Shigetsu (Arashiyama, Kyoto) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Delicious!
  • Location: Within Tenryu-ji Temple, Arashiyama, Kyoto
  • Type: All Vegan; Japanese Buddhist Cuisine/Shojin Ryori
  • Hours: Mon-Sun, 11:00 am – 2:00pm
  • Price: $$$-$$$$, Somewhat Pricey to Expensive
  • Language Barrier: English menu available
  • Website: HappyCow Page, Restaurant Website

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About & Directions:

Shigetsu is a restaurant located within Tenryu-ji, a Buddhist Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.  The restaurant specializes in Japanese Zen Buddhist cuisine (Shojin Ryori), which is traditionally entirely vegan.  Although different temples do vary a bit from this rule, Shigetsu is quite strict.  Shojin Ryori is a must-try experience, and with such moderate prices and an incredibly beautiful setting, Shigetsu is a great choice (Another excellent option is Ajiro, which is also vegan and has a Michelin star).   It’s a good idea to make reservations, since it is popular.

Address, Access & Contact:

  • Special Note: Shigetsu is located WITHIN Tenryu-ji’s gardens.  You must pay a ¥500 entrance fee to go in. (It’s well worth it)
  • English: 68 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8385
  • Japanese: 〒616-8385 京都府京都市右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町68
  • Train Access:
    • Via Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line: 5 minute walk from Arashiyama Station
    • Via JR Sanin Main Line:  15 minute walk from JR Arashiyama Station
  • Phone Number:  (075) 882-9725

Google Map:

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Restaurant Review:

I’m not even sure how to review this place.  I’m not a chef or a connoisseur by any means, and my typical rating system is merely based on whether or not I want to keep eating until I feel like I’ve ruptured something.    Eating at Shigetsu is an entirely different experience, requiring an appreciation of the presentation and the variety of textures & flavors created with simple ingredients.  I can appreciate a good ice cream sundae, but appreciating something this much more subtle was an unusual experience for me.

I know I took notes as I ate, then lost them somewhere, so I’ll just have to work from memory.  First off, I arrived early and spent my time wandering around Tenryuji’s incredible gardens.  Definitely give yourself extra time so that you can really appreciate the place – you’re going to pay the ¥500 entrance fee anyways, you might as well get your money’s worth!  Personally I’d recommend going before your meal, simply because I was stuffed afterwards I really wasn’t in a position to appreciate natural beauty (although wouldn’t a nap here be nice?)

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Once I entered, they asked if I had a reservation, and after a short wait led me into a large, traditional Japanese tatami-mat room with a long red carpet rolled out on each side.   The middle of the room was broken by sliding doors, which broke the large room into two smaller rooms.  It appeared that Japanese guests were served in one room, while foreigners were served in another, which was kind of weird (but maybe it was just a coincidence).  The dining style was communal, so I sat on the red carpet along with various other visitors, and ordered my meal.

I ordered the Yuki set (¥3,000, not including the ¥500 yen entrance fee to Tenryuji Gardens), mainly because I wanted to experience Zen cuisine but also wanted to keep to my budget.  I was concerned that, since the food was high-quality, ¥3,000 might only get me a very small meal.  In actuality, however,  it was MORE than enough food – in fact I’m not sure how anyone is able to eat the larger sets.  I have a pretty healthy appetite, but over the course of nearly 2 hours I just barely managed to finish my meal.  I was simultaneously concerned about overstaying my welcome and nervous that leaving food uneaten might be incredibly disrespectful.

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¥3,000 Lunch Set (not including 2 other sides)

The set was enormous: rice, soup, pickles, 5 other vegetables sides along with a sliced melon for dessert.  Each side dish consisted of different vegetable-based ingredients prepared in unique ways, from a starchy-tasting cold soup, to cold soft tofu in a light sauce, to what seemed like grilled eggplant slathered in a rich miso paste.  I couldn’t identify a lot of what I was eating, but since I knew it was all vegan the experience was pretty exciting (food mysteries are usually unpleasant when you’re vegan, so this was fun!).

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Beautiful array of mochi, plum, sweet potato, konyaku and other mysterious squishy things

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Pickles

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Cold soup

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Eggplant with Miso

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And one perfect slice of melon for dessert!

Everything was clearly prepared with care and an larger vision of how each would work in the set as a whole.  I’ll admit that I didn’t much care for the soup (it was definitely based in something starchy, and the texture was unusual for me), and I found that the miso on the eggplant was a bit too thick and somewhat overwhelming.  However, I would still go again – it’s important to get out of your comfort zone with food!

