Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
Whenever I go to Kansai, I always have dinner with one of my good friends who is a vegetarian and a fellow lover of cafes. This time, we went to Café Proverbs 15:17 near Hyakumanben (百万遍) in Kyoto. Café Proverbs is a vegetarian café specializing in vegan food; hence the name of the restaurant, which refers to the proverb quoted above. Aside from the name, the restaurant is not religiously affiliated. The vegetarian food I eat in restaurants has been largely Japanese-style: tiny dishes of tofu, seaweed, local vegetables, curry, and noodles. (And tofu cheesecake. Lots of tofu cheesecake.) Café Proverbs, however, serves vegan sandwiches and ice cream—basically Western-style café food done over as vegan.
I guess the difference between this and, say, the “vegetarian option,” is that these meals were created or recreated specifically for tofu and tempeh. The cafe serves more than just sandwiches: if you ever missed out on Japanese food because of dietary restrictions, now is your chance to try dishes like curry, mabodofu, ramen, gyoza, and taco rice.
I ordered the faux-crab ragoons, a Teriyaki Tempeh Sandwich, and soy-based ice cream sundae (seasonal menu item). The texture of the ragoon filling was runny in comparison to the real thing, but it was delicious and the flavor was spot-on.
The tempeh sandwich was perfect–flavorful with a great texture; the sauce didn’t make the bread soggy. The bread looked different than non-vegan bread and might have been a little drier, too, but there was no discernible difference in the flavor; plus, with the sauce on the tempeh and the vegetables, if it were drier, I couldn’t tell. The sandwich came with a side of pickled vegetables and onion rings, as they were out of fries. I found the onion rings were very greasy, though, and should have been blotted, but this just goes to show that vegan does not automatically equal healthy. (Vegetable and nut oils, flours, and sugars don’t have animal products in them, after all!)
As for the sundae, I had a choice of two flavors, so I ordered mango and matcha (I believe the other flavors were caramel and vanilla). The vegan brownie was a bit dry, but this was a good match to the ice cream, which was well-rounded and not too sweet.
The menus are bilingual, as is the website. The staff was very friendly–there were four of us dining there on a busy Friday night, and they asked if it were okay to bring out our individual meals as they were finished instead of all at once. (This seems to be a difference between Japanese restaurants and American ones, I’ve noticed.) Our server also warned us that there was honey in the desserts we were ordering in case anyone was vegan.
Whether you miss sandwiches and cafe fare or are looking for a good vegetarian/vegan restaurant, Cafe Proverbs’ bright, inviting atmosphere and delicious food is sure to win you over.
Café Proverbs 15:17 (カフェ・プロヴァーブス フィフティーン・セブンティーン)
11:00-22:00 (Last order 21:30)
Closed Mondays (if Monday is a holiday or falls on the 15th of the month, the cafe will close on Tuesday)
Prices: 850-1050 yen for a main dish; 300-500 yen for a drink; 250-600 for dessert.
A meal (main, drink, dessert) will cost you about 2000 yen.
〒606-8225 京都府京都市左京区田中門前町28-20 ドムス百万遍 2F
Domus Hyakumanben 2F
28-20 Tanakamonzen-cho Sakyo-ku
8-minute walk from Keihan-Line Demachiyanagi Station (京阪線で町柳駅) (end of the line on the Kyoto side)
By train and bus
From JR Kyoto Station (JR京都駅): Take City Bus 206 or 17 and get off at Hyakubanmen(百万遍).
From the Kyoto City Subway Karasuma Line Imadegawa Station (京都市地下鉄烏丸線今出川駅), take City Bus 201 or 203 to Hyakumanben (百万遍).
From the Hankyuu Kyoto Line Shijo-Kawara-machi Station (阪急電車京都線四条河原町駅)take City Bus 3, 17, or 201 to Hyakumanben (百万遍).