, we had to get the boiled dumplings (水餃子) too! Boiled dumplings are appreciated differently because this way you could taste the freshness of the dough and ingredients and juicy-ness of the whole dumpling. Ihascupcake couldn't resist the range of deep fried starters on offer; rather than going for the usually easily available veg spring rolls, we picked the crunchy deep fried veggie 'prawns' (海老風フライ). They were very tasty, the texture of the 'prawns' were rather realistic, and they went well with the ketchup type sauce provided.

Dumplings and prawns

There were so many different noodles, rice dishes, main entree dishes to choose from (and all vegetarian!!) that it was slightly overwhelming. We both decided to go for noodles, maybe to compensate for the lack of noodles during this trip, since most places did not have meat-free broth. Ihascupcake went for taami/danzi noodles (担仔麺), a humble siganture dish from Tainan (southern Taiwan). This vegetarian version contained a mixture of fake pork, beansprouts and chinese vegetables. It was lovely though in a sublte, home cooking sort of way.

Noodle soup

I had braised aubergine and noodles (麻茄魯麺). It was very saucy, and the aubergine was delicious.

Braised aubergine and noodles

All of this came to ¥3,790. Great value for a very wide choice of great tasting vegetarian food! The place wasn't packed when we went but we probably arrived towards the end of lunch time; there were quite a few customers that came and went during our stay, and most of them seemed middle age. The staff were friendly; we chatted with a couple of them in a combination of languages. The young man at the front counter spoke very good English; he explained to us that he was the only Japanese member of staff there, so he was trying to learn a bit of Mandarin.

Tachikawa is a bit away from central Tokyo, but if you are already in west side of Tokyo, an express train on the JR Chūō Line can get you there relatively quickly. There is another branch of Chien-Fu in Kunitachi (国立市), also in western greater Tokyo, but I think only the local train stops there and it worked out easier for us to get to the branch that was further out west from Mitaka. For those who don't have time to venture outside central Tokyo, we found out that Chien-Fu also has a food counter inside Matsuzakaya (松坂屋) department store in Ginza on the food floor at B1F. There is an additional branch in Iga city in the Kansai region in western Japan.

健福 Chien-Fu
Granduo bldg. 7F, 3-2-1 Shibasaki-cho,Tachikawa, Tokyo
TEL: 042-540-2296

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Japanese street crepes

We got back Tokyo this evening on Shinkensan. We had a vague plan for the evening but we changed our minds kind of last minute. So somehow we ended up in Ikebukuro, and by the time we were trying to find something we eat, the shops and restaurants in shopping/entertainment/hotel megaplex Sunshine City were closing (might have been interesting to visit Ice Cream City in Namja Town, one of these Japanese food 'theme park' type place where you could find all sorts of ice-cream/soft serve type creations).

Since we already had quite a sizable lunch in Osaka, we decided to just grab some Japanese street crepes at the Crazy Crepes stall next to the Sega Aracde. As the location of the stall suggests, Japanese street crepes are popular with young people. It's very causal and cheap food that you might eat while standing or walking on the street. Some of you might have managed to try this lovely Japanese interpretion outside Japan, as you can find them in San Francisco, Melbourne or Vancouver. I think the main difference between Japanese and French crepes are the toppings, but also Japanese crepes perhaps have slightly less egg?

Most of the selections at this 'Atlanta Crazy Crepes' were with sweet and cold toppings, but there were also a few savory toppings (tuna, egg salad, teriyaki chicken - the most bizaare combo was cabonara teriyaki chicken!) and also a few combos with chocolate or custard cream served hot. Depends on toppings, they were around ¥400 each. I got one with strawberries, and IF got a chocolate one. They were both quite yummy, but the downside was there was no place to sit down and we weren't too sure if we were allowed to go into the arcade with the crepes! Depends on the type of crepe (how much cream it has!) you get, I'd say it's definitely enough for a snack or light lunch.

If you visit Harajuku in Tokyo, you would see the two famous crepe stands on Takeshita Dori, Marion Crepes and Angels Hearts (which are right across from each other). We didn't manage to try them, but at least I managed to take a photo of what was on offer at Angels Hearts. Oh well, there is always next time!

Small eats and drinks from Kansai region

One of the joy of travelling in Japan is you could try all the interesting snacks and drinks you can't easily (or cheaply) get outside the country.

