We’ve made it to the last stop on our plant-based eating tour of Japan! This series of articles has explored vegan-friendly restaurants all across the country, from the sunny beaches of Okinawa up through Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Kyoto and Kamakura. And now here we are at our final location: Sapporo. Although Hokkaido is well known for its dairy produce, its capital city harbors some great restaurants offering entirely plant-based menus. Here are three that all veggie visitors to this northern city should check out.
1. Vegetable Café Lyra
This bright and welcoming eatery is conveniently located near the center of the city of Sapporo. As well as being vegan, the food is made using local, seasonal ingredients and without using any chemical additives. The staff here are really friendly and always seem eager to chat with both tourists and local patrons. Everything is made by hand, so they warn that there can be a wait during busy times, however, this wasn’t a problem during our visit.
Lyra’s signature dishes are its two curries: Yin and Yang (both ¥1,750). The Yin option is a red curry intended to help you relax, while the Yang option is a black curry said to help you focus. Both are packed with fresh veggies and made using a wide range of traditional Chinese herbs and spices that are designed to boost your immune system.
As well as the curries, the restaurant offers a special lunch plate consisting of a main dish that varies with the season, several small side dishes, plus brown rice and miso soup, all for ¥1,480. At dinner time there is a similar but larger special plate for ¥1,580 with five different main dishes to choose from. For dessert, try the “nourishing parfait,” made with organic brown rice bran, soy milk yogurt and tofu cream topped with fresh fruit and sweet potatoes: Guilt-free pudding at its finest!
- Location: A six-minute walk from Odori station.
- Address: 1F Daiichiya Rise Building, 1-17-4 Minami 2 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo
- Tel: 011-200-1617.
- Opening hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (6 p.m. on Sundays). Closed Mondays. Dinner after 7 p.m. is available by reservation.
2. Off Grid Café Physical
The Off Grid Café Physical is as funky as its name suggests! The space has a bit of a hipster vibe — with bare bulbs, furniture made from wooden pallets and random decorations that look like mini art installations hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant can be a little difficult to locate, so keep an eye out for the Sacra Building, which is set back a little from the road, and you should see a sign indicating that it’s on the fourth floor.
The food on offer here is healthy, traditional Japanese fare. The menu is only available in Japanese, but the staff will do their best to translate for you if you’re struggling. For lunch, you have a choice between the monthly special plate (¥1,280) or the monthly lunch box (¥1,180), while the dinner menu has a few more options available. On our visit, the special lunch plate was a colorful bibimbap-style rice bowl topped with tofu, pulses and vegetables, served with soup and salad.
Dessert is a little more indulgent than the mains. On our visit, we opted for the chocolate cake and the tofu cheesecake, both of which arrived beautifully presented and in more generous slices than you get at many other Japanese restaurants. Craft beer is also served at Off Grid, along with a wide variety of different types of coffee — the smell of which will probably tempt you from the moment you enter!
- Location: A 15-minute walk from Sapporo station.
- Address: 4F Sacra Building, 11-8 Kita 5 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo
- Tel: 011-206-6869.
- Opening hours: 12 p.m.-10 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
3. Aoi Sora Organic Café
Aoi Sora is a peaceful, cheerful café with friendly staff and a cozy atmosphere offering healthy, organic, plant-based Japanese cuisine. The highlight of the menu has got to be the lunch plate. You get six different dishes, including a green salad, miso soup and brown rice topped with sesame seeds. The other three dishes rotate, with options including quiche, spicy Chinese-style mabo dofu and pumpkin croquettes. Each of the six parts of the plate is given equal standing, with no one item overshadowing the others. The result is a well-balanced and carefully prepared meal that fills you up without being too heavy.
For dessert, we had a choice of chocolate cake or parfait — so of course, we tried one of each! Although the portion size of the cake is quite small, it’s rich and moist, and comes served with a mini scoop of soy ice cream and a little cookie. The parfait stole the show, however, with green tea ice cream, chunks of fruit and cake and an adorable bird-shaped cookie to top it all off. Definitely not to be missed! There’s also a small selection of goods near the counter that you can purchase to take out, including cookies and other baked items — perfect if you’re looking for some snacks to bring to the ski slopes.
- Location: A 10-minute walk from Maruyama Koen station.
- Address: 22-1-7 Minami 1 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo
- Tel: 011-623-3887.
- Opening hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (LO 5 p.m.) Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Sunday. Closed Thursdays.
If you’re interested to try out some other veg-friendly dining spots in this northern city, here are a few that were on our list but we haven’t made it to — yet!
- Itadakizen. All-vegan restaurant serving healthy, traditional Japanese cuisine (map).
- Iki Laboratory. A lively izakaya with extensive vegan options on the menu (map).
- Café Chienoki. Vegetarian macrobiotic eatery (map).
So that’s it for this tour of recommended meat-free restaurants and cafés across the archipelago! I hope this series has been useful for any vegetarians and vegans who are living in — or visiting — Japan and demonstrates that it really isn’t too difficult to follow a plant-based diet here. Itadakimasu!
Any other tips for vegans in Sapporo or other parts of Hokkaido? Let us know in the comments!