Thursday 15 May 2014

Vegan in Japan: Tokyo Part Three

Day five in Tokyo and Nick and I headed out to explore Shimokitazawa, an area of Tokyo renowned for youth fashion and nightlife, but it my mind it will always be synonymous with French bakery Mirayne. This adorable little bakery is just a short walk from Yoyogiuehara station and aside from cows milk for drinks they are entirely vegan. This place was on the expensive side but I always like to support small business when I travel and because we hadn't found many portable treats yet we picked up quite a few things. The beautiful bakery case was bursting with goodies and we bought matcha cookies, a chocolate brownie, two bite sized muffins - one banana walnut, one jam filled and some crunchy pig shaped vanilla cookies.

We enjoyed all of our treats outside on the patio as there's no indoor seating.

The muffins were the perfect little breakfast treat and a we quickly followed them with a couple of the adorable pig shaped vanilla cookies Nick had picked out. The crunchy matcha coated cookies were enjoyable and had the benefit of having a long shelf life which was great as it was a while before we found sweet take-out treats again. The brownie was pretty gooey, a little fudgey and came with some vanilla icing which Nick enjoyed - I don't really believe icing belongs on a brownie!

Everything was so good that we actually went back in and picked out some strawberry cookies and a couple more muffins before heading on our way. I think the lady running the place thought we were a little crazy but she gave us some free carrot cake samples so I'm okay with that!

After missing out on DevaDeva Cafe on Ghibli Museum day I was determined to fit it in somewhere and so we headed over to explore Kichijoji, walk off our sweet breakfast, and enjoy some lunch. 

We loved the atmosphere at DevaDeva, everyone working there was super friendly and there was a really laid back vibe so we settled in for a long lunch. I don't usually order juice because I find the usual apple, orange, grapefruit options a little lacking but I can't resist a fun option like passionfruit.

I feel pretty strongly about burgers, if there's one on the menu I'll probably order it especially if it comes with some kind of fried potato. I went for the katsu burger and it was an excellent choice, great mock meaty burger, really flavourful sauce and a soft seeded bun. This lunch was spot on.

After a little deliberation over whether or not to order dessert we spotted this chocolate cake heading to another table and we were sold. We also decided there was no way we were sharing because we're both quite protective of our chocolate, a decision we both agreed was a good one after tasting this delicious cake.

I'm not often a fan of a raw base but this was spot on (read: not overwhelmingly coconutty) and the mousse-like cheesecake was perfect. The ganache on top and swirled on the plate made this a truly world class dessert.

After an afternoon nap (what? Exploring's tiring!) we headed out into the night to explore the bars of Golden Gai. Unsure if we'd be brave enough to pop into any of them we spotted a punk pub with a mohawked barman blasting The Ramones and decided to go for it. We had a super fun evening chatting with some Japanese locals and an American who was in town on business. I drank enough for both of us that night - Nick doesn't drink and these bars have only 3 - 7 seats each so I thought I'd better make sure we weren't wasting space at the bar! We slept in the next day and headed out for breakfast at around 12. This is where we got lost for the first time, unsurprisingly I wasn't on top form that day - if you know me well you'll know I need carbs to transform into a normal human on a good day let alone after a night of drinking so I somehow took us on a very roundabout route to the Biokira Cafe when I was really trying to get us to the (much closer) Bio Cafe. This is how we ended up having cake for breakfast instead of steamed buns! 

Biokura Cafe is actually a super swanky, super healthy cafe and part of a cooking school full of very well dressed Japanese people not hungover scruffy punks - we felt pretty outa place but once Nick saw the cake he made the executive decision to stick around.

The cheesecake and lemon tart were two of the best things we ate on the trip so I'm glad we stayed. The texture of the cheesecake was spot on and the lemon tart has just the right lemon / base / topping ratio. If we'd have been in the area again we'd have definitely headed here for more.

Cake and one of my emergency Clif bars was never going to keep me going for long so after a little explore of the market outside the UN University building we headed to one of our favourite lunch spots Hanada Rosso for a proper meal. We decided to skip our usual burger order and try something from the set lunch menu, I picked the Soy Meat Fritto with brown rice.

