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.
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.
2-5-7 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
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?).
View Larger Map