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SF Chowhound visiting Tokyo for wedding anniversary

shellshock24 Nov 11, 2009 03:04 PM

Hi all,

My wife and I are visiting Tokyo (first time for the both of us in Japan) from 11/24-11/29. 11/25 is our wedding anniversary and we were looking for a moderately to moderately high priced restaurant for our anniversary. Here's the catch though, while I eat everything and anything, my wife is a strict vegetarian (she doesn't eat any seafood either). Any recs for a nice place we can go to dinner that can accommodate the both of us?

Thanks!

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  1. k
    kikisakura RE: shellshock24 Nov 12, 2009 07:17 PM

    Accommodate both of you as in vegetarian for her and steak for you? If that is the case then, your best strategy is to locate a restaurant you are interested then contacting them perhaps via your hotel concierge to inquire if they can prepare vegetarian meal for your wife without any seafood, meat, or poultry. You might also clarify that only vegetable-based stock would be acceptable. I'd think that most higher end places can do this given advance notice.

    If you are willing to go veggie, there are still quite a bit of choices in Tokyo. You can go for vegetarian Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, etc. The down side is that many of those eateries are quite casual and more cafe-like than upscale restaurants and you might not be all that happy eating mostly vegetables and soy products.

    My personal preference would be to go to spend a night at a ryokan or temple that serves shojin (Japanese Buddhist vegetarian) cuisine.

    6 Replies
    1. re: kikisakura
      Robb S RE: kikisakura Nov 12, 2009 07:52 PM

      Really, there are ryokan in Tokyo that serve shojin-ryori? I didn't know that! Can you recommend any?

      1. re: Robb S
        k
        kikisakura RE: Robb S Nov 12, 2009 09:11 PM

        Ah, I was more or less thinking either Nagano or Kyoto for the ryokan. I know it'd be quite a train ride but it'd be so much more romantic.

        There is a temple in Tokyo called Sankouin that serves good shojin-ryori: http://www1.odn.ne.jp/sankouin/sankou...

        Given its setting though, I wouldn't think that it is suitable for anniversary dinner.

        Anyways, there is one ryokan in Ginza, Tokyo that I can recommend that would serve vegetarian dinner pretty close to traditional kaiseki using organic ingredients:

        http://www.yoshimizu.com/english/ginz...

        The inn isn't for everyone but if you can live with its restrictions, it offers great value especially for Ginza.

        1. re: kikisakura
          Robb S RE: kikisakura Nov 12, 2009 10:29 PM

          Thanks for the pointer to Sankouin, they sound good. (Maybe not ideal for the OP though, since they serve only lunch.)

          1. re: Robb S
            k
            kikisakura RE: Robb S Nov 13, 2009 06:48 AM

            As far as I could tell from the website, they are open for dinner everyday except Sunday. Not exactly a destination dining spot though but for friends and family who care about sustainability, it is a great spot; even their tatami mats are organic.

            1. re: kikisakura
              Robb S RE: kikisakura Nov 13, 2009 09:24 AM

              Sankouin is the temple that serves shojin-ryori. You said that it wouldn't be suitable for an anniversary dinner because of its setting; I pointed out that they're open only for lunch.

              I think the sustainable organic tatami-mat entity is Yoshimizu, the Ginza ryokan.

              1. re: Robb S
                k
                kikisakura RE: Robb S Nov 13, 2009 09:42 AM

                woops, my bad. :S

    2. Robb S RE: shellshock24 Nov 12, 2009 08:02 PM

      As Kikizakura said, I think most high-end French, Italian or contemporary international restaurants should be able to prepare a vegetarian meal if you request it in advance. Peter (in the Peninsula Hotel) has a good selection of vegetarian dishes on their pick-and-choose tasting menu.

      1. shellshock24 RE: shellshock24 Nov 12, 2009 10:46 PM

        Thanks everyone for the suggestions. A friend of mind told me that there are some high-end tofu restaurants in Tokyo. Any suggestions? I don't mind eating veggie for that night, since most of the time I'll be chowing down on ramen, udon, sushi, and whatever else I can get my hands on.

        1 Reply
        1. re: shellshock24
          Robb S RE: shellshock24 Nov 13, 2009 02:39 AM

          In Japan tofu is real food, not just something for vegetarians to settle for, so as a result tofu restaurants don't really cater to vegetarians. I.e. they prepare dishes with fish stock and other non-veg ingredients, and they're not necessarily set up to do vegetarian versions on the spot, although you might be able to call ahead and try to order specially (just as you would with any other restaurant).

          If you want high-end Japanese vegetarian, there are a few shojin-ryori restaurants that might be nice for the occasion. Here are a few at different budget levels:
          http://www.bento.com/searchg.php?q=sh...

        2. z
          zaijin RE: shellshock24 Nov 15, 2009 03:45 AM

          Here's a place I can recommend highly: the new (or rather newly reopened) Restaurant J in Hiroo.

          The chef, Ueki, cooks a very modern, Japanese take on French cuisine, using a variety of local ingredients (miso, yuba, etc) featuring an amazing array of vegetables throughout — even as far as the desserts.

