Kyoto, which has cultivated a traditional food culture for centuries, is home to many restaurants catering to vegetarians and vegan that make full use of the area's characteristic selectivity in regards to ingredients. Here are five such restaurants.
1. mumokuteki café&foods
Mumoteki café&foods is characterized by its design featuring a sundry shop tucked inside an expansive and stylish restaurant. It has a menu that mainly focuses on the use of homegrown brown rice and organic vegetables cultivated by nearby farmers. Its dishes do not use meat, white sugar, milk nor eggs, although there are some dishes in which they use soup stock made from fish. Their Chicken Nanban Plate (1,150 JPY (excl. tax)) is a hit thanks to its jusiness that would make you doubt it's not really meat. Chicken nanban is fried chicken seasoned with vinegar and tartar sauce, but here the "chicken" is made from okara konnyaku (gelatin made from tofu skin) and it's topped with a tartar sauce made from tofu and soya mayonnaise. This restaurant also has vegetable ramen, pasta, tofu hamburger, and other rich dishes in its menu. Not only that, it also serves a wide array of healthy desserts such as the Soy Milk Parfait (760 JPY (excl. tax)) that generously uses soy milk and the Classic Tofu Cheesecake (480 JPY (excl. tax)) that uses tofu instead of cheese. So, how about taking a break from walking by eating one of their delicious and healthy desserts?
2. Vegans Cafe and Restaurant
As its name suggests, Vegans Cafe and Restaurant is a restaurant that only uses vegan ingredients. It serves carefully picked organic ingredients that are totally pesticide-free. The huge serving of its dishes is one of the reasons why it's so popular. This restaurant's Pizza Margerita (1,296 JPY for crispy crust, and 1,404 JPY for pan pizza crust) that uses vegetable cheese, organically grown tomatoes, and fresh herbs is so delicious and filling that you will find it almost hard to believe that it has no cheese at all. Another dish that has become a hit is the Veggie Yakinikudon (864 JPY for small, 972 JPY for medium and 1,080 JPY for large) and customers just can't believe it's not meat. The sweet and spicy sauce usually used on Japanese yakiniku is spread on soybean meat, making it perfect with rice. This is a restaurant that will fully satisfy even those who are not vegetarian or vegan.
When we talk about ramen, we think about noodles in a thick, oily soup. Mamezen, which specializes in soy milk ramen, is characterized by its light soup that uses soy milk as a base. Their ramen is not made with the pork and chicken bone stock that is typical of ramen in Japan, and it's not topped with the standard char siu (roast pork), menma (bamboo shoots that have been fermented and dried), or red pickled ginger. They use soy milk soup instead of the pork bone soup, fresh yuba (tofu skin) in place of roast pork, sweetened dried shiitake mushrooms instead of menma, and plum flesh in place of red pickled ginger. This restaurant's veggie ramen has a unique feel of Japanese and Kyoto cuisine thanks to its manager's experience of working at a yudofu (boiled tofu) restaurant in Kyoto for 10 years. Their set menu composed of milk ramen, yuba-don (yuba on a bowl of rice), pickled vegetables and tea (1,400 JPY for small, 1,500 JPY for medium and 1,600 JPY for large) is popular. The soy milk ramen, made with noodles soaked in a thick soup made from mild soy milk and bonito sauce and the yuba-don with its rich soy sauce-based sauce are flavors you can only taste in Kyoto. Try eating here once and you won't regret it.
LITTLE-HEAVEN is a luxury restaurant where you can eat vegan dishes in courses. It serves dishes that use ingredients centering on Kyoto-grown vegetables, yuba, and seitan (wheat gluten) from old, well-established shops in Kyoto. During lunchtime, this restaurant is famous for its Mini Course (3,500 JPY) that uses seasonal vegetables and yuba, and the Rice Flour Burger Set (2,000 JPY) that is made from dough that uses rice flour. But if you go there, we suggest trying the vegetable sushi that is a part of their Daily Course Menu with Vegetable Sushi (7,000 JPY) for dinner. LITTLE-HEAVEN's sushi that can be eaten by vegetarians and vegans, such as the vegetable tuna sushi, imitation-eel tofu, and carrot sea urchin are so famous that even foreign tourists come to the restaurant to try them. And with the beautiful presentation of its dishes, this is a restaurant where vegans in Japan can really enjoy their meal.
5. gomacro Dining & Cafe
Gomacro Dining & Cafe, produced by the well-established Yamada Seiyu sesame store, boasts of generously using sesame in its dishes. It has a menu of healthy dishes that are mainly cooked with organic vegetables and sesame without using animal products and white sugar. The Vegetable Plate (1,650 JPY) is a popular menu that will let you taste seasonal vegetables and beans in original sesame dressing, as well as letting you compare three types of sesame oil and paste sesame maple on bread. You'll be be surprised at how much the smell of sesame changes depending on the type of sesame, and here at this restaurant, you will be able to enjoy the flavors of sesame and other ingredients to your heart's content. Another major selling point of this restaurant is its extensive menu of gluten-free desserts. The Rice Flour and Okara Sesame Chocolate Cake (550 JPY) is a filling cake made with pesticide-free rice flour and sesame powder to the dough together with white and black sesame seeds. There's no doubt that you will have a renewed appreciation of the appeal of sesame at gomacro whether you like sesame or not.
You just might be glad to find a restaurant offering healthy and light dishes for your body that is weary from your tour of Kyoto. If any of these restaurants happen to be near your hotel, you should check it out.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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