Tokyo is enjoying a vegetarian revolution. When I lived here seven years ago, finding healthy food – TRULY vegetarian or organic food – was a bit of a challenge. Fast forward the clock and in the Tokyo of today, you can’t go more than ten yards without tripping over a juice stand, an eatery serving organic salads or the latest farm to table opening.
So it’s no surprise that Sougo, a restaurant that focuses on shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian temple food) has made such a splash on the dining scene. Now you don’t have to venture to the temples of, say, Mt Koya to partake of this particular aspect of Japanese cuisine.
Sougo sits on the 3rd floor of a building located just behind Roppongi’s famous Almond Bakery. Despite the seemingly modern premises, Sougo is a space of warm woods and soothing wall colors. Diners thankfully don’t have to sit on the floor, as they would in a temple, but have their choice of various tables and chairs (including a private room) or a place at the long bar where they can overlook the open kitchen.
At dinner, Sougo offers sumptuous course meals that range in price from ¥6000 to ¥10000. At lunch, however, you can sample their specialties for a fraction of the price. On a recent visit, our party of 5 all ordered the ¥1500 lunch set. It was served first with a plate of six appetizers. Fried wheat gluten, corn fritters, green beans in a sesame miso sauce, tofu with shishito peppers and potato-based bites where just a few of the offerings on the appetizer plate.
For the main course, there was a choice of four dishes – a cold vegetable and rice option; udon; soba and a fairly spicy vegetable curry (an extra ¥300). We tasted everything except for the soba and I found my bowl of cold vegetables over rice in a dashi broth to be surprisingly delicious.
Lunch was ended about 90 minutes after it began, with a cup of roasted tea (houjicha). While service in the very beginning was quite speedy, as the restaurant filled up, it took a bit longer for our dishes to come. Still, we were in no rush and the staff was in no hurry to move us out the door. I’d love to return again for one of their course meals, so perhaps I’ll have an addendum to this post before too long!
***For strict vegetarians, be aware that Sougo uses dashi with fish flakes. If you need your meal to be entirely vegetarian, just make the request a day or two in advance.***