Tokyo Feature

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What's a Vegetarian to Do?

Tokyo has had a reputation for being a difficult place for vegetarians, but more and more Japanese are opting to go vegetarian, resulting in a rise in the number of truly vegetarian restaurants. The city's numerous Indian eateries are a safe bet, as are the handful of restaurants (such as Sasa-no-yuki) that specialize in shojin ryori, traditional Zen vegetarian food that emphasizes natural flavors and fresh ingredients without using heavy spices or rich sauces. However, you should always inquire when making reservations at these restaurants as some will still use dashi, a stock made with smoked skipjack tuna and kelp. The variety and visual beauty of a full-course shojin ryori meal offers new dining dimensions to the vegetarian gourmet. Goma-dofu, or sesame-flavored bean curd, for example, is a tasty treat, as is nasu-dengaku, grilled eggplant covered with a sweet miso sauce.

Take note that a dish may be described as meat-free even if it contains fish, shrimp, or chicken. And one should assume that salads, pastas, and soups in nonvegetarian restaurants are garnished with ham or bacon.

Deva Deva Café. Near the picturesque Inokashira Park, Deva Deva Café is an organic oasis. Don't be surprised to see pizza, burgers, and grilled chicken on the menu of this vegan restaurant. But don't worry—the pizza is made with soy cheese; the burgers are meat-free, made with chickpeas, veggies, and herbs; and the chicken is made from soy protein. 2–15–26 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino City, Tokyo, 180-0004. 042/221 6220. www.devadevacafe.com. No credit cards. Subway: JR Chuo Line, Kichijoji Station (North Exit).

If you plan to stay in town long term, check out Alishan (www.alishan-organics.com), a vegetarian mail-order specialist.

Updated: 01-2014

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