Whilst Tokyo’s Shibuya district may be best known for its razor-sharp youth culture and sensory bombardment of lights, noises and people, it also has a few secrets that provide a calming counterbalance to such overwhelming urbanity. One such secret is Nagi Shokudo – a charm-loaded vegan eatery that is a short stroll from Shibuya Station. It’s a small, quiet and soothing place (in Japanese “Nagi” = calm, “Shokudo” = cafe/eatery) that serves some quite fantastic – not to mention varied – vegan food. To get there you have to resist the magnetic pull of Shibuya’s scramble crossing and head south. Nagi S. is located next to a Lawson Station, in a slightly recessed basement plot.
I had been looking forward to visiting Nagi S. for a long time. M had enjoyed a meal there back in 2013, and Time Out Tokyo reckons it’s the best vegetarian eatery in Shibuya. I can’t claim to know that much about Shibuya’s vegetarian scene, but I can certainly understand the adulation. Not only is the food top notch, but there is an unforced coolness about the place that is so natural it’s imitation-proof. No evangelising about the benefits of veganism or any of the other holier-than-thou type stuff that usually goes with vegephilia – just delicious food that does all the preaching that’s needed.
To keep both mind and palate sated, an edifying array of Japanese and English literature is also available for perusal. Indeed, the folks at Nagi S. take enrichment via the written word so seriously that they have even published their own vegetarian cookbook, of which M is a proud owner. Despite the absence of any sort of dairy or gelatin in its cooking, this is quite clearly a place that is not to be trifled with.
I had the Nagi soup plate (¥1050) – a lunch set that consists of a vegan version of tonjiru (literally “pig soup”), brown rice, an assortment of four sides and a cup of tea or coffee to flush it all down. Tonjiru is known to be a winter-specific version of miso soup; my bowl was heavily populated with hearty root vegetables (carrot, burdock, daikon, potato, konjac) and tofu that combined with the miso broth to warm both body and soul. The smooth richness of the miso paste brought the ingredients to life, especially the tofu, which took on a wonderfully creamy flavour and consistency. As I slurped the soup from the bowl I couldn’t help but think how well this stuff provided a perfect antidote to the icy winds outside. Brrr, burp, and brrr again.
Special mention goes to the sides, which were as varied as they were delicious. As is so common with Japanese cuisine, the focus was on balancing different flavours, textures and temperatures. I had rich and creamy aubergine and miso paste (right), sour and crunchy pickled greens (left), tangy gluten mixed with tomatoes and onion (top) and some light and delicate strips of sweet potato and mildly astringent fuki. Everything was delicate, harmonious and well-thought-through. Oishii kat-ta!
And if all this wasn’t enough, this is yet one more reason to return: curry. Next time, without a shadow of a doubt…