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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ain Soph Jouney II

April 5, 2015


On Sunday morning we explored Shinjuku, where we were staying. We sheltered from the rain in various department stores, marvelling at the toys and too timid to try on the clothes. Michael had four veg-friendly lunch destinations up his sleeve but the first one, Chaya, had a queue of more than a dozen hopefuls seated out front. We were time- and train-sensitive so opted for the next closest venue, Ain Soph Journey.

We'd visited Ain Soph last year for dinner and so knew roughly what to expect. The menu mostly contains English translations, has many instructive and attractive photos and appears to be entirely vegan, so it's not too difficult to pick out a meal. Our waiter, however, didn't speak any English and valiantly continued to speak Japanese to us throughout our visit even though we tried to make it clear right away that we couldn't understand.


At lunch time Ain Soph tend towards set menus - a multi-course banquet runs to 2800円 (~AU$30.20) but other savouries with salad are 1800円 (~AU$19.40). Salads are piled up into pint glasses and served with salty soy and vinaigrette dressings. Michael's green curry (one of the cheaper lunch specials) was like a palak paneer with three tofu cubes replacing the cheese, tasty and soupy with brown rice and more fresh greens on the side.


Ever the sweet tooth, I ordered from the dessert menu. Unfortunately, given our limited ability to communicate with our waiter, this meant that Michael had finished his salad entree and his entire curry before this was brought to the table. He couldn't help but pick at my fluffy vegan pancakes (1400円 ~ AU$15.10) - they were really good! Toppings were abundant - aerated soy cream, date icecream, berry compote, fresh fruit slices and a scattering of nuts and seeds. My wild strawberry tea (600円 ~ AU$6.50) was the ideal tangy, fruity accompaniment.

Our previous review of Ain Soph Journey was tepid, but this time round they proved themselves capable of much more than we'd given them credit for. We only regretted that we didn't have time to linger over their banquet.

Retro J-pop at Disc Union
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You can read about our first visit to Ain Soph Journey here. Since then it's received many positive reviews on other blogs, many of them in Japanese - see Tokyo Chillin', Bon Voyage Vegan, NPO Japan Vegetarian Society, meg, Happy Lucky, Tokyo Today Tokyo, Active Vegan and My Secret Place.
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Ain Soph Journey
3 Chome 8-9, Shinjuku Tokyo, Japan 160-0022
03-5925-8908
big lunch sets, small lunch sets, desserts, drinks
http://ain-soph.jp/top.html

Accessibility: The entry includes a half-flight of stairs. Half the tables are downstairs and another half are up a full flight of narrow stairs; all tables are densely arranged. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mominoki House

April 4, 2015


After our lunch, Matt and and I went for a wander through Yoyogi Park, enjoying both the cherry blossoms and the hordes of people out celebrating their arrival. Before we knew it it was time for dinner, and the Happy Cow App on my phone pointed us in the direction of the nearby Momonoki House in Harajuku. I was too distracted to take photos of the interior, but it's quite lovely - a handful of wooden tables, including a couple of elevated booths and a big blackboard with a detailed menu (including English translations). There is something a bit dated about the vibe, but that's probably understandable given it's been around for 39 years.

Mominoki House isn't entirely vego - there are a handful of meaty options, but the majority is meat-free. There are gluten dumplings, potato croquettes, deep-fried natto and a whole bunch of other small plate dishes, but Matt and I both went for set bigger meals from the specials board. For Matt, a tofu steak with ginger sauce and shallots, with sides of eggplant, beans, lotus root and carrot (picture above, 2200 ~ $24.25).


I grabbed the tempeh steak, which came with a soyish sauce, mushrooms, tomato, a slice of radish, bean curd, some sort of bean paste and decorative greens and flowers (2000円 ~ $22). The food was delicate and beautifully prepared, with an impressive array of ingredients. It's pricy, but you're paying for something a little bit fancier than you get at most of the vego places in Tokyo. It was pretty quiet the night we visited, and the atmosphere was a bit flat, but it's a fun place to check out if you're in the neighbourhood and have a bit of spending money.

(more unrelated cherry blossoms from Shinjuku-Gyoen)
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A vegan in Japan and vegan like a boss both enjoyed their visits to Mominoki House.
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Mominoki House
2 Chome-18-5 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
81 3 3405 9144
Menus: one, two, three, four, five
http://www.mominoki-house.net/

Accessibility: Mominoki House is down a flight of stairs and is quite crowded inside. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Nagi Shokudo II

April 4, 2015


A fortunate turn of events meant that Cindy and I found ourselves in Tokyo for a week over Easter. While she worked on the Saturday, I caught up with my brother for lunch at Nagi Shokudo in Shibuya. We'd dropped in for dinner on our last trip, but this time I got to sample the lunch menu. It's 1000 yen (~$11) for a lunch set. You choose 3 dishes from a list of 10-15 options and get them served up with a salad, some rice and a bowl of miso soup.

I ordered the fried soy meat (bottom right), the dahl fritters (bottom left) and the tomato and ginger tofu (top right). This was an excellent way to get back into the swing of eating in Japan. Set meals at lunch are almost always a cheap and filling option, and this set had the added bonus of a bit of flexibility and excellent execution. The tofu and soy meat in particular were brilliant - really top notch.