I found that sitting for so long on the floor was a bit uncomfortable, so if you have knee or back problems, please be aware that you will be eating from the floor and a lot of sitting and bending is involved.  I liked the communal setting, since it was fun to see how the people near me reacted to what they at, but I was also a little confused by what seemed to be segregation (but again, maybe I misinterpreted it or it was a coincidence).  Everyone was generally quiet and respectful, so in spite of sitting so near to other I was able to relax and appreciate the food.

Overall, I’d recommend that anyone wanting to try out Shojin Ryori consider Shigetsu – I haven’t tried Shojin Ryori at other temples in the area, so I can’t say it’s the best, but the location is beautiful and the food excellent.  ¥3,000 may seem steep at first glance, but for an enormous amount of food and a truly memorable cultural experience, it’s a great deal!

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Mumokuteki Cafe & Foods (Kyoto) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Delicious
  • Location:  Gokomachi-dori, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City, Japan
  • Type: Omnivore, Vegan-friendly*; Japanese & Western
    • *Most dishes are vegan EXCEPT that some contain fish sauce!  Look for the fish icon next to fish sauce-containing dishes.
  • Hours: Mon-Sun, 11:30am – 10:00pm (Last Order 9pm)
  • Price: $$ – Moderate
  • Language Barrier: English menu available
  • Website: HappyCow Page, Restaurant Website
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Loco Moco Style Rice Bowl w/ Tofu Hamburger (¥950)

About & Location:

Mumokuteki is a omnivorous (but extremely vegan-friendly) restaurant located on Teramachi-dori in central Kyoto.  It’s a bit hard to find, as it’s located inside of a building behind a small shop (also called Mumokuteki), and up a flight of stairs.  Keep an eye out for a large menu posted just inside the entrance, near the shop.  It’s often very crowded, so go up the stairs and they may give you a number.  You then go back downstairs to a small waiting room to wait for your number to be called.  (I was really confused by this and kept walking around the waiting room trying to find the restaurant.  Pretty sure the other people waiting thought I was crazy!)  To avoid the wait, you can call and make reservations on weekdays (non-holidays).

Address, Access & Contact:

  • English: 〒604-8066 Human Forum Bld. 2F, 351 Iseyacho Rokkaku-kudaru, Gokomachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto
  • Japanese: 〒604-8066
    京都府京都市中京区御幸町通六角下ル伊勢谷町351
    ヒューマンフォーラムビル2F(入り口は1階にございます)
  • Access:
    • 7 min walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station
    • 11 min walk from Heihan Sanjo-Keihan
    • 14 min walk from Underground Shiyakusho-Mae Station
  • Phone Number: 075-213-7733

Google Map:

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Walk up the stairs to get a number…

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… Then they’ll ask you to wait, either upstairs or in the downstairs waiting room.

Restaurant Review:

I didn’t come to Mumokuteki during my first trip to Kyoto because I was put off by the “omnivore” label – I generally prefer to eat at all-vegan restaurants, since it’s nice to not have to worry about anything you’re eating.  However, during my second visit I stayed at Khaosan Kyoto Theater, a hostel located very nearby on Gokomachi-dori.  When I recognized it as a restaurant I’d seen on Happy Cow, I decided to give it a shot.  I’m SO grateful I did!

Everything at Mumokuteki is vegan EXCEPT that some items contain fish.  In the past these items weren’t clearly labeled, which lead to some very unhappy vegetarians and some poor reviews on Happy Cow.  However, they’ve since made their menu much more clear, and now mark all fish-containing dishes on the menu (look for a little fish-shaped icon).  Since it’s not a strictly vegan restaurant, I’d also be cautious regarding honey.  I asked if any of the dishes contained honey and my waitress said no, but my Japanese is a bit rusty, so I’d recommend you also ask when you order.

I went for dinner during my first visit, and because I arrived at peak dinner time I had to take a number and wait for about 20 minutes.  However, once I got a seat I ordered the ヘルシー豆腐ハンバーグ丼ロコモコ風 (Healthy Tofu Hamburger Rice Bowl, Loco Moco Style) for ¥950.  Loco Moco is a modern Hawaiian dish that usually consists of hamburger, fried egg and gravy over rice.  I thought Mumokuteki did a really great veganization of it, using a rich white sauce in the place of fried eggs.  It also came with a  side of fried lotus root, which I thought was  a really unique touch!  Overall, every part of the dish was delicious.

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Healthy Tofu Hamburger Rice Bowl, Loco Moco Style

Even though I was really full after eating, I had to make room after seeing their selection of desserts!  I ended up ordering the ティラミスパフェ (Tiramisu Parfait) for ¥620, a soft-serve parfait garnished with chunks for Tiramisu cake and frozen berries.  After eating so well, I did have a little trouble finishing it, but it was really incredible!  If I’d planned better, I probably would have saved this for a teatime visit though, so I could really appreciate it on a less-bursting stomach!

