Friday, 11 May 2012

Yoyogi Park weekend festivals 2012

If you've been following VegOut Tokyo since last summer, you'll know I'm a big fan of Yoyogi park and the weekend culture festivals that are held there in the warmer months.  They're a fun, cheap way to get outside and spend a summer afternoon.  While the vegetarian friendliness varies from week to week, you'll always find a relaxed atmosphere with Tokyoites enjoying their food and drink out on picnic tables and leisure sheets.

Online English information about the schedule tends to be limited, so here's a rough translation of what's available in Japanese from this blog.

Yoyogi Park event schedule for May 2012

May 12th (Sat) - 13th (Sun): Thai Festival in the event area

May 12th (Sat): zombie walking in Yoyogi Park

May 16th (Wed): NICO Touches the Walls - free concert at the stage in the event area

May 19th (Sat) - 20th (Sun): One Love Jamaica Festival in the event area

May 20th (Sun): the 15th Kagoshima Ohara Honmatsuri at Dogenzaka Bunkamura-dori

May 26th (Sat) - 27th (Sun): Laos Festival in the event area

May 27th (Sun): Tokyo Earthday Market in Kouen-dori (the pedestrian road leading up to the event area from Shibuya)

I'll post information about events in June and beyond soon!

The event area is across the road to the south of the park.

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Thursday, 10 May 2012


vegetarian restaurant 

It had been a while since I'd ventured out of my comfortable rotation of conveniently located veggie friendly favourites to try out a new vegetarian restaurant, but Golden Week offered a bit of time and motivation to go the extra mile.  A friend who had done some dining out with a visiting vegan pal recommended I try Alaska, a place that's been on my radar for some time.  Sunday afternoon brought a bizarre storm involving horizontal rain and hail (and a tornado in Tochigi!), but when the skies cleared, we took the walk from Shibuya station to Nakameguro.  

I started off my Alaskan experience by ordering a glass of sangria (750¥).  When it came, a conspicuous lack of floating fruit or the appearance of fruit juice led me to wonder if they'd just brought me a glass of wine instead, but the taste- sweet, fruity (lime-y?) was a pleasant sangria indeed.

The menu was fairly limited- a list of sandwiches (mostly cream cheese based) on one side and some à la carte items and a handful of sets on the other.  They have four set choices (1260¥): pizza, curry, a brown rice (genmai) plate, and a homemade bread plate.  My companion's first choice, the curry, was sold out, so we ordered a brown rice plate and a pizza set.

The margarita pizza was nothing special, though the focaccia crust was a nice variation.  As a vegetarian in Japan, I often find myself ordering margarita pizza because it's the only non-meaty option on a menu, so perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for this meal is due to a sort of margarita pizza fatigue, no fault of this particular restaurant.  The accompanying salad was a nice mix of greens and thinly sliced vegetables with a zesty balsamic vinaigrette, much more satisfying than the pathetic butter lettuce and corn (or just shredded cabbage!) piles that pass for salads in many Japanese restaurants.  I loved the little bowl of homemade pickles included with this meal.

Our other set, the brown rice plate, would be my recommendation of the two.  A serving of genmai (unrefined rice) was flanked by the same lovely salad as the pizza set.  Next was a small bowl of abura-age (thinly sliced deep fried tofu) strips, mizuna (a Japanese leafy green),  kiriboshi daikon (dried, then rehydrated daikon strips), kurogoma (black sesame seeds) with a hint of mustard.  The mock meat karaage, deliciously fatty, impressed my dining companion, who happens to be a vegetarian cook and no stranger to veggie karaage preparation.  This set had a more traditionally Japanese tsukemono in place of the pickles, with daikon, combu, and chopped greens.

Alaska's menu doesn't push any boundaries with its small selection of typical Japanese vegetarian restaurant fare, but what they serve is fresh and well made.  Many dishes include cheese so aren't vegan, but they do have a number of vegan options, the brown rice plate being one of them.

