Is the new vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Ginza worth checking out?

Though it took a while, in recent years Tokyo restaurants have finally started to offer menus that cater to alternate diets, especially vegetarian and vegan eaters. Even fast food restaurants and convenience stores are accommodating plant-based diets these days! That’s why we weren’t exactly surprised–but immensely pleased–to hear that Japanese cafe chain Komeda Coffee just opened a new restaurant in Tokyo whose menu is entirely plant-based.

The restaurant’s name is “Komeda Is“, which is a very clever play on words. The focus of Komeda Is’s menu is rice (“kome” in Japanese) and soybeans (“daizu“), and those two words make the new name, pronounced in Japanese, “Kome-daizu.” It also conveniently includes the company’s name “Komeda”.

The restaurant opened on July 15 in the swanky neighborhood of Higashi Ginza in Tokyo, but we got an invitation to try it out ahead of time, with one of our resident food experts, Yuichiro Wasai, making the visit. A fan of the regular Komeda Coffee cafes, but not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, Yuichiro was curious as to what this new restaurant would offer.

He was first surprised by how large the menu was. They have a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu with plenty of variety: sandwiches, pasta, hamburgers, fritters, pizza, “ham” cutlets, and even pancakes for dessert! Of course they serve coffee, but alcohol is also available. Plus, everything is plant-based!

Flipping through the tablet menu offered lots of options, and Yuichiro thought it all looked very health-conscious. A large proportion of the menu was made with soy: there were tofu fritters and soy meatballs (790 yen/US$7.39), soy “ham” cutlets (590 yen), soy cream penne gratin (1,390 yen), soy cream pasta (1,340 yen), grilled soy meat and lemon sandwich (1,180 yen)…The list goes on!

But with everything made with soy, would it all taste as good as their meaty versions? Yuichiro himself loves to have meat with every meal, so if he hears that something is “vegetarian” he’ll typically avoid it. So how does Komeda Is satisfy a meat lover? Only one way to find out!

Yuichiro started with dessert, by eating the Fluffy Rice Pancakes with Fruit (1,360 yen). This isn’t a menu item offered at regular Komeda Cafes so Yuichiro was excited to try it. It’s made with rice flour so it’s extra fluffy and soft, instantly earning his seal of approval.

Next he tried the Soy Meat Bolognese (1,240 yen), which is something you can order at regular Komeda Coffee branches as well (in a meat variety of course). It would be an exaggeration to say that it tastes exactly like the original, but Yuichiro thought it was about 70 percent there, almost like a real meat sauce. As expected of Komeda, the look of the pasta was a perfect replica, and the flavors weren’t missing anything major, so overall Yuichiro gave it a thumbs up.

Individual opinions of meat lovers may vary in terms of Komeda Is’s food, but Yuichiro thinks that Komeda Is will please most, especially if they are a fan of Komeda Coffee to begin with.

The only concern that he has is that Komeda Is’s menu is a little more expensive than Komeda Coffee’s regular menu, even for items that both restaurants sell. For example, a simple blended drip coffee at Komeda Is costs 650 yen, while at Komeda Coffee it’s 430 to 580 yen. But considering the wide variety of menu items available, all catered to a vegetarian palate, and that the flavors were generally pretty good, Yuichiro didn’t mind too much.

Besides, if someone like Yuichiro, who doesn’t pay much attention to eating healthy or focusing on plant-based foods, likes the menu, then a vegan or vegetarian will certainly be satisfied with this restaurant!

▼ The toast of the breakfast set also comes with soy milk butter instead of dairy butter.

By the way, the official full name of the restaurant is “KOMEDA is □”. According to the website, the blank space is meant to be for you to fill in for yourself:

“What would you put in that blank space? Relaxing? Delicious? Creative? Comfortable? We at Komeda would like to create a new appeal that will fit into that space. We want to expand the horizons of relaxation. KOMEDA is □ was born from that idea.”

And while at first Yuichiro’s response to this was a head scratch and a “What?”, he thought long and hard about it, and decided that his answer for the empty space would be: “KOMEDA is ‘seriously putting a lot of thought into its new restaurant I mean just look at the name'”.

Restaurant Information:
KOMEDA is □ (Higashi Ginza branch)
Tokyo-to Chuo-ku Tsukiji 1-13-1 Ginza Matsutake Square 1F
東京中央区築地1-13-1 銀座松竹スクエア1階
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (last order at 10:30 p.m.)

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