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Tiramisu Parfait (¥620)

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A few days later, I came back for lunch with some friends I made at my hostel.  This time, I tried the 味噌カツプレート(Deep-Fried Cutlet Miso Style) ¥1,150, which consisted of deep fried tofu slathered in a miso-based sauce, with a side of rice, soup, pickles, lotus root chips, and more!  After doing some research, I found that Miso Katsu is a specialty from Nagoya Prefecture.  Usually I like to eat local dishes in their native home, but really, what other chance was I going to have to try this vegan-style?  So I gave it a shot!  I have to admit I didn’t like it quite as much as the Loco Moco Rice Bowl – the cutlets were so stiff and crunchy that it was a bit much for my tender palate.  The miso sauce was great though, and the variety and attention to detail in the side-dishes really made the meal!

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Pickles!

The restaurant itself is large, well-lit, and very tastefully decorated.  White cafe tables stand near the windows in front, while large wooden tables take up the rest of the restaurant.  Both times I went it was packed, although the lunch crowd seemed less overwhelming and there was a much shorter wait.  Service was relatively quick given how busy they were, and the waiters seemed happy to answer questions.

Overall, Mumokuteki was definitely worth visiting!  The quality was consistently good, the variety and originality of the dishes was intriguing, and the overall atmosphere relaxing in spite of the number of customers.  My only complaint is the long wait times, but I guess that’s the price you have to pay when you go to a hip restaurant.  I’d definitely recommend eating here if you’re nearby, but I would also recommend making a reservation if you’re planning on stopping by during the week (they only accept weekday, non-holiday reservations)!  And definitely get dessert!

Vegan Restaurant Guide & Local Food (Kyoto, Japan)

As I did for Sapporo, I’d like to do for Kyoto!  So, here are a list of vegan-frienldy Kyoto restaurants, and a list of local sweets, snacks, and specialties that can be found in Kyoto and which are sometimes or often vegan!

A.  Vegan Kyoto Snacks

1. Rakugan Sweets

While not absolute-always vegan, Rakugan style sweets are a type of wagashi (Japanese sweets) made of rice flower and powdered sugar.  All over Kyoto, especially in the Gion district and in Nishiki Market, you can find Rakugan sweets in various colorful shapes.  They can be pretty expensive, but I highly recommend them simply for the experience.  They’re very lightly sweet and melt in your mouth.

The Rakugan sweets are the sweets on the RIGHT in this photo.

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2. Kyogashi Sweets (京菓子)

I believe Kyogashi (Kyoto-Sweets) can also refer broadly to other types of sweets, but this seems to be the accepted name for the jelly-like, colored candies that you can find throughout Kyoto.  Not all of them are vegan – some of them contain egg-whites (usually if they have opaque designs), so please read the ingredients labels!  However, some of them, typically the entirely slightly-translucent jelly ones, seem to be vegan!  Check the labels carefully, though, and keep in mind that  ゲル化剤 (gelling agent) can come from either animal or plant sources!

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3. Yatsuhashi

Yatsuhashi is a Kyoto-based mochi confection that is a very popular souvenir.  You will see boxes containing 10 or a dozen all over Kyoto, for others to buy and bring home t their families, friends, and coworkers.  However, I highly recommend that if you’re in town, you make sure to pick up some for yourself!  They come in an enormous variety of flavors and filling, including black sesame, chocolate cream, vanilla custard, apple honey, green tea, and more.  Personally, I’m very fond to the plain/standard “Nama Yatsuhashi,” which is the raw (soft), cinnamon mochi wrapped around a sweet bean filling.  Often times Yatsuhashi is vegan (but avoid the ones with creamy-looking fillings).

Plain Nama Yatsuhashi

Plain Nama Yatsuhashi

B.  Vegan-Friendly Cuisine

Kyoto is famous for it’s cuisine, so I highly recommend that you visit at least one nicer restaurant while you’re there.   There are various kinds of Kyoto specialty cuisines, which are highlighted fairly well in this Japan Guide article.

1. Shoujin Ryouri (the food of Zen monks)

Traditionally, Zen monks are prohibited from eating meat, fish and “stinking vegetables” (onions, leeks, garlic). In Japan a style of cooking, called Shoujin Ryouri, developed around this lifestyle.  You can try Shoujin Ryouri at many temples (including many temples at Koya San in Wakayama prefecture, near Kyoto), and there are also numerous restaurants in Kyoto dedicated to Shoujin Cuisine.

Shoujin Ryouri is often anywhere from a little expensive to incredibly expensive, but there is usually an exceptional attention to detail in the dishes.    Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to eat at any while I was in Kyoto, which I regret. By here are some well-regarded Shoujin Ryouri restaurants that you can eat at while in Kyoto! It is nearly always vegan, as eggs are also frowned upon and dairy is rare in traditional Japanese cooking, but as always, better to ask first!