          The regular menus are not vegetarian, but there is a vegetarian lunch plate and Ueki told us he is happy to prepare fully vegetarian multi-course meals if he's given enough advance notice (a few days). He's a very good chef, and I'm sure he would make it look very special.

          The original Restaurant J (which served more Pacific Rim style cuisine) closed 4-5 years ago. The new incarnation has only been open about a month, so there's not much of a buzz yet. But it's good enough for at least one Michelin star based on the great meal we had there, one of the best we've had in recent months in Tokyo.

          Here's the url: http://www.msinter.co.jp/j/menu.asp

          8 Replies
          1. re: zaijin
            z
            zaijin RE: zaijin Nov 15, 2009 05:16 AM

            I should add that Ueki and his wife (who is often on the front desk) both speak good English.
            As for price, the 9,500 yen course was fantastic. My wife (we were there for her birthday) had the ¥6,500 course and that was not quite as complex, but still lots of beautifully presented dishes.
            Also, if they know it's your anniversary, they will probably prepare something a bit special for you (as they did for my wife).

            1. re: zaijin
              shellshock24 RE: zaijin Nov 15, 2009 07:58 PM

              Thanks everyone for the advice! I think we may take zaijin's suggestion and give Restaurant J a try. I will report back after our trip.

              On another note, and more of a cultural question - I was thinking of maybe trying one nice omakase meal somewhere (I haven't figured out where yet). Since my wife is vegetarian, she wouldn't participate with me. Would it be frowned upon if she accompanied me an didn't eat? I know some restaurants in SF don't care, while others may have a policy against it. Just wondering, since I really want to try amazing food but I don't leave my wife on her own nor do I want to offend a chef, etc. Thanks!

              1. re: shellshock24
                Notorious P.I.G. RE: shellshock24 Nov 15, 2009 10:06 PM

                At most of the higher end places I think you're required to order one Omakase of whatever cuisine you're about to partake in, per person. There could be an acception though...

                1. re: shellshock24
                  k
                  kikisakura RE: shellshock24 Nov 16, 2009 05:45 PM

                  If you want to have you sushi at a higher end place, you're probably better off going alone. You'd be required to make a reservation and if you are reserving for two, the restaurant would naturally assume that two people would order (and eat). This isn't just about the bottom line but also about the chef taking pride in serving his guests and to bring a companion with you who can't eat what is served won't exactly go too well.

                  I don't know if this would make your wife feel any better but I too get left behind when my family goes out to "real" sushi restaurants unless the place is owned by family friends, etc. I do not eat raw seafood except for fish roe and sweet shrimp so my family finds it too embarrassing to bring me along.

                2. re: zaijin
                  shellshock24 RE: zaijin Nov 30, 2009 02:11 PM

                  Zaijin - Thanks for the Restaurant J suggestion! We had a wonderful meal and had an opportunity to meet Chef Ueki who was very friendly. My wife loved her veggie meal. I like my meal overall, although a few dishes I wasn't too crazy about. All in all, an awesome experience. Here's a recent write up on the restaurant: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bi...

                  1. re: shellshock24
                    z
                    zaijin RE: shellshock24 Dec 1, 2009 07:23 AM

                    glad to hear that.
                    out of interest, which of your dishes were less successful? Any stand out as great?

                    1. re: zaijin
                      shellshock24 RE: zaijin Dec 1, 2009 12:59 PM

                      I really enjoyed the venison wrapped in soymilk skin. The meat the cooked perfectly and the accompanying jus was delicious. The chef's version of minestrone soup was also delicious. Very light and crisp, but not lacking in flavor whatsoever.

                      There were a couple of dishes that I wasn't too crazy about. The ise-ebi lobster dish was a bit salty and just didn't excite me (definitely not as much as Robbie Swinerton was in his article). There was also a soup/custard dish that I later found out was made with some fish sperm sac. I wasn't crazy about the flavor and the texture (even before knowing what i was made of) was a little odd.

                      On a good note however, both desserts were amazing. The daikon desert was my favorite. Subtle sweetness (something I came to love in Japan - most desserts are subtly sweet) and the crunch were just amazing.

                      1. re: shellshock24
                        z
                        zaijin RE: shellshock24 Dec 3, 2009 07:12 PM

                        Interesting. It seems Ueki is weaving quite a few Japanese ingredients into his cuisine. And you can't get much harder-core Japanese than shirako (cod milt) which sounds like what you had.
                        Some friends are going to try out the same combi of regulat/veggie that you had.

              2. p
                prasantrin RE: shellshock24 Nov 17, 2009 12:32 AM

                Like kikisakura, I think you'd have to settle for Italian or Indian. Maybe French, but I find French to be more risky for vegetarians, and there are fewer pure vegetarian options on French menus. At an Italian restaurant, you can at least get something like some kind of pasta pomodoro, but French places often have stock in their sauces, etc. Chinese will often have bits of pork or stock-based sauces.

                Another option might be tempura. I took a vegetarian acqaintance to a tempura place, and they allowed her to do the set without shrimp or fish, and they subbed in some other vegetables. Your wife won't be able to use the tentsuyu (dipping sauce), but there are often salts provided for certain ingredients. She won't be able to have the miso soup, either.

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