Yasai Cafe Meguri (Nikko, Tochigi-ken, Japan) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Location:  Nikko City, Tochigi, Japan
  • Type: All Vegan
  • Price: $$ – Average (~¥1300 lunch set)
  • Website: None (HappyCow Page)
  • Phone Number: 0288-25-3122
  • Hours: Sat-Wed 11:30-17:00 (Thur-Fri sometimes closed)

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About & Location:

Yasai Cafe Meguri (Vegetable Cafe Meguri) is a vegan macrobiotic restaurant located in Nikko City, at the entrance to Nikko National Park.  It’s a 2 minute bus ride or 15 minute walk from Tobu Nikko Station, on the Nihon Romantic Highway (the main road leading away from it).  It’s between Tobu Nikko Station and  Toshogu Jinja, Rinnoji Temple, and Shinkyo Bridge.  A map can be found on the restaurant’s Happy Cow Page.

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Food:

Yasai Cafe Meguri specialized in Organic, Vegan, Macrobiotic “teishoku” lunch sets.  The lunch sets are ¥1280 on weekdays and ¥1380 on weekends.  They have a large drink menu and daily Japanese sweets options.  The menu is entirely in Japanese, unfortunately, which may make ordering difficult for non-Japanese-speaking travelers (unfortunately I forgot to ask if they spoke English, but Nikko gets a lot of tourists, so hopefully they speak a little).

Yasai Cafe Meguri is apparently very popular, has only 10 seats, and stops serving food when they run out.  They take reservations on weekdays, but on weekend it’s first-come, first-serve.  I went on a Sunday at around 12:30 pm and got a seat immediately, but it was pretty busy already.

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I ended up ordering the Soy Protein Mushroom Hayashi Rice (大豆たんぱくときのこ味噌ハヤシライス), which turned out to be a sort of mushrooms, onions, and soy protein balls in curry, with a round of rice.  It was really good, with a mix of bitterness and sweetness that was unusual (I usually find Japanese curries to be a bit too sweet, so this was a nice flavor change).  The Hayashi Rice came topped with an array of delicately sliced vegetables (tomato, asparagus, red radish, cucumbers, and green pepper).

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Atmosphere & Service:

The decor at Yasai Cafe Meguri was bright, natural, and quirky, which are basically all of my favorite things.   There was lots of light wood, light neutral Japanese ceramics, traditional Japanese decor, wooden utensils, and home-made crafts scattered cozily about the place, but in spite of the slightly cluttered effect the place was spotless and somehow very relaxing.  There are two types of seating: The first is western-style, at high wooden tables with raised chairs, and the second is Japanese style, on a raised platform with tatami flooring and low tables with cushions.  The Japanese-style area, which runs along the windows, appeared to be in high-demand, so I had to settle for the table (which was still lovely).

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The most incredible aspect of the restaurant (at least for me) was the gorgeous Japanese-style papered ceiling.  It was clearly very old (and quite water-damaged), but it made the place seem magical. I know that’s pretty sentimental, but it was really overwhelmingly beautiful to me.

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Yasai Cafe Meguri is not just a restaurant but also a store, selling CD’s, crafts, cosmetics, eco-friendly household supplies and organic vegan foods products.  There are lots of places online and around Tokyo where you can buy similar food products, but the household supplies are at times a bit harder to come by, so if you’re looking for something specific, this would be a good place to check out.

 

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The service was nothing incredible, but the staff were friendly and the food came in a reasonable amount of time, considering they had almost 10 customers and only 2 staff.

Overall, I was very pleased with my visit and would definitely return again!  I wouldn’t make a special trip out to Nikko for the meal, but if you’re going to be in town to view some of Nikko’s incredible historical sites and natural beauty, definitely make sure to lay aside time to visit Yasai Cafe Meguri for lunch!

 

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Kintsubo Shokudo 金壺食堂 (Naha, Okinawa, Japan) – ★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality :  So-so – ★★
  • Location:   Near Tsuboya District, Makishi Station on the Okinawa Monorail (Naha, Okinawa, Japan)
  • Type:  All Vegetarian (very vegan-friendly)
  • Price: $ – Cheap! (¥600 all-you-can-eat)
  • Website: None ( HappyCow Page)
  • Phone Number: 81-988678607
  • Hours:  8:00 am – 3:00 pm (last order 2:30)
  • Language Barrier:  No menu (English or otherwise)

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About & Location:

Kintsubo Shokudo is a Taiwanese Buffet located near the Tsuboya Pottery District in Naha, Okinawa.  It’s about a 15-20 minute walk from Makishi Station on the Okinawa Monorail (Yuirail).

I have provided video directions below, but here are written directions: Find the intersection of Kokusai Dori and Sakurazaka Naka Dori.  If you are coming from Makishi Station, this means you will turn left off of Kokusai Dori onto Sakurazaka Naka Dori.  Walk for about 10-15 minutes.  Sakurazaka Dori will turn in a small road to your right, but keep walking straight on the main road.  From Kokusai Dori, you will pass 2 side streets on your right, but keep going.  When you reach the third side-street on your right, turn in. You will see the exit of Heiwa Dori in front of you.  There will be 3 alleys to your left – the middle one has Kintsubo Shokudo.  The name is NOT in Japanese!  Look for an orange overhang that says 金壺食堂. In this photos it’s the restaurant down the road on the left.

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Here’s video directions from the intersection of Kokusai Dori and Sakurazaka Naka Dori:

Food: 

Kintsubo Shokudo offers an interesting variety of vegetarian Taiwanese and Okinawan dishes, served in buffet-style. The Viking Lunch set (aka, buffet) is a mere 600, lasts from 8 am to 3:00 pm (last order at 2:30). Not all of the dishes are vegan, but most of them are. If you can speak a little Japanese, ask which dishes contain milk or egg, and they can quickly tell you. When I went, only two items in the buffet weren’t vegan.

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There was a wide variety of dishes, including noodle dishes, various stir-fries, seaweed dishes, and pickles. I personally found several of the dishes a little bit soggy (not surprising in a buffet, they’d probably bit in their juices too long) and a little bit too oily for my personal preferences. However, it’s all-you-can-eat for 600 yen. Even taking into account the quality issues, I definitely got my money’s worth, and I didn’t even eat that much!

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Goya, Tofu, and Carrot stir-fry

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Atmosphere & Service:

The atmosphere is very, very casual. You serve yourself, and the seating area itself is like a tiny cafeteria with a splash of Taiwanese Buddhist religious iconography. It’s probably the least glamorous of all restaurants I’ve visited, but in a way that added to its appeal. Because it didn’t have restaurant-atmosphere, I felt like I was serving myself lunch in someone’s home. It was refreshing.

The restaurant owners, presumably a Taiwanese husband and wife, were absolutely delightful.They chatted with me, asked where I lived, and explained some of the dishes to me. They were incredibly relaxed and friendly and it added to the restaurant’s homey-atmosphere.