As a vegetarian who has been lucky enough to travel throughout parts of Japan, I can say from experience that it’s sometimes hard to find veggie-friendly dining. And even more challenging is that sometimes the food looks so amazing, you can’t help but feel pangs of jealousy (and hunger!) as you watch your dining companions bite into scrumptious-looking curries, tantalizing ramen and other meaty, completely off-limits dishes. Having experienced this on more than one occasion, I now come to the “which restaurant shall we go to” party prepared. The answer? Know your vegetarian-friendly restaurants in every town,
city and country you find yourself in. Speaking for the vegetarians (yes, all of us), I’m confident that we all keep track of local restaurants with easy, delicious and always vegetarian meals. Well, my veggie friends, if you happen to be visiting Tokyo in the near future, I’ve got your back. Get a pen and some paper and add this one to your list: Tokyo’s Nomin Café, a bit of vegetarian heaven in a happening spot. It will be your new vegetarian go-to while you explore Japan’s largest city.
Located in the Shimokitazawa district of Tokyo, Nomin Café is a great stop during a busy day of exploring this area, which is known for its quirky shopping and entertainment. The area is also known for highlighting independent designers— providing space for them away from the larger-scale retailers. This is fitting for Nomin Café, as it too is a unique space that focuses on an eco-friendly, down-to-earth theme. After all, nomin is the Japanese for word for “farmer”!
Keeping with the natural, earthy feel, this café serves up a number of traditional Japanese dishes with a vegetarian, and sometimes vegan-friendly, twist. An assortment of healthy meals is ripe for the picking, ranging from soups and curries to veggie, rice and tofu sets. The weary traveller can perk up with a cup of coffee, or mellow out with one of the many teas.
Just like the food, the atmosphere at Nomin Café is simple, eco-trendy and comfortable. The restaurant was built inside an old, renovated Japanese house, which gives the place a homey feel—you will feel like you’re visiting a friend’s house for a sit-down meal. A big draw on a pleasant summer day is the terrace, complete with low Japanese-style seating for a comfy meal outside.
With regards to cost, the prices on this menu are reasonable. A curry set, complete with rice and veggies, may run you about $15, but leaves you feeling satisfied. Should you have any questions about the menu and you find your Japanese lacking, the owner reportedly speaks English and is sure to give some sage dining advice! For the more adventurous vegetarian, feel free to choose whatever you want off the menu whether you know what it is or not…. The benefit of dining at this café is that you can rest assured that your meal is 100% vegetarian friendly. So, dine away and know that you won’t have that pit-in-the-stomach moment when you realize that, although the soup you were happily slurping on is full of veggies, they are swimming in a chicken broth (we’ve all been there). The only surprise for vegetarians at Nomin Café is that you will want to keep coming back!
Know your veggies
Some vegetarian facts to dine on!
- Dashi is a common ingredient in many Japanese dishes, but beware! It is made from fish and is found in many soups and sauces!
- Trying to convey that you don’t eat meat? Try using the Japanese word for vegetarian— it’s bejitarian.
- Need a bit more help? Try using the phrase “Watashi wa bejitarian desu” to let everyone know that you are a veggie lover.
- Traditional Buddhist food, called Shojin ryori, is always vegetarian. So, make your way to the nearest temple if you’re struggling to find some veggie-friendly nosh!
The restaurant is located just a four-minute walk from Shimokitazawa Station on the Odakyu and Keio Inokashira lines.
2-27-8 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Wed–Mon 11:30 am–5 pm • Tues closed