15 July 2013

Tokyo: Mominoki House

If you’ve never had a conversation with Shelley, your life may not be complete.  I’ve never met anyone who is so curious and empathetic at the same time – she can drag your deepest beliefs and wildest hopes out of you within 10 minutes.  5 if you’ve shared a beer.  And all the while, you’ll be able to tell that she is truly invested in whatever you’re saying, because she won’t let you get away with the stock explanation you give everybody else.  She’ll want to know why you think such a thing, how it’s worked out for you, what the people close to you think about it, and whether or not you’ll stick with it in the long term.  You might want to add speaking with Shelley to your bucket list.  One day there will be an Oscar for best conversational skills.  Shelley will win.

You can imagine, then, that our trip to Tokyo was comprised of absolutely incessant chatter.  We talked as we had breakfast, walked around, rode the JR, stopped for coffee, hiked up mountains, stumbled down mountains, ate snacks, ate lunch, ate dinner, went running, stopped for coffee, saw sights, shopped, stopped for coffee, rode the train home, got groceries, cooked, ate some more, and got ready for bed.  This is what happens when you cram a year’s worth of friendship with Shelley into 5 days.

Oh, and we ate.  Like a lot.

Our first stop was not an amazing organic vegan-friendly restaurant recommended by our Lonely Planet.  That would be too grandiose.  Our first stop was a coffee shop!  Where we chatted for maybe an hour.  Then a 7-11.  You know how here, 7-11s are where the bottom of the barrel scum of American food resides?  In Japan, 7-11s – and all convenience stores – are like Whole Foods in comparison.  They have at least a whole wall dedicated to healthy meals and snacks, comprised of Japanese staples like rice, seaweed, umeboshi plums, soba noodles, veggie salads, fruit, and, well, fish.  It proved to be a great help in times of low energy and hunger.  Japan is a super easy country in which to be vegan.

Okay, THEN we went to an amazing organic vegan-friendly restaurant recommended by our Lonely Planet.

Mominoki House in Harajuku proved difficult to find (although not quite as difficult as some of the other restaurants on that stupid inaccurate map) – we peeked in from the street and thought for a moment we’d come to the wrong place because all we could see was a tiny health food shop.

Bravely, Shelley took a few steps in and discovered the staircase leading to the modest restaurant area.

Mominoki House
2-18-5 Jingumae
Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Tokyo
+81 3-3405-9144

It was too cute in there.  The 5 or 6 tables were crammed into 3 split levels.  A couple were up tiny staircases and protected by wooden railings.  Filled bookcases lined the walls and you had a 50-50 chance of sitting on a cushioned bench instead of a wooden chair.  Our server gave us an English menu and we reveled in all the choices for lunch.

Shel had the Brown Rice with 7 Vegetables for ¥1150 ($11.39).  Her miso tasted nice and salty with an onion twang.  The rice, simple and delicious, came with gomaschio and sesame seeds – and she sprinkled on a pinch of sea salt.

The best of the veggies was, hands down, the eggplant.  Judging by the expletives written in my notebook on the subject, it was some damn fine eggplant.

My Vegetable Curry ran ¥1000 ($9.91), and kicked up the creamy, sweet flavor of a Japanese curry.  The hunks of potato that had absorbed lots of sauce?  Mmm.  The spinach with tahini was pleasantly fresh and cool.  Lovely.

After that it was off to… where did we even go?  I don’t know.  I just remember chatting the whole way there.

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