Thoughts on life after the PhD
“Vegetarian” and “sushi” would seem to be a contradiction in terms, but thankfully the amazing Potager, founded by well-known chef and veggie innovator Aya Kakisawa, thinks beyond fish. Potager serves up gorgeous courses of locally sourced vegetables pickled and soaked in a variety of sauces. At the entrance to the restaurant there’s a large map of Japan showing exactly where the day’s vegetables came from.
Before Potager, Kakisawa opened an all-veggie patisserie in Naka-Meguro, where the fashionably health-conscious still queue up to get a slice of sponge cake infused with spinach and cherry tomatoes. With Potager Sushi, she continues her quest to change the way people think about vegetables.
On the day when I visited Potager with some colleagues from USC, the small, elegantly decorated restaurant was full. We’d tried to go the weekend before but lunch seats were sold out. Reservations are pretty essential on the weekends.
Customers were 90% female, which seems to be the case with pretty much every vegetarian / vegan restaurant I’ve ever visited in Tokyo.
The very reasonably priced Potager lunch sets include chirashi-zushi (1500 yen) and a set of ten onigiri (vegetables on top of rice, 2000 yen). Chirashi-zushi is essentially deconstructed sushi—a bed of rice topped with seaweed, egg, vinegar, and in most cases, fish, though this time of course there would be only veggies.
I went with the chirashi-zushi, while my two colleagues opted for the onigiri sets. Before our food arrived we decided to sample the restaurant’s herb, fruit and veggie concoctions. I got raspberry and mint, which went down a treat on the miserably hot summer day we’d just escaped.
My chirashi-zushi was like a work of art. Presented in a beautiful bowl, the nine different kinds of vegetables carefully arranged on the bed of rice, with a lovely bowl of hearty miso soup containing all the remaining vegetables that didn’t make it into the main dish. There were sweet potatoes, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin, green onion, carrot, renkon (lotus root), thin slivers of grated egg, and best of all, tiny pieces of apple sprinkled throughout. The apple-veggie combination was excellent, and I polished off the chirashi in no time, though I did my best to savor it.
I think my colleagues chose right, though—their onigiri were like a parade of gorgeousness. As they sample each one they reported on the flavors, leading us to joke that we were on a Japanese variety show (where people spend hours eating and commenting on food). Everything was great, but standouts were the carrot and pumpkin puree (which looked like sea urchin) and the leek (which looked like eel). Visually, my favorite was the “tuna”—actually a slice of tomato over a slice of mozzarella.
We still had plenty of room for dessert, and that didn’t disappoint either. The carrot and sweet potato crème brulee, a carob and edamame puree pudding, and a pumpkin puree with coffee ice cream were all amazing, especially the pumpkin puree with its delicate ginger cookies.
Even as a non-vegetarian, I’m thrilled that veggie / vegan / organic / local food is catching on in Tokyo. Offerings are still pretty limited, but the ones that are out there—Eat More Greens, Pure Café, Hiroba, Mother’s Organic Café—serve up really great stuff.
I was still a little hungry when I left Potager, but it didn’t really matter, because the experience was so memorable. High-end but affordable, gorgeously presented but also really tasty. Highly recommended. And now I just have to try Kakisawa’s all-veggie patisserie in Naka-Meguro.
writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)
tales of travel, research, and life
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