2. Tofu Ryouri

Kyoto is also famous for it’s tofu production, and the cooking of tofu evolved into an art.  There are Tofu Ryouri restaurants throughout Kyoto, especially around Buddhist temples.  These restaurants generally serve meals with numerous small dishes, all primarily containing tofu. However, be CAREFUL.  While many of these restaurants are entirely vegetarian/vegan, they aren’t all!  I found this out the hard way by eating a lunch set at Okutan (which was labeled as vegan by Happy Cow at the time), only to read later that several of the dishes contained fish sauce.

  • Okutan (near Nanzenj Temple, Kyoto) –  Frommer’s PageHappy Cow Page.   NOTE:  This is NOT a vegetarian restaurant, but a Happy Cower had success asking for an altered lunch set with only vegan dishes.
  • Ryoanji Yudofu (Seigenin Building, Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto) – HappyCow Page
  • Seizan Sodo (Arashiyama, Kyoto) – HappyCow Page
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Tofu Ryouri at Okutan (not all these dishes were vegan!)

 

C. Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Kyoto

Note: Keep in mind that my “all vegan” labels may be inaccurate.  HappyCow is sometimes incorrect and I usually base my labels off of theirs.  So always ask your server to be sure that your food is vegan/vegetarian!  And at places that serve Shojin Ryori or Tofu Ryori, make sure to ask if they use fish broth (dash).

  1. Ajiro (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  2. Cacao Magic (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  3. Cafe Matsuontoko (all vegan) – My Review, HappyCow Page
  4. Cafe Proverbs (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – My Review, HappyCow Page
  5. Choice Cafe & Restaurant (all vegan) – My Review, HappyCow Page
  6. Daitokuji Ikyu (all vegan, Shoji Ryori) – Restaurant WebsiteHappyCow Page
  7. F.S.N. Bar (all vegetarian) – HappyCow Page
  8. Hakuunan (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  9. Hale (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  10. Ihei (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – HappyCow Page
  11. Iori (all vegan, Shojin Ryori) – HappyCow Page
  12. Kanga An (all vegan, Shoji Ryori) – Restaurant WebsiteHappyCow Page
  13. La Fourchette (Maybe vegan, French) – HappyCow Page
  14. Little Heaven (all vegan, Japanese) – HappyCow Page
  15. Morpho Cafe (all vegan, Burgers) – My Review, HappyCow Page
  16. Organic House Salute (all vegetarian, vegan friendly) – HappyCow Page
  17. Prunus (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  18. Ryoanji Yudofu (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  19. Seizansodo (all vegan, Tofu Shojin Ryori) – HappyCow Page
  20. Sujat (all vegan, Indian) – HappyCow Page
  21. Sunny Place (all vegan, Burgers) – HappyCow Page
  22. Tenryuji Shigetsu (all vegan, Shojin Ryori) – HappyCow Page
  23. Tosca (all vegan) – HappyCow Page
  24. Vegans Cafe & Restaurant (all vegan) – My Review, HappyCow Page
  25. Veggie Cafe (all vegan, Israeli) – HappyCow Page

I hope this post was helpful for those of you that will be visiting Kyoto!  Have an amazing trip!

Modernark Pharm Cafe – ★★★ (Motomachi, Kobe)

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★ – Good
  • Type: Vegetarian (vegan friendly)
  • Location: Motomachi Area, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30-22:00, Sun 11:30-21:00
  • Price: $ – Inexpensive (Lunch Sets around ¥1100)
  • Menu: Click Here
  • Website: Click Here

About & Location:

Modernark Pharm Cafe is a macrobiotic, vegetarian restaurant located in the Motomachi Area of Kobe.  Many of the dishes are vegan or can be made vegan.  They also sell lots of health food goods at the front (including beat sugar and fair trade chocolate bars), as well as take-out wraps and burgers if you’re in Kobe for sight-seeing.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 3-11-15 Kitanagasa, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Japan 650-0012
  • Japanese Address: 650-0012 神戸市中央区北長狭通3-11-15
  • Train Access: Motomachi Station
  • Phone Number: 078-391-3052
  • Email: modernark-cafe@chronicle.co.jp

Google Map:

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Food Review:

I stopped by Modernark Cafe for a Kansai Vegetarian Meet-up last fall, during my trip to Kyoto.  I originally went after being lulled their by the promise of a burrito, but after seeing it in person, I found it wasn’t really burrito-y enough to sate my craving for Mexican food.  So, I instead opted for the Gluten Wrap lunch set, with pickles, soup, and drink (¥1050).  While not perhaps the best wrap I’ve had, it was my first in Japan and surprisingly dense and flavorful.  The gluten “meat” wasn’t overly tough or dry, and it was packed full of various seasonal veggies.  Also, the wrap itself was thick and had a good texture – too often I’ve seen wrap sandwiches ruined by brittle, dry wraps that break apart while you’re eating.  Also, since it included a soup, drink, and a side of pickles, it was quite a good value.  I ended up picking up another gluten wrap from their deli to take with me for the long bus ride back to Tokyo.