Nick chose the Kuruma-Hu Cutlet with bread.

Everything came with miso soup and salad and because we both feel pretty strongly about fried food this was an amazing lunch. Nick's cutlet was described on the menu as a "puffy doughnut shaped bread-like food made of dried wheat gluten", it was deep fried and mock-pork like and we both really enjoyed the rich hatcho-miso sauce it was served with. My deep fried soy meat was also delicious, the mayonnaise went with it well and I was glad I chose the brown rice side as I think this much batter plus bread could have even been a little much even for me.

After a long day of exploring the city we decided to head to Chidorigafuchi where the blossoms decorate the moats around Kitanomaru park. You can rent rowing boats here during the day but we wanted to check out the nighttime Hanami experience. My iPhone pictures really don't do it justice so you'll have to go there yourself one day.

Afterwards we were a pretty hungry and as most other veg friendly places seem to close early we headed to the heart of Shibuya to try Bio Cafe - the place I was trying to direct us to at breakfast time! I was wooed as soon as they set down an enormous basket of bread with olive oil for dipping, I love carbs and this was turning out to be a good day for them!

The carrot orange juice I ordered was like a slushy and I loved it! I clearly need to add crushed ice to more drinks at home. We finally got our hands on the steamed bun we'd been waiting all day for. These sweet barbecue mock meat filled dumplings are up there with my favourite ever foods and this one lived up to expectations.

Our mains were a little less of a win, Nick had a creamy soy based casserole...

...and I picked a mock meaty stew with brown rice.

Neither of these dishes were bad just a little bland and whilst I'd go back for snacks like the steamed bun I'd probably skip dinner. We did like that vegan options were clearly labelled on the menu and the bread really was excellent so if you've been let me know what you tried, maybe we just missed the great dishes.

One thing I wish we could have found a vegan version of, alongside matcha filled Oreo's and Kit Kat's, were these wonderfully cute ice creams. The real versions look just like the plastic versions down to the sweet pandas and perfect looking fruit. I told Nick that we should learn to veganise all of them, move to Japan, open an ice cream shop and wait for the vegans to flock to us! He is less certain that this is an excellent life plan.

The next morning it was time to head onwards on our journey and we headed to Shinjuku station to swap our JR voucher for a JR pass.

Despite arriving only a tiny bit later than planned at 9:05 rather than 9 when they opened the wait was long. I suspect that this had something to do with it being Monday but who knows. We waited around 40 minutes for the three groups in front of us to be processed but we felt bad for the 15 or so people who arrived shortly behind us as they must have had a much longer wait. I do not feel sorry for the woman who tried to shoulder barge her way in front of me in line, I hope she had to wait all day.

With our passes in hand we boarded the Shinkansen and headed for Nikko which is a story for another day.


  1. I like your glasses!

    I would totally have gone for the katsu burger. I've only had homemade vegan katsu (from Vegan Eats World), and I didn't even know you could make a burger out if it. Japan sounds like fun!

  2. I'm a sucker for all buns and katsu. Everything looks incredible and I extra want to go to Japan now. Looking forward to hearing about Nikko!

  3. Thank you so much for these Japan posts! If I ever go there I will print them all. This is way better than any tourist guide. Those plastic ice creams look fascinating!

  4. That dumpling looks absolutely packed with filling! I love the look of the burger and chips too...I have to fight my urge to order burgers whenever I see them on a menu. The chocolate cake looks amazing too - I love when raw cakes pull off a fluffier mousse filling rather than the really dense ones.

  5. all that food looks amazing! the cake and burger look to die for! the cute lil pastry - though expensive, looks like a super cute treat!

  6. I am so horribly jealous of your amazing adventures and eats, I could just cry. I miss Japan so much! I would give anything to go back, especially during sakura season. You definitely picked the perfect time to visit. I'm still happy I can sort of experience it through your photos, so thanks for sharing. :)


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