We happened to come upon the Ebisu Mastsuri when we arrived in Kyoto, and walking down the street festival and seeing endless food stalls was quite exciting, even though most of them were selling meat/fish items, notably Kansai specialties such as Takoyaki (fried/baked octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (with seafood/meat). There were also a few stalls selling fake Nintendo DS games; we didn't expect to see fakes in Japan haha! Anyway, we did manage to try some non-meat street food! Sorry about the small and blurry picture due to being taken at a busy street fair at night, but this was something I'd been hoping for - barbeque corn! It's not exactly the same as the western bbq corn on the cob, as there was some kind of sweet soy sauce was lightly brushed over the corn while being barbequed. Nom nom nom!

bbq corn

Later we each got a nice warm, freshly baked taiyaki (fish-shaped cake). I think I've only managed to get the most common version, which is filled with red bean/azuki beans paste, when outside Japan. However, this stall had a variety of flavours, so of course we jumped to the opportunity to get something different. My custard filled taiyaki was very nice, and IF enjoyed his chocolate one too.


We were hoping for a quick start the next morning and on a budget, so we bought some food in the supermaket next door to the lovely guest house we were staying at. A few hundred yen got us some nice veg & egg maki sushi rolls, chocolate bread/pastry and some kind of cheese bread/toast (not shown here). They were all definitely very nice as far as pre-packaged food goes. The maki roll was definitely 10 times better than your average cold, hard supermarket 'sushi' in the UK! And Japanese 'Western' bread is always interesting - they are kind of soft and a bit sweet, with favours or toppings combinations that you normally don't find back home. The layered 'Choco Zebra' below tasted sort of like half bread and half cake - different but worked quite well for breakfast, a bit like pain au chocolat??

maki sushi roll and choco zebra

Onto more Japanese 'Western' baked goods - this time in Osaka! After much walking around, we wanted to sit down somewhere (cheap) and have a drink and snack on the way to Den Den Town (the Osaka equivalent of Akihabara which we thought was actually better if you are after video games rather than anime and maid cafes). We didn't feel like spending ¥1000 at a UCC, a national coffee chain & cafe/eatery, and we just stumbled across a place near the Kuromon Market (黒門市場), Pane Pane, selling melon pan from a counter at their window. The 'melon' in melon pan (メロンパン) refers to the shape rather than the flavour - another Asian style bakery creation; similar to the pineapple buns from Hong Kong but with a much harder texture and exterior. We walked into the small but cosy cafe, and we managed to order a chocolate flavour melon pan (¥160) and some tea with the nice middle age woman at the shop. Our melon pan came with pieces of chocolate stuck onto the hard cookie coating around the softer warm inside. As we were enjoying our pan and little rest, we watched the lady busily serving the customers coming by the window and putting in and taking out trays of fresh melon pan out of the oven. The pan was a great snack and with a couple of cups of tea still only a few hundred yen, fantastic bargain (beats Starbucks any day)!


Speaking of tea, our favourite drink to grab when on the move in Japan was vending machine milk tea. This one is English, it says so on the front!:

Miruku tei

Yep, it's cold tea, but the sweetened taste then works much better and makes it pleasantly refreshing. The machines with it were basically everywhere!

Vending machines

There were a couple different brands of 'English' or 'Royal' milk tea (and some low fat versions), but they were all good. Since it was winter, some vending machines also carried some of the bottled drinks hot. IF tried a bottled green tea which came warm and was a bit more bitter, and I quite liked a hot lemon and honey drink that was also common.

Finally, again speaking of drinks - the day after our deep fried feast, we decided to get some fresh juice to cleanse our system. We came across this juice bar at Umeda station in Osaka called Drops. The pictures of fruits and small prints of English on some of the advertisements probably made it really easy to work out what we wanted. We saw similar types of juice bar in other stations, so they are probably quite popular. We have been told that often non-native fresh fruits and vegetables can be quite expensive in Japan, so I guess you can't expect a huge Jamba Juice type portion, but it was really good and comparably priced to similar types of smoothie/juice drinks you get in the UK.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mame no Hatake

That evening we made a visit to Kobe to visit a Japanese friend. She took us to a very nice tofu restaurant inside a small shopping centre, Shin Kobe Oriental Avenue (新神戸オリエンタルアベニュー), and a short subway ride away from Kobe's main station, called Mame no Hatake (豆乃畑). Mame is beans/peas, as in soy beans.

It was another viking buffet, and while it wasn't entirely vegetarian there was a very good range of vegetarian choices. The restaurant was presented as serving 'tofu cuisine and healthy/natural eating', with 20 types of tofu (including handmade ones), plus a variety of vegetables, noodles, and assorted hot and cold food items on offer. We tried some of the vegetable tempura, noodles, salad and several different types of tofu (check out the purple and green tinged ones below!).