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Dessert, however, was what really made the meal.  Okay, that’s kind of typical for me, but really, it was quite good. I ordered the Coconut Tiramisu Cake (¥500), and it was absolutely delicious.  The cake itself was very moist (vegan cakes are often much too dry), and the frosting was thick, light and rich.  It actually didn’t taste much like tiramisu at all, so the name is somewhat misleading. It ended up tasting more like a coconut cake with hint of banana and vanilla.  But regardless, it was fantastic, and I would highly recommend that anyone who visits tries a slice!

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Atmosphere & Service:

The atmosphere here is wonderful. It’s very funky and, like some of the other vegan restaurants I’ve visited, has the feel of a person’s living room. There are a few cats who dart around (beware if you have allergies!), and the back wall has a large bookcase containing nothing but books about cats, mostly in Japanese but some in English. This made for great entertainment while we were eating.

The staff were attentive and handled all of our orders very well.  However, if you have a large group, be warned:  our group was given  a “time limit” for seating, so this probably isn’t a place where you can eat and then dawdle with a large party.

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That’s all for Modernark!  Thanks for reading!

Choice Cafe & Restaurant (Sanjo Station, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★  – Good
  • Type: All Vegan
  • Location: Near Sanjo Station, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
  • Hours: Mon-Thur 10:30am – 8:00pm (Last Order 7pm), Fri-Sat 1o:30am-10:00pm (Last order 10pm), Closed Sunday
  • Price: $ – Inexpensive (average entree is ¥950)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page

About & Location:

Choice is a vegan health-food cafe located beneath a clinic on Sanjo Dori.  I found it a bit difficult to find (in spite of the fact that it’s located on a major road), but if you keep walking between Sanjo Station and Sanjo Keihan station, and look north (on your left if you’re coming from Sanjo Station to Sanjo Keihan station), you’ll find it.  It’s on the ground floor.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 89-1 Sanjo-dori, Ohashi-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan 605-0009
  • Japanese Address: 〒605-0009 京都府京都市東山区大橋町89-1 鈴木形成外科ビル1F
  • Train Access: Sanjo Station or Sanjo Keihan Station
  • Phone Contact: 075-762-1233

Google Map:


Food Review:

On my first day in Kyoto, I made it until about noon, when I was overtaken by hunger.  By chance, I ended up being really close to Choice Cafe, a restaurant that was on my list of places to go to.

Since it’s a health food restaurant, almost everything on the menu is focused on fresh, whole foods. and there are lots of whole-grain and oil-free dishes.  This definitely isn’t a “vegan junk food” place.  I’m personally a huge fan of rich, artery-clogging food, but every now and then it’s nice to enjoy a meal that is satisfying but also light and “clean” feeling.  If that’s your favorite kind of food, this is the place for you.

I was hungry, so I ordered the heartiest thing I saw:  The “taco rice,” which had bed of brown rice,  covered in vegetables and beans in an almost curry-like sauce, with a topping of greens, vegan “sour cream” and dollop of salsa.  It was filling, healthy, and quite tasty.  It wasn’t rich so much as it was hearty.  Again, I’m personally a fan of rich food so I didn’t return during my trip, but it was still an excellent meal overall and I would definitely recommend for those who want to balance out some of the vegan pizzas and ice cream sundaes from the other vegan restaurants in Kyoto.

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Atmosphere & Service:

Choice Cafe is quite spacious, and since I was the only person in there, it was almost a bit uncomfortable.  I’m sure when it’s busier it feels much more balanced, however.  There is a more formal dining space in the back (where I believe they serve large groups), and a more casual space towards the front, where single diners and and couples can sit.  The decor is very clean, bright & simple, and reflects the “pure” aesthetic of the food itself.

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading!

Morpho Cafe (Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto) – ★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality:  ★★★ – Good
  • Location: Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto (near Kyoto Imperial Palace)
  • Type: All Vegan
  • Hours:  Mon, Wed-Fri: Lunch 11:30-15:00, Dinner 17:00-21:00; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 11:30-21:00. Closed Tuesdays, and 2nd & 4th Wednesday of every month. May close early if out of food.
  • Price: $ – Inexpensive (about ¥900 for a main dish)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page

About & Location:

Morpho Cafe is a self-described “vegan & detox” cafe located in western Kyoto, just west of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.  It serves both Western & Japanese dishes, including veggie burgers, pasta, pizza, taco rice and vegetable bowls.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 309 Saikachicho (Horikawa Dori Agaru), Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan 602‐8242
  • Japanese Address: 〒602‐8242 京都市上京区西堀川通中立売下る皀莢(さいかち)町309
  • Train Access: The 101 & 12 buses stop near the Horikawa & Nakadachirui Dori Intersection.
  • Phone Number: 075-432-5017

Google Map:


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Food Review:

This one will be a little short, as I didn’t eat much there.  All I got at Morpho Cafe was the Tomato Basil Katsu Burger  (¥850), which was recommended to me by some friends.  It was a bit small (as is typical of Japanese burgers), but came with a small side-salad and fries.  While not extraordinary, the burger was still quite tasty.  Because the burger was “katsu”-style, it was breaded which landed it a really interesting texture for a burger.  It had a delicious sauce, and I believe the burger bun itself was tomato-basil flavored.  Whatever it was, it was good.  It was a bit pricy for how filling it was (I could have eaten more), but it’s still worth stopping by if you have some time in Kyoto.

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Atmosphere & Service:

I got there early, and they opened promptly at 11:30.  The staff were friendly and courteous, and because I was the first customer in, my food arrived quite quickly.  I would recommend coming early, since they do warn that if they run out of food, they’ll close early.

The decor is cozy, casual and very “natural”, with wood tables and floral curtains.  There are book shelves filled with Japanese books, and overall it feels kind of like a warm living room.  It’s a bit snug and narrow towards the back, but I still enjoyed the “feel” of the place.

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Cafe Matsuontoko (Nishiki Market, Kyoto) – ★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★ – So-so.
  • Type: All Vegan
  • Location: Within Nishiki Market, Kyoto
  • Hours: Mon-Sun 11:00-22:00
  • Price: $$ – Moderate (typical entrée about ¥900)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
  • Recommendation: Burger Lunch Set (¥950), Fried Yatsuhashi with Ice Cream (¥630

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About and Directions:

Cafe Matsuontoko is a bar and restaurant located in the heart of Nishiki Market (near the Gion District) in Kyoto, Japan. This location makes it ideal for sightseers exploring the area.  They specialize in fast food, including burgers, pizzas, cakes & ice creams. They also serve wine & cocktails, and are open much later than a typical cafe.

Address, Train Access & Contact:

  • English Address: 538-6  Shijo Agaru Shinkyougoku-Dori, Nakano-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
  • Japanese Address: 〒604-8042 京都市中京区新京極通四条上ル中之町538-6
  • Train Access: Near Kawaramachi Station
  • Phone Number: 075-251-1876

Google Map:

Cafe Matsuontoko also has a map on their website.

Written Directions:

Cafe Matsuontoko a bit hard to find, as it’s located on a side-street. If you start on Shijo Dori, coming from the Gion District, take a right into Nishiki Market.  If you hit Teramachi Dori, you’ve gone just bit too far.   As you walk up Nishiki Market, look for the following intersection:

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 Then take a right!  And you should arrive at Cafe Matsuontoko:

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 Food Review:

I was pretty disappointed by Cafe Matsuontoko. It had good reviews on Happy Cow,  so I was excited to check it out, after having such good experiences at Vegans Cafe and Cafe Proverbs.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to expectations.

The first time I went, I ordered the Vegan Burger Set (¥850) and the Chocolate Cake (sorry, I can’t recall the price).  Cafe Matsuontoko’s specialty is vegan burgers, and it offers a fairly wide selection, including an Avocado Burger, a Teriyaki Fried Soymeat Burger, the Kyoto Veggie Grilled Burger,  and more. The burger set included their standard “Vegan Burger,” as well as fries, a side salad, and a drink. Not a bad deal for the money. The vegan burger was decent.   The burger itself was small (as is typical in Japan) and kind of dry, but the sauce they used was good and helped to moisten it.  Worth trying, but not the best vegan burger I’ve had by a long shot.

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The Chocolate Cake was also super dry, but it came with a vegan creme topping, green tea ice cream and chocolate sauce so I was able to moisten it up.  The ice cream was quite good, and the whipped topping was AMAZING.  Overall, it was a pretty good dessert.  I wouldn’t necessarily go well out of my way for it, but it was a nice end to the meal.

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Overall, it was pretty good, but after eating so well at my other restaurant visits, I thought maybe I might have just ordered the wrong things.  So, the next day I returned to try some new items.  Unfortunately it made my impression of the restaurant go from “pretty good” to “meh.”  I ordered the Vegan Pizza with vegan cheese, which came in at about ¥1200.  I wasn’t impressed.  The crust was incredibly thin (really more of a cracker than traditional pizza crust), and the “vegan cheese” wasn’t evenly laid out or even completely melted.  While some of it had melted, there were numerous thumb-sized chunks of unmelted cheese placed unevenly across the pizza.  The cheese itself was good, but I didn’t like that I kept getting surprise, half-melted chunky mouthfuls of it.  I ended up pulling a lot of the “chunks” off, which seems a shame since I paid an extra ¥500 just for the vegan cheese.  I would have asked them to cook it more if I hadn’t been in such a rush. So, yeah, the pizza was a disappointment.  If you like ultra-thin pizza you might enjoy it, but otherwise, I’d stick with the burgers.