This is nowhere near Nagi Shokudo, but is Shinjuku Gyoen, where I spent my pre-lunch hours enjoying the cherry blossoms.

The place is lovely too - hard to find, but worth the effort. The staff speak a decent amount of English and the menu is translated, which makes life a bit easier for hopeless monolinguists like us. They have an array of zines and CDs for sale as well and seem to be a bit of a meeting point for Tokyo hipsters (the Portland band Sad Horse were lunching there on our visit).
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Read about our previous visit here. Lots of other bloggers have enjoyed Nagi Shokudo - see Big Tent Vegan, Vegetus, Vegetablian, Cascadian Abroad, Kitty and Buck and JoJo + Japan for positive reviews, while VegOut Tokyo and Bon Voyage Vegan had more mixed feelings.
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Nagi Shokudo
15-10 Uguisudanicho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
050 1043 7751
http://nagishokudo.com/

It's on the quiet south-western side of Shibuya station and you'll need to make sure you have good directions/map screen shots. Even when you find the right intersection the place can still be hard to spot - it's hidden low in a little cluster of restaurants - look for this sign.



Accessibility: Nagi Shokudo is down a handful of stairs and is pretty crowded inside. There's full table service. We didn't visit the toilets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Radhey Kitchen & Chai Bar II

March 28, 2015


It took seven months, but I finally made my way back to try out Radhey's tea and dessert selection. As you can see from the photo above, the desserts are varied and attractive with well-labelled vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and raw options.


Even having just snuck out of Yong Green Food with their raw dessert menu, it was the uncooked items that Carol, Michael and I were most drawn to. The raw cacao brownie ($7) was almost cakey with a lovely ganache-like topping. Nevertheless, it was outshone by the raw raspberry swirl cheesecake ($7), a super smooth square of creamy sweetness lifted by the tanginess of real raspberries. My plant milk-based chai ($4) was warm and comforting, but too light on the spice for my taste.


On a Saturday night, when the rest of Brunswick St was poised to get rowdy, Radhey Kitchen and Chai Bar was a welcome quiet nook for dessert with a friend. We'll continue to seek it out for comfort food and calm.

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You can read about our first visit to Radhey here. Since then it's been blogged on Fire & Tea, Zinc Moon and Veganopoulous.
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Radhey Kitchen & Chai Bar
336 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
9077 8858
http://www.radheychaibar.com/

Accessibility: I think there's a half-step up on entry and a flat interior. Tables are quite densely packed with a clear wide corridor through the middle. We ordered and paid and a low-ish counter, where much of the food is on display and chalkboard menus are easy to read. We didn't visit the toilets.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Veggie Patch Diner

March 25, 2015


I had another quick work trip to Sydney in late March, and used my couple of spare meals to check out the newish Veggie Patch Diner, a permanent home from Yulli's-related Veggie Patch Van. It's a cute little space - lots of clean wooden fittings, natural light, and a lovely but small courtyard out the back. They're open Wednesday-Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is about 60% vegan - there's a mix of eggy and non-eggy stuff for breakfast, a burger menu for lunch and dinner and a cabinet of salads if you're feeling like something healthy.


I turned up on the way in to work ready for brekkie. The haloumi and fried egg roll ($10) tempted me, as did the baked chickpeas served on crispy polenta with smoked mushrooms ($15), but I always find myself unable to resist the lure of scrambled tofu (with mushrooms, kale and homemade tomato sauce, $14). It's a mountain of food - deliciously oily and seasoned with some sort of spice mix including turmeric and cumin. There's a good mix of veggies stirred through and a couple of pieces of decent toast buried under it all. An excellent start to the day.

A mere eight hours later and I was back for more, grabbing dinner on my way back to my hotel. After breakfast, it's really all about burgers here. There are six to choose from: zucchini and feta, haloumi, olive and almond, cajun spiced tofu and, my choice for the evening: smoked mushroom and and tempeh burger ($12 or $17 with a choice of sides - you'll see below that I chose a side of onion rings that towered over the burger).


The mushroom burger came with a couple of smoky tempeh slices, pickled banana peppers, lime and pepper mayo an apple and kale slaw and a watermelon/chipotle bbq sauce. And it was excellent - a mash up of tangy, smoky and spicy flavours and a big juicy mushroom. The onion rings were ludicrous - gigantic rings of batter with slivers of onion inside them. It's really too much batter for one person to eat in a single sitting - they're great, but you'll want to share them with a friend.

Veggie Patch Diner is a welcome addition to Sydney's vego dining scene - excellent food, friendly staff, great music on the stereo and a lovely space to hang out in. I'll definitely be back next time I'm in town.
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I first read about Veggie Patch Diner on The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry. Nobody else seems to have blogged the diner, although there are quite a few positive write-ups of the related food van.
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Veggie Patch Diner
239 Glenmore Road, Paddington
02 9331 5992
https://www.facebook.com/VeggiePatchVan
breakfast, burgers, sides and salads

Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry, to a reasonably spacious interior. You order and pay at a low counter. The toilets are out the back, and are up a few steps.