On this last day of the Japanese Golden Week, I would like to introduce "Yasai Sakaba", literally the Vegetable Tavern, to anyone in need of a healthy regime or looking for a cheap lunch or both.
I've had a strange love and hate relationship with this restaurant as I tried it probably five or six years ago, disliked it and ignored it for a mediocre food and hospitality, then gave it another chance a couple years later to discover that it actually tasted good and that the affordable price could justify the sometimes Soviet-like service.
Yasai-Sakaba serves a relatively cheap but good dinner that I have shared with a lot of friends in the past, so it is definitely an option should you be looking for a menu offering a cuisine revolving around vegetables dishes. The forte of this eatery is the vegetables brought from the old capital "Kyoto", and I would actually recommend you have a look at this very comprehensive article on the history and importance of the Kyo-Yasai (Capital Vegetables).
I will focus on their satisfying lunch though, which offers several little dishes, a bowl of rice and a miso soup for an inexpensive ¥700~¥1000 (depending on the main dish you order)
Among what was brought to us yesterday less than 10mn after we ordered (but remember, the content of the lunch changes daily) were 2 slices of Ao-Ingen Tamagoyaki (green haricot filled omelette). The green haricot inside were Ohitashi style (boiled and then seasoned with a shoyu and dashi stock sauce) and provided a nice additional juiciness to the eggs.
The plate also contained a sauteed dish of Menma (Japanese style Sungan), Chinese Cabbage and chicken that wasn't bad all. The ingredients were stirred with vegetable oil and shoyu, and I have always found it to be a killing way of cooking things.
In a possible attempt to clear out the chicken they had not sold out the day before, we were served another chicken recipe that consisted of boiled chicken, Sichuan-style pickeled Mustard plant stems "Zaasai" (or Zha Cai in chinese) and cucumber slices all marinated in sesame oil and soy sauce. The seasoning that can NOT go wrong. The zaasai and the cucumber add crunchiness to the fibrous chicken and that all added up to a tasty dish.
The main I ordered, and that you can see on the top picture, was a nicely fried old-school Niku Corokke (Beef and Potato croquette), with the slightly sweet potato puree inside doing wonders with the little bits of minced beef.
If you're thinking "chicken, beef, oil...this doesn't sound too healthy to me", well rest assured, as the rice they serve you is a Gokoku (five grains) blend, a mix of rice, wheat, bean, kibi and awa millet, which is supposed to be an extremely healthy diet. It tastes good and its pinkish/purplish color looks nice so what could you ask for more?
As I told you, when you're used to the Japanese politeness, the staff here can seem a little on the blunt side, but having to pay the very affordable ¥750 for the above quality lunch largely offsets the sometimes lacking of hospitality.
It is also a little disappointing that they tend to serve you more meat than they used to for lunch, but once again, they are largely forgiven with the quality of the cuisine they serve.
Yasai Sakaba is closed on Wednesdays and open the rest of the week from 11:30am to 15:00pm and 17:00pm to 24:00pm (they can be pretty packed for dinner)
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-25-10
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