Without Flash:

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With Flash:

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Next, I got the Fried Yatsuhashi with Ice Cream (¥630).  This ended up being my favorite dish from Cafe Matsuontoko, by far.  Yatsuhashi is traditional Japanese sweet, made of triangular bits of mocha stuffed with sweet beans.  Kyoto is famous for it, and it comes in various flavors.  The one used for this seemed to be a sort of cinnamon-spice flavoring, and that combined with the deep-fried crispy outer layer and the rum raisin ice cream made for an amazing treat.  I would go again just for that.

No flash:

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With Flash:

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Overal, it was so-so.  It wasn’t horrible – I would still go again if I were in Kyoto for a long period of time.  But if you’re only there for a few days, I really don’t think it’s a restaurant that you absolutely have to go to.  There are just better options in the area.  If you do go, though, I highly recommend the Fried Yatsuhashi & Ice Cream, and the burgers set is good and a pretty decent value.

Atmosphere & Service:

I really enjoyed the atmosphere in Cafe Matsuontoko.  It’s a small restaurant but is layer out so there’s some space between the tables and doesn’t feel too crowded.  There’s a little bar at the front, a lot of wood, so that it feels sort of like a pub with a restaurant attached.  The staff are friendly and fairly attentive, and the wait wasn’t too long (except for the pizza, but I imagine that was due to cooking time).

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Okay, that’s all for Cafe Matsuontoko!  Thanks for reading!

Vegan’s Cafe and Restaurant (Fukakusa Station, Kyoto) – ★★★★

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Delicious!
  • Location: Near Fukakusa Station, Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine Area)
  • Type: All Vegan; Fast Food
  • Hours: Mon-Wed & Sat, Lunch 11:30-15:00, Dinner 17:30-21:30; Sunday 11:30-17:30 (Last Order 17:00); Closed Thursday & Friday.  Occasionally closed irregularly, call ahead!
  • Price: $$ – Average (typical entrée about ¥1200)
  • Website: Restaurant Website, HappyCow Page
  • Note: Call ahead to make sure they’re open!
 About and Directions:

Vegan’s Cafe and Restaurant is located conveniently close to Fushima-Inari Shrine in Kyoto.  It’s a roughly 15 minute walk from the base of Fushima-Inari Shrine, and it’s about a 5-10 minute walk from Fukakusa Station.  In addition to food, it also sells a number of vegan goods, including organic fruits and veggies.  I used Google Map to find it and had a little trouble – I think the Google Map location is slightly in accurate.  So be prepared to look around a little!

Address, Train Access, & Contact:

  • English Address: 4-chome 88 Fukakusa Nishi Uramachi,  Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi 612-0029
  • Japanese Address: 612−0029 京都市伏見区深草西浦町4丁目88
  • Train Access: 5-10 minute walk from Fukakusa Station
  • Phone Number: 075-643-3922

Restaurant Review:

Along with Cafe Proverbs, Vegan’s Cafe and Restaurant was one of the highlights of my trip to Kyoto.  They have an incredible selection of food, including pasta dishes, casseroles, veggie bowls, curries, and an array of pizzas.

I was urged by my friends, who had been before, to order one of their pizzas – and oh my am I glad I did.  I ordered a Soy Meat Pizza (which doesn’t appear to be listed on the online menu – although perhaps this is the curry pizza and I just got the name wrong?), and while it came in at a hefty ¥1600, in was so large that I had others help me and still had leftovers to take home.   The cheesy sauce that was used made it somewhat wet, but the flavor was incredible and somewhat peanut-y.

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For dessert, I got the “Chocolate Shake”, which turned out to be more of a soft serve sundae than a shake.  No complaints, though, because it’s the first vegan soft serve I’ve had, and some of the best vegan ice cream that I’ve eaten, too.  Generally, vegan ice cream has a tendency to be a somewhat dense and icy, but this was moist, smooth,  and had all the lightness of traditional soft serve.  And there was a LOT of it.  It was hard to finish it after all that pizza!  Not a bad deal for ¥578.  Also,  if you aren’t feeling like you can handle quite so much richness, there’s an option for a small side-dish of soft serve with a main course, for only ¥300 extra.

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On the other hand, if you want to get on the fast track to a  sugar-induced coma, I recommend the Soy Soft Cream Parfait.  A bunch of my friends shared it, and it was just ridiculous.  But in a beautiful way.

