vegetarian friendly restaurant
Friday night I met up with a group of former students at the lovely Sora no Niwa restaurant. Located next to the train tracks connecting Shibuya and Ebisu stations, this swanky place specializes in tofu dishes. While not a vegetarian restaurant, there are plenty of dishes that veggies can eat. Make sure to do your vegetarian explanation, though, as a number of otherwise veggie friendly dishes come with katsuodashi (fish base) containing sauces. The staff is quite helpful and will bring you alternative sauces upon request.
Our cottage cheese, black bean and snow pea salad (680¥) was followed by avocado tofu (350¥), cheese tofu, vegetable tempura, and grilled fu (wheat and rice gluten cake) sticks topped with walnut miso sauce (750¥). Though mild in flavor, one of the most notable dishes they serve is the fresh tofu (large 1800¥), which cooks from soymilk to tofu in a wooden box at your table in about 20 minutes. The lovely, mellow tofu flavor can be enhanced by sprinkling on a little salt, but avoid their original soy sauce as it does contain some fish. I love their tofu tiramisu, which tastes as rich and delicious as a good tiramisu ought to.
Sora no Niwa is also a good place to drink, as they have a nice selection of alcohol (most drinks around 600¥). There are some interesting varieties of umeshu (plum wine), as well as less common offerings like yuzushu (alcohol made from yuzu, a small citrus fruit) and umeshu wine. Fans of sweet drinks should try the fresh squeezed apple cocktail, tested and approved by several members of my dining party.
Overall, I give this place high marks. I thought every dish I tried was delicious, and also they also got the approval of my non-vegetarian friends. While not a budget restaurant (we paid around 3500¥ per person, although this included an average of 3 drinks each), considering the quality of the food and the beautifully crafted setting, I think the price is quite reasonable.
menu: ours was in Japanese only but according to the website, they have an English menu available
おすすめ / recommendation: cheese tofu, avocado tofu, grilled nama fu sticks, tofu tiramisu
good points: lovely ambiance, delicious, healthy, helpful staff
bad points: not a vegetarian restaurant so requires a bit of effort to ensure a veggie meal
how to get there: From the east exit of Shibuya station (near the Tokyu Toyoko line entrance), take the overpass on your right. Take a right on the overpass, and head down the stairs. You should be standing in front of a bookstore. Facing the bookstore, head to the right, which will take you through an underpass. At the end of the underpass, there is a Japanese restaurant with a yellow sign and white and red lanterns. Take a left at the small street that passes between this restaurant and the drugstore. Walk straight down this street. During the day, you'll see an area with some big trees further down the road, and that's where you will find Sora no Niwa. It's literally right across from the railway tracks. There are two restaurants side by side, this is the one on the left. There is an off white sign with the characters 豆腐料理 空ノ庭 written vertically.