To get to Hale you’ll have to wrestle your way past the armies of tourists and locals who converge on Nishiki Market — a long, narrow market that sells everything from adzuki beans to unagi (eel).
But once inside this cozy cafe in an old machiya (townhouse), you will find much of the food is suitable for vegetarians. Tofu, or byproducts of tofu, form the backbone to the menu, especially yuba, the gossamer-like skin of tofu.
Hands down my favorite tofu-based dish has to be okara (another byproduct of tofu), which doesn’t look like much, but has a wonderful deep taste that would give the best turkey stuffing a run for its money. It’s quite something.
For lunch there are three set options, all of which include yubadon — Hale’s take on the donburi (rice bowl dish), one of Japan’s national dishes. As implied in the name, though, yuba is added for a slight difference. On its own it’s a healthy and hearty lunch, but with the higher priced sets you get more variety and a serving of okara.
Although Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day Festival) has passed, for the month of March Hale owner Chihiro Kondo has a wonderful doll display on the second floor. Many of the dolls even date back to her grandmother’s day. Ask nicely and I’m sure she’ll give you a peek at it.