Arguably one of the best things about food in modern Japan for dairy-loving vegetarians is the ubiquity of cheese and eggs as toppings on just about anything. Just make sure you confirm first that the dish has no “niku” (meat) nor “hamu” (ham), and “sakana” (fish). Doing so will slide open many doors to various uniquely Japanese dishes: omurice, pizza toast, curries, and more. However, if you’re a bit shy to ask your waiter, no worries; here are five excellent vegetarian dishes to try that don’t require any ‘sumimasens’ (excuse me’s).
Vegetarian Sandwich at MORETHAN Bakery
The focus here is on local and quality ingredients, with the aim to constantly innovate and improve. The vegetarian sandwich is slathered with butter, and filled with fresh crisp vegetables and creamy cheese. Available for eat-in or take away.
Soba restaurant Asahi
The buckwheat in the handmade soba here comes from a different region depending on what is best for the season. In summer it’s likely to be Gunma or Ibaraki, and in early fall you might be lucky to chance upon a Hokkaido blend. Asahi’s tsuyu dipping sauce is made with no fish or fish products and has an elegant texture which works well with the fresh wasabi. The restaurant is part of French bistro, Le départ, and it’s a fantastical experience to eat soba in a French environment!
Sandwich at Parlour Ekoda
Head baker, Koji san, and his team make most menu items in house at this bakery, cafe, and wine bistro. Everything is excellent, with many vegetarian options, and all breads use domestically produced flour (some even use flour milled in house). The cheese sandwich—both with choice of bread and cheese—as well as the bread/butter/salad plate or meat-free quiche are top picks. The sesame bread is incredible.
* limited English
Pizza at En Boca
Originally from Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture—an area known for its great climate—En Boca is vegetable focused with a Japanese edge. They are most famous for the unique pizzas like the mozzarella, nozawana leafy greens and shiso one or the seaweed and mozzarella. Make it a full meal by starting with a massive platter of seasonal Karuizawa vegetables and ending on a miso walnut ice cream.
Miso Eggplant at Sankaku
Teishoku—a main dish with rice, pickles and miso soup—is arguably the perfect meal. Sankaku has been a well-trafficked hybrid teishoku/izakaya in Shimokitazawa since 2012 as a place to eat a full meal as well as try several small plates with a drink. The vegetarian options are limited but the miso eggplant with tofu and green pepper is amazing: perfectly salty, tangy, crunchy, and soft at the same time. Listen to the radio in the background at this women-led restaurant and enjoy the chill atmosphere.
* limited English