Ambiance is something that Alaska does well.  A visually appealing space is created by light walls, concrete floors, big windows letting in lots of sunlight, and the repetition of wood surfaces.  Pretty lanterns, dangling plants, art and knick-knacks add to the chill, natural vibe.

Practical Information:

how to get there: Alaska can be accessed from Nakameguro station (Tokyu-Toyoko line, Hibiya line) or Ikejiri-Ohashi station (Denentoshi line). From Nakameguro station, turn left as you exit the station, walk straight along Yamate Dori (山手通り) and you will pass a Baskin Robin "31" after a few blocks.  After about a 10 minute walk from the station (maybe 11 blocks), you will see an old fashioned hamburger shop called Golden Brown at the end of the block.  Turn to the left here, and you'll see Alaska on the right-hand side of the first block.

address: 東京都目黒区東山2−5−7

2-5-7 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

phone: 03-6425-7399

hours: I neglected to make note of this when I visited the restaurant and information available online has been inconsistant, so I present you with a summary of what I found:

open daily from 11:00am (or perhaps 11:30?), last order at 9:30pm (10?), closes at 10:30 (11?).

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Tuesday, 1 May 2012


vegetarian friendly bakery and cafe
Hello!  Has it really been nearly 2 months since my last post?  Yikes!  Well, it's Golden Week, a week long holiday for many in Japan and the perfect opportunity to be a less neglectful blogger.  The place I'd like to introduce you today is a sweet little cafe-bakery in Shimokitazawa.

With nice coffees, tasty sandwiches including a number of vegetarian options, reasonable prices, and the option of taking a loaf freshly baked bread home, this cafe is a nice stop if you are in the Shimokita area.

We first discovered Mixture after a disappointing trip to a nearby cafe that had been featured in a Shimokitazawa / Sangenjaya Cafe magazine.  Despite looking very cool in the the photos, we found the other cafe had quite unpleasant coffee.  Though we won't be making any return trips to the original shop, it was fortunate that our search took us up a then unexplored road in Shimokitazawa, where we spotted what was soon to be a new local favourite.

Mixture is a cozy place with a small line of tables on one side, and shelves of take-home bread and goodies on the other.  Veggie sandwich options include the cream cheese and dried fruit bagel (330¥), mozzarella and basil sandwich (390¥), hummus and veggie sandwich (300¥), veggie baguette sandwich (390¥) and sora mame (fava bean) and green pepper baguette (330¥). If you order a set (700-900¥) you get your choice of drink, a little salad (with homemade vinaigrette dressing), a slice of baguette dressed with tomato sauce and cheese, and a daily mini-salad.  Vegetarians should ask what the day's mini-salad is, as this may be an egg or (as it was on my first visit) a tuna salad!

watch out for that sneaky tuna salad in the lunch set!

 野菜たっぷりのバゲットサンド (veggie baguette sandwich)

If you're in the mood for pizza, you can try their margarita pizza (900¥) or the mozzarella and tomato pizza with basil sauce (1100¥).  If you prefer, they'll whip yours up using whole wheat dough!

mozzarella tomato pizza with basil sauce with a wholewheat crust

If you stop by just for a snack, you can choose a sweet or savory goody from the bakery wall and they'll serve it for you with your tea or coffee.

practical information...

how to get there: From the north (北) exit of Shimokitazawa station, head to the left around Mizuho Bank and up the little hill where bikes are parked.  When the road comes to a T at Muji  (無印良品), turn right.  Walk straight for 3 blocks, passing a Starbucks, and at the bottom of a small hill there's an intersection with a Lawson on the far right hand corner.  Turn to the left here, and at the end of the second block, you'll find Mixture on your right.    

address: 東京都世田谷区北沢3−31−5

3-31-5 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

telephone: 03-5453-7677

Shop hours: open everyday from 7:30 to 10pm

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