Winter is over, and in any normal year that would be cause for celebration. But in this COVID-19 spring, nothing is normal: Tokyo’s streets are empty, especially in the evening — and so are restaurants across the city.

Many are feeling the pinch so badly they’ve gone into voluntary lockdown, closing totally for the first two weeks of this month — though it may turn out to be for longer. Others are hanging in there as best they can, trying to get by offering lunch boxes or take-out, and to minimize nonessential human contact.

Self-isolating doesn’t have to mean you can’t eat well. It also doesn’t mean you can’t eat food prepared by your favorite restaurants. In fact, if we want to see those restaurants back in action once the worst is over, it is essential that we keep up our patronage, to carry them through this crunch time.

For the next few weeks, Tokyo Food File will be spotlighting some of the best alternatives to dining out, with a special focus this month on plant-forward eating. Here are a few places that are not necessarily purely vegan or vegetarian in their orientation, but who do cater to all.

Count the brilliant Los Tacos Azules in Sangenjaya among them. Chef Marco Garcia has had to halt his regular dinner service as well as his “Asa-taco” weekend brunches. For obvious reasons, tacos need to be eaten as soon as they’re made, but Garcia has been developing what he calls temaki (“hand-rolled”) tacos based on the principle of temaki sushi rolls.

Los Tacos Azules' 'survival taco kit,' packed for delivery. | COURTESY OF LOS TACOS AZULES
Los Tacos Azules’ ‘survival taco kit,’ packed for delivery. | COURTESY OF LOS TACOS AZULES

He’s offering what he calls “survival taco kits,” with one or two-days’ worth of tortillas — made as always from heirloom Mexican corn, freshly ground — plus fillings and salsas in separate containers, along with tamales, soup and more, that you can prepare and assemble at home. Not just snacks, these are whole meals. For more details, check the Facebook account for Los Tacos Azules; or contact the restaurant directly (lostacosazules.jp; 03-5787-6990).

Also offering both take-out and delivery services for the duration of these uncertain times is Out, whose stylish counter setting and excellent plates of fresh pasta, invariably topped with truffle, have made it a favorite under-the-radar stop in the upper Shibuya area, close to United Nations University.

Out's fettuccine with tomato & basil sauce | COURTESY OF OUT
Out’s fettuccine with tomato & basil sauce | COURTESY OF OUT

Along with the pasta — freshly made with organic Italian flour and organic Japanese eggs — and tomato pasta sauce, you can also pick up some wine and even those trademark truffles. Order by email to info@out.restaurant, or via direct messages on Instagram or Facebook, for next-day pick up or two-day delivery. Indian restaurants are always a good source of non-meat-based dishes — but at Nataraj the entire menu is vegetarian. It currently has four locations, in Ginza, Harajuku, Shibuya and its original base in Ogikubo (its Aoyama branch is now closed). All offer take-out, and you can order deliveries through Uber Eats.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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