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They also offer several vegan cakes, including the Soy Tiramisu Cake, which another of my friend’s ordered:

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Vegan’s Cafe & Restaurant has a kind of cozy, funky atmosphere that made me feel very at home (I’m from Northern California, originally).  I could have easily imagined it in San Francisco.  The waitstaff are very friendly, although on busy days they seem to be a bit understaffed.

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Language Barrier:

The staff do not speak much English, unfortunately.  However, they’re very friendly, and the menu includes photos so you should be able to navigate it.

Other: 

In addition to food, Vegan’s Cafe & Restaurant also sells some organic produce and various vegan foods, and also some cute pottery and “No Fur” pins.  If you need to stock up on supplies and you live the area, it’s an excellent place to check out!  You can get a meal and some groceries at the same time!

Grocery selection

Grocery selection

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CLOSED Cafe Proverbs (Hyakumanben, Kyoto) – ★★★★

 Notice:  Will be closing January 15th, 2014 to find a new location!  I will update when they update!

Quick Check:

  • Quality: ★★★★ – Very Good
  • Location: Near Hyakumanben Bus Stop, Kyoto 
  • Type: Vegetarian (95% vegan, just specify if you don’t eat honey) 
  • Hours: CURRENTLY CLOSED
  • Price: $ – Inexpensive (typical entrée about ¥1000)     
  • Website: http://www.proverbs1517.com/                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Restaurant Review:

Café Proverbs currently ranks as one of my favorite restaurants, ever.  I was in Kyoto for 8 days.  I ended up going to Café Proverbs 5 times during that time.  It’s not even that centrally located – I went well out of my way to keep going back there.  All of the food is vegetarian and most of it is vegan, except for some trace lactose (in the soy cheese) and honey (in some of the sauces/dressings). Just specify if you’re vegan and they’ll make it right for you.

The selection is wonderful:  There’s a plethora of appetizers, soups, pastas, rice bowls, and sandwiches to choose from.  Most of the vegan restaurants I’ve been to have one particular thing they specialize in, like veggie burgers or vegan pizza.  You might be able to get other dishes, but they aren’t as good as the restaurants “specialty,” and often aren’t really that good at all. Not this place. I tried dishes from all over Proverbs’ menu, and everything was equally delicious.  And for the price (I usually spent around ¥1600 for a main and a dessert), it was well, well worth a trip out of the way.

Since everything was amazing, no one thing was much better than the other. I think you can safely order pretty much anything on the menu.   However, my favorite appetizers were the Tofu Dengaku (¥450), a traditional Japanese tofu dish that often includes fish sauce, and the Satay (¥650), a sort of faux-chicken-skewer with a delicious sauce.  As for mains, their specialty is soy milk ramen, a thick noodle soup dish with a soy milk base.  It’s pretty unusual (I’ve certainly never seen it before), and very tasty, so I definitely recommend trying it.  There’s several flavors, but I recommend the Soymilk Veggie Ramen:

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I also enjoyed the Miso Soymilk Ramen, which was somewhat spicier and had a miso base. However, it didn’t have as many vegetables as I would have preferred:

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Here some other entrees that either I or my friends ate:

Fried Tofu Bowl

Fried Tofu Bowl

Veggie Cutlet Curry

Veggie Cutlet Curry

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Teriyaki Tempeh Sandwich DX (¥1280)

Teriyaki Tempeh Sandwich DX (¥1280)

Fried Spring Roll and Gyoza

Fried Spring Roll and Gyoza

They also had a variety of coffees, teas, and sweet drinks, including a Maple Latte (which, tragically, I didn’t have a chance to try before I left) and Lavender Hot Cocoa, which was absolutely to die for.

Lavender Soy Cocoa (¥480)

Lavender Soy Cocoa (¥480)

For dessert, they had several types of a cake and a Mocha Sundae, which I ended up eating about 3 times because it was so delicious.  The Sundae included your choice of ice cream (either chocolate, rum raisin, or green tea), chocolate sauce, coffee jelly (which is quite bitter, it’s an acquired taste), and a pile of sweet corn flakes at the bottom.

Mocha Sundae (¥580)

Mocha Sundae (¥580)

Although there location is set to change, when I went (November 2013), it had a very relaxed, casual atmosphere.  The decor was modern but not fancy/upscale, and the staff were friendly and accommodating.  That said, I don’t recommend this place for large groups – I went with a group of roughly 13 people, and it took 2-3 hours for us to finish our meal because the chef simply couldn’t handle so many orders at once.  On my own or with a few friends, we were served quite promptly, so I don’t think it’s a general issue.

* Language Barrier:  While the staff aren’t fluent, they seem to speak a little bit of English, and an English menu is available.

Okay, woo!  That’s all for Cafe Proverbs!