With its central location and reasonable pricing, Togaden is a great vegetarian option for a tasty tofu lunch in Kyoto.
Togaden’s substantial yuba tempura set meal. – image © Florentyna Leow
When it comes to food, Japan is a notoriously difficult country for strict vegetarians and vegans. Because dashi (bonito fish stock) is integral to Japanese cuisine, even dishes which don’t seem as though they contain animal products are often made with dashi. However, if you can afford to be flexible on this point when traveling, it will go a long way towards enjoying food in Japan.
Tofu is a obvious choice for non-meat eaters traveling in Japan, and there’s no better place to eat it than Kyoto. Togaden, a tofu specialist in central Kyoto, is a great choice for the traveling vegetarian in need of lunch.
Togaden’s shopfront, recognizable by the short green noren curtains above its door. – image © Florentyna Leow
Togaden is located on Sanjo-dori Street, a short walk from Sanjo Keihan Station. It’s also near the Teramachi shopping arcade. The restaurant itself is on the second floor; the first floor of Togaden is their shop where they sell various soy products, including tofu doughnuts, tofu cheesecake, yuba (soy milk skin), and house-made soy milk. If you have never tried freshly-made soy milk, you should. It’s delicious and creamy, and a far cry from the packaged stuff at the supermarkets.
The waiting area is air-conditioned and has ample seating. – image © Florentyna Leow
It’s a popular lunch restaurant, so there’s usually a queue by the time noon rolls around. But turnover at Togaden is quite quick, so you won’t be waiting too long – we waited around 15 minutes on our last visit.
You’ll need to write your name on this list, along with guest numbers. – image © Florentyna Leow
If there’s a queue when you arrive, you’ll need to put your name on the list. Luckily, unlike many other restaurants, there’s ample seating which makes waiting far more comfortable. In the meantime, you can peruse the English-language menu provided. Chinese and Korean-language menus are also available.
The English-language menu comes with photos and explanations of the food. – image © Florentyna Leow
Soy beans are remarkably versatile, and the best way to experience their myriad textures and possibilities is to have a set meal here. The explanations on Togaden’s English-language menu are quite comprehensive, so ordering should be quite painless. The set meals come with rice, miso soup and various soy-based side dishes. The offerings include tofu kara-age (deep-fried tofu cubes), tofu hamburger, yudofu (tofu hotpot) and more.
The restaurant upstairs seats around 20~24 people. – image © Florentyna Leow
I ordered the fresh yuba tempura set meal, which costs a very reasonable JPY1,550 for the volume of food. The set meals here are rather substantial, so even meat-eaters are likely to be satisfied. However, it’s all soy-based, so the meal feels quite light and healthy.
A plate of yuba tempura also includes deep-fried shiitake mushroom and green pepper. – image © Florentyna Leow
For instance, the yuba tempura – battered batons of soy milk skin – is hefty yet surprisingly delicate for something that’s been deep-fried.
A large scoop of yose tofu is topped with a small mound of grated ginger. – image © Florentyna Leow
The yose tofu (fresh coagulated tofu) in a light ankake (starchy) sauce, pictured above, is smooth and creamy, and slips down one’s throat easily. Perfect comfort food. But my favorite side dish in the set meal was unohana. Unohana is an interesting dish made from okara, which is the pulp left over from making soy milk. It’s extremely nutritious, and so they stir-fry the pulp with carrots, burdock root and shiitake mushrooms to make a side dish that goes well with white rice.
Shibazuke cucumber and eggplant pickles, sesame tofu, tofu cheesecake. – image © Florentyna Leow
The sesame tofu, served with a dab of wasabi, tasted like ordinary tofu. Given that the sesame flavor was barely perceptible, I would have been happy to skip this. I liked that instead of the usual fruit, Togaden provided two small slices of tofu cheesecake for dessert. It has the creaminess of cheesecake but is lighter and less sweet, which makes for a rather virtuous end to the meal.
With its central location and reasonable prices, Togaden is a great introduction to Kyoto’s tofu cuisine. Vegetarians visiting Kyoto should definitely put this on their to-visit list!
Name in Japanese:
87 Nakajimacho Nakagyo-ku
Sanjo Station (Keihan), Kawaramachi Station (Hankyu)
Read customer reviews of Togaden on TripAdvisor
About Florentyna Leow
Florentyna Leow is a writer and photographer based in Kyoto, who has written for outlets such as Silverkris, ZenVita and Lucky Peach. Her interests include food, doors, and Thomassons. Read her blog or connect with her on Instagram @furochan_eats.
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