T’s Tantan (Tokyo Station, Ueno Station, Ikebukuro Station)
Bowls of tasty ramen, or indeed any noodle dish in Japan, are often only a choice for the meat-eaters. The broth is most cases is made with meat or fish stock, and egg is usually an ingredient in the noodles. At T’s Tantan that is certainly not the case!
T’s Tantan specializes in plant-based ramen. Their name comes from a noodle dish called tantan-men, a slightly spicy soup noodle dish originating from China's Sichuan province. The concept of the restaurant is healthy and tasty food that everyone can enjoy. Whether the customer is vegetarian, has allergies or dietary restrictions, or loves meat, they aim to satisfy everyone, with dishes that you can hardly believe are 100 percent plant-based.
The owners of T’s Tantan, a subsidiary of East Japan Railways, run chains of food-related shops in and around railways stations. There are three of these ramen shops, located inside the ticket barriers of Tokyo, Ikebukuro, and Ueno Stations (so you have to be in transit or buy a train ticket to eat there). The Tokyo Station branch of T's Tantan is is a medium-sized restaurant with around eight tables and counter seating for solo diners.
They have various ramen options, but their most popular is the Golden Sesame Tantan, which has a rich flavor and delicious sesame aroma. As "health" is one of their pillar concepts, their menu states the calorie information, and each dish is quite light for ramen. If you like bigger portions, it’s a good idea to order a set menu with a side of a small curry or gyoza dumplings. You could also order some rice to soak up the soup at the end.
T’s Tantan also does takeaway and has cup noodles for purchase.
¥880 – ¥1,100 per dish
Ain Soph. Soar (Ikebukuro)
Next up is Ain Soph. Soar in Ikebukuro. This is a small vegan restaurant chain with three spots in Tokyo and one in Kyoto, each with a slightly different concept, but equally tasty menus.
The concept behind Ain Soph. Soar is “glamping.” The restaurant has an elegant yet relaxed and spacious café vibe, with a choice of table seating or large comfy sofas. The staff are always friendly and welcoming, and service is attentive but never feels rushed.
The menu includes a variety of main dish options and sides, as well as several dessert and drink choices. For the main dish, you can choose from a large salad, curry, or one of their burgers. I highly recommend the “Crispy Soy Chicken Burger,” a delicious combination of vegan chicken, red cabbage, and “tartar” sauce. I try to order something different whenever I visit, but I always find myself settling on that burger. It’s that good!
Everything on the menu is plant-based, of course, including their luxurious parfaits, pancakes, and brownies. Their portions are generous and don’t leave you hungry, and even their salads are quite substantial.
If you can’t get enough of Ain Soph’s vegan delights, they do takeout and even have an online store selling various online-exclusive items like their vegan Bolognese sauce.
¥900 - ¥2,000 per dish or dessert
Brown Rice by Neal’s Yard Remedies (Omotesando)
Brown Rice is a vegan restaurant run by Neal’s Yard Remedies, a British organic health and beauty company. But while the parent company is British, the food is authentically Japanese, with a plant-based focus.
The restaurant has a comfortable and organic atmosphere, with warm lighting and wooden décor. The menu changes with the seasons, embracing the Japanese diet of fermented food and using locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible.
Their menu is a little pricey, and only available until 5pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends. It works best for a nice lunch on a day out rather than a casual go-to. My suggestion is to treat yourself to their seasonal set menu, which comes with one main dish, three smaller dishes, and rice and miso soup. For flavors like this, the price tag is understandable!
At the time of writing, their menu consisted of a seasonal curry or deep-fried tofu paired with seaweed and a pickled side. Take-out is also available.
¥1,600 – ¥2,400 per set
Falafel Brothers (Roppongi and Others)
Vegan or not, falafel isn’t the easiest thing to come by in Japan! So plant eaters and meat eaters alike will be happy to find this small chain of shops.
Falafel Brothers have three restaurant locations and a corner shop takeout, with their Roppongi branch the most well-known. The restaurant is small and cosy, with no waiters, so you pick up the food and bring it to your table. But the casual vibe fits the food well!
The falafels are packed with flavor and have a variety of tasty toppings. You can choose to eat your falafel in a sandwich, salad, or “burger” with fries. For first-timers, the sandwich is probably the best option, made with wonderfully soft and fresh pita bread.
The Shibuya Parco branch has the most seats, whereas the other two are much smaller. But all, of course, offer takeout. As falafels are the perfect transportable food, you can grab one to go if you can’t find a seat!
¥550 - ¥1,900
Last but not least is Saido, my personal favorite for a fancy plant-based meal. The name Saido is made up of the characters for “vegetable” (菜) and "way" (道), and the restaurant's concept is that everyone can eat at the same table, regardless of preferences or restrictions.
Saido is on the expensive end, but they make all of their impressive dishes in-house, with local ingredients that change with the seasons. They have various meal sets, but one of their most popular items is the vegan ramen, served at lunch. Despite being entirely plant-based, the soup is rich and the noodles have a toothsome bite. It's a completely satisfying meal, and you'll leave as full as you would be after any other ramen.
You can choose from different types of noodles, with varying health benefits and flavors. Their dinner set comes with a variety of smaller plates, and instead of using a popular daizu (soy) meat , they make their own secret plant-based "meat" in-house. It has some serious texture to it and could fool any meat-eater.
Saido has a few alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a few dessert options, and limited takeout options. The restaurant is very popular and often completely booked up, so make sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
¥2,970 – ¥8,800 per set