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Restaurant 8ablish: Tokyo finally perfects the art of vegan dining

by

Special To The Japan Times

I’ve been dreaming of a place that serves mouth-watering vegan food, with creations so divinely tasty, that whether you eat meat or not is inconsequential. A place where those unaccustomed to vegan food won’t feel they’re limiting themselves because there would be no sense of anything “missing.” A place where one could relax and appreciate expertly crafted original cuisine.

Though there are as many flavor possibilities as there are culinary traditions, a cursory exposure to modern vegan cuisine in Japan might leave one assuming it’s all brown rice and vegetable curry — falling reliably along an earthy, nutty flavor spectrum. I’ve been dreaming of a restaurant in Tokyo that offers more, and I’ve found it at Restaurant 8ablish (www.eightablish.com) in Tokyo’s Omotesando neighborhood.

A recently opened creation from the owners of vegan mainstay Pure Cafe and the smaller 8ablish cafe-bakery in Gakugeidaigaku, Restaurant 8ablish creates complex Mediterranean-inspired dishes and, compared to the cafe and bakery, offers a full-fledged dining experience. The atmosphere is conducive to long wine-soaked conversations, and I felt immediately at ease in the dim dinner lighting. The server pleasantly informed me of the style of various plates and recommended the tempeh souvlaki, which included juicy tofu, whole mushrooms, succulent zucchini and red pepper with tzatziki sauce on the side.

While not an enormous serving, every bite of this beautiful skewer was magic. The soy-yogurt tzatziki was light and fluffy and paired perfectly with the paprika-sprinkled pita bread.

Though I was tempted by the tofu ricotta and sage ravioli with caper cream sauce, I opted for a smaller dish: the mushroom and tomato in oil, served with baguette slices.

Savoring each button mushroom drenched in piping hot olive oil, I deliberately paced each bite, only interrupting my food ecstasy with gulps of organic, full-bodied Italian wine.

Vegan cooking may be the cornerstone of Restaurant 8ablish, but what makes the experience here special is that it has built an identity above and beyond a meat-free approach through its unique atmosphere and culinary style. You don’t need to be health-focused or even particularly conscious of veganism to dine at 8ablish, though the restaurant is unapologetically both. The focus is really on taste here. And thanks to the comfortable yet elegant vibe, this is a place you could take your business associates, your love, a group of friends or just make as your personal spot.

Restaurant 8ablish serves as one outstanding example of how vegan cuisine can be crafted so the heart, mind and body are totally satisfied. A place where you can’t help but slow down a little and emerge happier.

When the quality is this high, there’s no need to put labels on food such as this. Even so, one of their logos takes the words right out of my mouth: “Vegan for everyone.”

This will be the final installment of The Persistent Vegetarian. For previous entries, visit bit.ly/1QKjW5V