Food & Drink | THE PERSISTENT VEGETARIAN

Le Pain Quotidien serves up a hearty, organic vegetarian lunch

by Ananda Jacobs

Special To The Japan Times

I try not to over-associate being vegetarian with being somehow fancy or trendy — organic-diet this or macrobiotic that. While I prefer to think of it as a rather everyday lifestyle, the oshare (hip) association in Japan runs strong.

Still, I’m not going to deny that I thoroughly enjoyed my fancy, organic quiche at Le Pain Quotidien last week.

A late morning appointment had brought me to Omotesando and so, taking in the crisp winter air and feeling spontaneous, I decided to see what this cafe could offer a stray vegetarian for lunch.

Le Pain Quotidien is a bakery and cafe from Brussels that has locations worldwide. Using simple, old-fashioned ingredients, this boulangerie boasts a beautiful array of freshly baked bread and homely meals such as shepherd’s pie, risotto and macaroni and cheese.

Inside the Omotesando cafe (3-5-15 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-6721-1173; www.lepainquotidien.jp) — one of six locations across Tokyo — I was greeted with a rustic, casual feel, topped off with a “Don’t panic, it’s organic!” sign and tasteful Christmas decor. Though oshare to be sure, the wooden tables were open and inviting enough for casual, solo diners.

Tempted by the quiche on the lunch special, I had assumed I’d have to ask for it with no meat or settle for a plainer dish. To my delight, the quiche of the day was vegetarian, as was the soup.

A quick glance at the menu revealed all sorts of other vegetarian options: quinoa salad, a hummus platter, a cheese plate — even the shepherd’s pie was vegetarian! Faced with such hard choices, I knew I’d found a truly veg-friendly place. Vegan items are even marked with little leafy signs.

Though not surprisingly a little pricey (full salads start at ¥1,190), the lunch set was fairly reasonable at ¥1,290 and included quiche, a bowl of soup, a small salad, bread and a generous pot of tea.

The most delectable part here was not the delicate, mouthwatering quiche or even the warm, dill-accented minestrone; it was the bread — or rather the assortment of 10 different toppings provided on the main table — that brought me the most satisfaction.

I got myself a little dish of morello cherry and hazelnut spreads, speculoos and fig jam, and saved a bit of bread just so I could go back for some rich, buttery praline spread. And, because it’s the holidays after all, I indulged in some Belgian dark chocolate spread to finish the whole thing off. I made sure no one was watching me as I cleaned the last bit off my plate with my fingers — and made a note to remember this place.

3-5-15 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; 03-6721-1173; open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (last order at 9:30 p.m.); nearest station Omotesando; English menu, some English spoken; no smoking. Ananda Jacobs is a musician and actress in Tokyo (www.anandajacobs.com). She has been ovo-lacto vegetarian for more than 20 years.

In line with the nationwide state of emergency declared on April 16, the government is strongly requesting that residents stay at home whenever possible and refrain from visiting bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.
Coronavirus banner