One thing I dislike about eating out in Japan is “secret meat.” For whatever reason, the Japanese concept of meat and the English one are quite different: if you chop up meat small enough, it’s no longer considered meat; fish/seafood aren’t meat; there’s fish-based dashi stock in miso soup; some shokupan (white bread) contains lard; and, even if you’re really good at Japanese, clearly labeled menus are a luxury. For example, if I order a pizza margherita, I expect it to be vegetarian, and yet some places will throw bacon on it. If I order a “vegetable soup,” there might be chicken in it that wasn’t listed on the menu.
Luckily for me, I’ve found a lot of great restaurants in Kanazawa that specialize in or offer vegetarian/vegan fare. In Kyoto and Tokyo, there are vegan and vegetarian guidebooks being published, but Kanazawa and Ishikawa don’t have their own yet. I can’t be the only one out there who hates secret meat, so I want to highlight my favorite veg* restaurants in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, and Japan here in addition to my other restaurant reviews. I’m including a quick overview to the restaurant (location, type, veg* type) before the longer review so you’ll know at a glance if this place is for you. If you have suggestions about the reviews or for more restaurants, please leave a comment!
I’d like to kick off this series with one of my favorite cafes in Kanazawa, Café Mojo.
Café Mojo (カフェモジョ)
Location: Kanazawa City, Ishikawa pref.
Type: Café, Lunch
Veg Status: Primarily vegetarian and vegan fare; meat options (bacon)
Languages: Japanese, English
Thanks to its great location, Café Mojo is one of the perfect veg* cafes for out-of-towners and locals alike. Located just a short walk from two of the cities’ biggest tourist attractions, Kenrokuen and Kanazawa Castle, Mojo shares space with Kanazawa Art Port (KAPO), a contemporary art gallery.
One of my favorite aspects of Mojo is its Kanazawa-style Bohemian feel. The furniture is eclectic and the decor delightfully quirky, with everything from a cardboard castle from a Moomin-themed event to snowman sculptures sitting on unused gas heaters during a summer exhibition. The second floor is reserved as gallery space, but some pieces are displayed and sold in the cafe. The cafe always seemed to be filled with interesting people and hosts a variety of live shows and events after hours. If you want to touch Kanazawa’s contemporary art scene while enjoying lunch or a coffee break, this is the place.
As for the food, the lunch menu is semi-bilingual and straightforwardly labeled in Japanese, though if you have questions, the owner, Hisako, speaks English. Vegan options include the macrobiotic mini lunch set, the vegan scone; the sandwich bread of the vege-only sandwich is also vegan. Vegetarian options include the vege cheese sandwich, vegetarian curry, veggie burgers (with or without cheese). If you’re an omnivore who likes bacon, you’re in luck: the BLT, scrambled egg bacon cheese sandwich, and avocado BLT all have freshly cooked bacon on them. Something for everyone!
I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough. Every meal is delicious, and I love the variety in the Japanese-style macrobiotic set, which comes with vegan miso soup, brown rice, and other homemade seasonal vegan okazu. The scones, whole wheat with dried fruit and the vegan scone, are both excellent, as are the rotating desserts. I’m also fond of the latte, and all the coffee is fair-trade but reasonably priced for Japan.
This place is great for locals and tourists alike. If you are heading to the castle and gardens, definitely try this café as your lunch or tea break destination!
Cafe Mojo (カフェモジョ)
Yamashiro Bldg., Floor 1
1-11 Kosho-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref.
Open Weds. – Sun. 11:00-17:00.
Average price: Meal: 700-900 yen. Coffees: ~500 yen. Desserts: 400-500 yen. Sets available.
By car: No parking on-site, but the cafe is next to the Kenrokuen parking structure (石川県兼六駐車場).
By bicycle: There is a (free) bike lot past the restaurant (heading away from it and Kenrokuen toward the school).
Public transit: Take one of the numerous buses going to Kenrokuen from Kanazawa Station (金沢駅). Get off at Kenrokuen-shita (兼六園下).
On foot: From Kanazawa Station, the walk takes about 30 min.
More Veg* Out in Kanazawa.