Selection of foods on offer at Mame no Hatake

There were also pickles and konnyaku, which our friend was surprised that we liked so much as she thought it would be too weird for non-Japanese. Tea and miso soup were also included in the price, and there were even a couple of different teas to choose from! A waiter also came around to offer some special tofu (the small dish in the photo below) to all the customers, but I can't remember what was so special about it! It was quite tasty though. There were also a decent selection of fish (including sushi) and meat items being served as well, so it would be a good place to go with non-veg friends that want their meat intake.

Main dish and some side things at Mame no Hatake

Of course there was a selection of desserts too, happily including our favourite, green tea ice cream:

Matcha ice cream at Mame no Hatake

The price for this healthy buffet is ¥1580 per person for 90 minutes, very good value even if you don't eat any of the fish sushi! Most of the vegetarian options were cold, so it might not be that fulfilling if you are in the mood for a big hearty meal. However, if you want something on the lighter side that taste healthy and refreshing, Mame no Hatake is definitely worth a visit.

兵庫県神戸市中央区北野町1-1 新神戸オリエンタルアベニュー2F 
TEL: 078-252-7778

Far D

Next day we were at Hep Five in the Umeda area, famous for its big red ferris wheel although we didn't go on that. There 10+ restaurants and cafes on the 7th floor, but we didn't want to spend or eat too much. It would have been interesting to try one of the dessert viking places, デザート王国 (Dessert Kingdom), but I wasn't in the mood to eat lots of cakes and sweets. We tried to find something suitable by looking at all the food models on offered and in the end we settled for Far D, partly due to the bizarre claim of their cooking style made outside.

sign outside Far D

Vegetarian options were limited but to their credit they were quite happy to accommodate us. We showed the host our 'no meat no seafood' writing, and he checked with the kitchen and assured us it was ok. He spoke a tiny bit of English, and suggested that they make the dishes without some of the ingredients listed - for example, taking the ham out from the creamy pasta (no hamu!). The food was a bit closer to Western style than other places we went to.

pasta and pizza

The carbonara pasta type dish (minus the ham) was nice, and the cheese and tomato pizza wasn't bad. We probably could have found something better if we bothered to go around other areas nearby, but the food did the job for something simple and not that expensive (less than ¥1000 for each dish), even though we weren't any closer to understanding what was 'Canterbury' cooking style.

Far D
〒530-0017 大阪市北区角田町5-5 HEP FIVE 7F
TEL: 06-6366-3686

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Kushiya Monogatari - Kagura Syokudo

The next restaurant we went to was right in the middle of the Dōtonbori area (near the giant crab) and on the 9th floor, meaning that from our seat we got a great view of, well, the tops of the other tall buildings across the street. Some confusion about what the name where we were actually was - different sites have slightly different variations. The name seems to be Kushiya Monogatari (串家物語, and sometimes with 神楽食堂), from which monogatari (物語) means story and kushiya (串家) is in reference to its food being kushiage - fried things on sticks, is a popular specialty of the Osaka region! It is a national chain of deep fried skewers buffet restaurant.

poster showing all the different sticks available
The poster for their 'Winter sensation fair' outside of the restaurant gave an idea of what to expect. Although it's clearly not catered for vegetarians, there were quite a lot of veggies-on-sticks on offer here. And while the staff's English didn't seem that extensive the tables helpfully had cards explaining the idea of the restaurant in various languages:

instructions on what to do

For some reason 'please put only sticks in the fryer' made us giggle! Anyway, the all-you-can-fry buffet provided a wide selection of ready-prepared sticks on cooled shelfs, including lots of different types of raw vegetables and a couple of different cheeses. We picked up a bunch of said sticks, brought them to the table, dipped them in the liquid batter and breadcrumbs and then put them in the fryer. There was a ninety minute time limit but if you can eat fried sticks (and a selection of other cooked choices, although these mainly were't vegetarian; we did have some salad and plain udon) for more than an hour even you either go very slowly or have a much bigger appetite than us.

This dining experience lent itself well to lots of pictures... All set up and ready to go.

set up and ready to go

A couple of sticks in the fryer at our table...

frying away

It took a couple of goes to get the hang of how much to put on and how long to leave them in so as not to end up with too thick/fried a layer of batter. Then part of the fun was juggling eating and frying so as to get it right and not leave any waiting time. There were a wide variety of condiments and sauces for you to choose and mix to compliment your fried items.

Finished sticks (lotus root and konnyaku) and uncooked sticks (pumpkin, button mushroom, aubergine, onion, pepper and bread):

Finished sticks

After a while...

lots of sticks

Yes, I really did get through that many sticks myself! Went back for more a couple of times, with the different types of mushrooms, cheese and konnyaku were particular favourites.

