For many vegetarians and vegans, Japan can be a difficult place to get something to eat. Sushi is nearly completely off limits for those who forego meat, and very few Japanese people would consider California rolls real sushi, especially the chef of Vegetable Sushi Potager.
Vegetable Sushi Potager—a restaurant located in the glitzy Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo—is serving up a full course meal based entirely on vegetables. I was told that although its presentation is high quality, like a lot of vegetarian cooking, the deliciousness of it doesn’t hit you over the head right away. It takes time to build bit by bit from the bottom of your heart as you go through each course culminating in a new understanding of the word “delight.” That’s some big praise, so I was understandably skeptical.
Although this fascinating little restaurant has been drawing a lot of attention recently, it’s a little hard to stumble upon, mingled into the bustling Keyakizaka Street. That’s OK, seeing as it’s so busy these days, it’s nearly impossible to get into without a reservation.
The staff and overall atmosphere of the restaurant are polite and formal but without being cold and unfriendly. This pleasant and comfortable atmosphere gave me a good feeling as I ordered the “Hisui [Jade] Course” and an oolong tea. Luckily they didn’t mind me taking pictures of the food.
The first course I received consisted of some sweet-potato chips and a cup of creamy non-alcoholic sake for dipping. Although the two distinct tastes are good, they are even more delicious put together. The sweet potatoes were cut so thin that the taste discretely complimented the yogurt-like sake.
Up to now, though it was quite good, I was hardly “delighted,” “blown away” or any of the other clichéd phrases I’ve heard used to describe this place. Nevertheless, I had this strange feeling that something really big was in store for me. I’m not sure why but I could just feel it coming in the pit of my stomach.
I won’t go into much detail about the other courses since you’d best go into the restaurant with as few preconceptions as possible to really get the full enjoyment out of it. To put it simply, my courses were sushi, salad, cooked food, steamed food and a dessert. But these dishes may be very different when you go, as they change the ingredients and style according to the seasons.
However, those words really don’t describe the food clearly. It certainly isn’t sushi as you’d know it, and it isn’t even salad like you might expect. The dessert also probably is not what you think it would be. The only way to really understand it is to go and taste it for yourself.
You also might be thinking that vegetarian cooking is healthy but ultimately a bland art. Although this is a misconception, it’s not completely off-base. The food is undoubtedly healthy but not fresh to the point that it is like the food is grown on site. What at first might seem like a bland taste is actually a series of small surprises that by the end, culminates into a thoroughly satisfying meal.
It’s a carefully crafted journey of flavor developed by the chef who believes that only “a strong concept, hard work, and a good sense” will let you create something people will enjoy. As such, his well-received creations are expanding beyond his restaurant to selling “veggie sweets” at a store in Meguro.
As for my experience there, I especially liked the shitake mushroom sushi and the carrot sushi. I thought the miso soup was a little on the dark side but looking back on it, it ended up balancing just right with the lighter tastes of the other foods. At times, it was as if my brain tasted the food before it reached my tongue. It was then I think I realized the “delight” that everyone was talking about.
Anyway, after reading this article, you’re probably thinking it’s a bunch of hype, just as I was before I went and saw for myself. So do yourself a favor and find an excuse to head out to Vegetable Sushi Potager whether with a date, coworker or anyone you can get a hold of.
Store Name: Vegetable Sushi Potager
Address: 6-9-1 Keyakizaka Street, Roppongi Hills
Hours: 11:00-14:00 / 17:00-22:00 [open 7 days a week and holidays]
Website: http://www.sushi-potager.com/ (Japanese and English)