Whenever I travel, I let my “diet” fall by the wayside. I am by no means a calorie counter, but at home I try to eat as much in the way of veggies, fruits and healthy proteins that I can. When I’m on the road, however, there are just way too many enticing things … like Kobe beef, excellent hamburgers and ramen, to name a few! A few days of eating like that, though, and I feel ready to roll myself onto the airplane home.
So to complement my “treats”, I have started seeking out vegetarian and vegan restaurants when I travel. I’m not strict or exclusive in my dietary restrictions but I have found that at these establishments, I can really get my daily quota of green things and walk away without feeling overly bloated. When faced with lunch hour in Osaka the other weekend (and having already consumed a fair number of deep-fried maple leaves at Minoh Falls!), I immediately latched onto a write-up of Le Coccole online and set off to find this organic, vegan hide-out.
It took a surprisingly long time to track down Le Coccole, owing both to the slightly too basic map on their website and my complete inability to navigate the Hommachi neighborhood of Osaka. (I never feel more turned around ANYWHERE else in Japan than I do in Hommachi or Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station.) When I did finally orient myself correctly with regards to the major intersection of Hommachi, I found the restaurant at last, tucked away in what looked like a tent in a half-empty lot.
Despite the late lunch hour (almost 2pm), the few inside tables were all full and a handful of diners sat at the outside picnic tables as well. AS a solo diner, I was shown to a seat at the bar and given an English version of the menu. The choices for lunch aren’t extensive – a tomato based barley risotto, a vegetarian curry (chickpea, if I remember correctly) and a “one-plate lunch” consisting of a multitude of vegetables and salads. All were around ¥1000.
Confession time: I am a sucker for “one plate lunches”.
So of course, I was more than happy when my substantial plate arrived. It boasted a salad of organic greens with a light vinaigrette dressing, a carrot “fry” (designed to look like shrimp tempura) with tofu sauce instead of the usual mayonnaise, a daikon and carrot salad, a zucchini fritter and a pumpkin and pepper salad drizzled with the most delectable white sesame sauce. It was all accompanied by a heaping bowl of organic brown rice and a light, clear onion soup.
I washed it all down with a ginger and early grey ice tea and gilded the lily (am I the only one who uses that phrase? my husband says so :P) with a slice of tofu cheesecake. I walked away full, helped along by that massive portion of rice, but did wish I had more of that pumpkin and pepper salad. Or at least the dressing.
There are more options on the menu for dinner and I would actually love to return to try a few more, including the mushroom, broccoli and tofu quiche. Le Coccole is open every day for Tuesday for both lunch and dinner. For more information, check out their website (English speakers can use google translate, though nothing really helps with the map!). My best advice on directions is to come out of Exit 13 or 15 of the Hommachi metro station (Midosuji line works best) and walk straight ahead with the elevated highway on your left. Cross the main road and turn right a block or two later into the covered arcade. At the first block, take a left and walk down one block. Take a right and Le Coccole is halfway down that block on the right. It’s coming out at the right metro exit that’s crucial to orient you. Good luck!