Despite priding myself on being “good” with directions and navigation in general, I must have walked past Pure Cafe about five times before actually spotting it. Why? Because it’s cunningly embedded within the Aveda “lifestyle salon and spa”. (Which, to my shame, I immediately confused with the insurance company, Aviva. Long day, etc.). Bearing this in mind, it’s not actually that difficult to find as the Aveda frontage is large and prominent, and the smell of essential oils and other such unguents is distinctive, to say the least. Like the nearby Brown Rice Cafe, the vibe is slick and stylish and feminine. Very feminine. To be honest, I almost felt like an intruder; a gatecrasher if you will.
Gender biases aside, this place is “nearly” vegan (not too sure what that means! Probably that there are a handful of renegade, non-vegan dishes on the menu) and has some set breakfast and lunch dishes and a deli counter which (I assume) lasts from lunch until dinnertime. They also have an in-house bakery which seemed to churn out some rather interesting concoctions. Whatever you’re after, you have to order at the counter and they will bring the food to your table (although for deli divers like I, it would be an awful lot faster if they just dished the deli stuff directly onto your plate, but anyhoo). The perceptive of you will have already noted that I went with the deli counter, and paid a whopping ¥1,200 (+ tax) for three sides (marinated tofu, cous cous and caponata) plus salad. And a glass of water (which was free).
The tofu was lightly warmed (or lightly cooled, depending on which way you look at it), with the sauce lending it a subtle tomatoey taste. I found the sauce to be a little too subtle to be honest, with the overarching flavours being rather, well, tofu-ey. Which really isn’t saying much, believe me!
The cous cous was lavishly mixed with diced carrot, cucumber, red pepper and onion. It was easy and straightforward, but a bit oily and lacked fragrance. For me, the best cous couses (cous cousi?!) are brought to life by the herbs and spices that they are infused with, not the extra ingredients. A little ginger, some saffron, perhaps even a dash of cumin or cinnamon to bring it to life. No such luck here. Like the tofu, the overarching flavours were starchy and dull.
Finally the caponata, oh the caponata! My (and Pure Cafe’s) redemption! My proof that I’m not the worst chooser of deli dishes this side of Babylon! It was the best of the bunch, by a long way. It include aubergine (of course), courgette, carrot and whole black olives, all happily swimming in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce. What I liked best was how the crunch of the carrot (and the sourness of the tomato) counter-balanced the creamy smoothness of the eggplant. It was well-balanced, well-made, and provided considerable recompense for the other two more desultory offerings. Or choices.
My advice to anyone feeling flush and hungry in or around Omotesando? Head to the Pure Cafe and have three helpings of caponata. Or maybe just go to the Brown Rice Cafe instead.