There were even a selection of desserts and fruits to choose from afterwards if you could somehow still manage it. Sight of a piece of mostly eaten waffle, chocolate cake and think pancake shown below; ihascupcake had some coffee flavoured grass jelly. We also had some oranges for good measure.

desserts selection

Finally, after we were all finished, the resulting carnage:

the resulting carnage

Eating this food all the time would surely be a quick route to heart disease even if you don't have to worry about your waistline, but as a one off it was great fun as well as tasty. At ¥2,625 it was not the cheapest thing we had but when you look at the number of sticks we got through it was actually great value too, even if we hadn't been lucky enough to be given discount vouchers in the lift on the way up. You can also add all-you-can drink for an additional ¥1,050, so might be a good place for a fun evening with friends.

Kushiya Monogatari (Dōtonbori branch)
〒542-0071大阪府大阪市中央区道頓堀1-6-15 ドウトンビル 9F

Green Earth, Osaka

Green Earth was the second strictly vegetarian restaurant we successfully went to in Japan (vegan restaurant in Shibuya was still closed for New Year holiday and a shojin ryori/buddhist cuisine restaurant in Kyoto was just closed). We ended up going there twice, which is a sign of how impressed we were the first time!

According to directions that we looked up on the internet, the restaurant is closest to Honmachi Station (exit 15, 5 minute walk), which is north of the restaurant. But since we were coming from Shinsaibashi area, which is south of the restaurant, it took us a bit to find it even though we had some indicators (e.g. the restaurant is near a shinto 難波神社 and the street is parallel to the main road Midosuji). Luckily we weren't going in too many circles before we found the Green Earth sandwich board on one of the smaller streets.

The restaurant was actually quite roomy, at least for Japanese standards. The kitchen/counter was near the front, and the dinning area was at the back. There were a few customers in there already, including some people from Sweden (we overhead them telling the owner later on); I guess the place must be a known spot for other fellow Western vegetarians. There are Japanese and English menus. We found a wide selection of adapted Western style dishes, including pizza, pasta, hamburger, sandwich and hotdog. There was also a daily special set for ¥700.

I decided to try the mushroom curry, and IF went for pizza. We also got a side order of something that was sort of like veggie fried 'chicken' pieces, I have a weak spot for fried stuff!

The fried pieces were sort of prepared in the Japanese deep fried style, karaage (唐揚げ), only maybe not as fried. I have to say it was very tasty!

My mushroom curry came with brown rice. I'd say although the dish wasn't really entirely 'Western' or 'Japanese', probably a bit of both. The curry was very nice, though not particularly spicy.

IF's pizza looked really good (and tasted good too)! It came with assorted vegetables and veg ham on wholemeal dough.

The prices were quite reasonable, with the non-daily specials being less than ¥1000 each (cheaper prices for sandwiches and hotdogs, etc. about ¥500-600). The daily special seemed like a good deal and we saw other customers getting it. We decided to come back 2 days later before we left Osaka because we liked the prices and food there, plus wanted to show our support to a vegetarian restaurant!

This time we seemed to be the only non-Japanese customers there. We got the fried 'chicken' pieces again, as they were just that tasty. We also went for something healthier - mushroom salad.

It had a lovely dressing, and it was quite big (probably enough as a meal if you're not very hungry)! Great mix of lettuce, bell pepper, sprouts, arame (or similar type of sea vegetables) and mushrooms - nutritious and yummy!

I went for more fungus - mushroom pasta! This was definitely a fusion creation, pasta in Japaese style. It was almost like a noodle type dish. It had a soy type sauce, topped with Asian mushrooms, a bit of seaweed and baby sprouts. It's quite simple yet satisfying.

IF went for the curry this time, aubergine curry with brown rice that was. He enjoyed it too, even though normally he's not a huge curry fan.

We didn't have room to try any of their cakes and desserts because we got a bit greedy with our order this time; they did seem tempting though. We chatted a bit with the owners during this visit, since they probably remembered us from the other day. They spoke some English and were very nice. Green Earth offered homely yet wonderfully made vegetarian dishes. The name of the place probably gives a healthy eating undertone; however, it is definitely not a 'rabbit food' type of place (which is something I don't really fancy), in fact probably somewhere vegetarians and non-vegetarians could enjoy. The prices were also very reasonable, especially handy for budget travellers. It is currently only opened for lunch, and the food is mostly vegan. We would definitely go back, once or twice, next time when we are in Osaka.

Green Earth
4-2-2, Kitakyuhoji-machi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
大阪府大阪市中央区北久宝寺町4-2-2 久宝ビル1F
Tel: 06-62511245