Organic & macrobiotic…not your average Izakaya
Eating healthy is important to me…so when I heard that there was a healthy version of an Izakaya, I was eager to try it. To put this in perspective, an Izakaya is basically a pub serving food to complement the drinking…so in its simplest terms, a bar serving bar food. While the food is quite good in izakayas, healthy is not a word one would necessarily associate with this style of eating. And macrobiotic to boot? – well we had to see it for ourselves.
Gaya is committed to an organic and macrobiotic offering – and in typical Japanese style, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. No detail is overlooked in considering how each dish can be made more healthful and wholesome – the Caesar Salad features dressing made with tofu, the ice cream is soy-based and all the rice-based dishes use brown rice. In talking to the manager Momoe-san, we learned that the owner had actually changed the direction of the izakaya 5 years ago following a heart-attack. His health scare inspired him to change his life and his food…and today he is running marathons and sharing his view on healthy eating at Gaya.
Fresh squeezed organic veggie and fruit juices are on offer and even the sake is organic. Vegan options are available alongside organic pork and chicken – there is indeed something for everyone.
I opted to try the Vegetable Sushi with brown rice (¥1380 / $14.15 USD). There were 7 types of sushi presented on the plate – and beautifully so. Some even resembling real sushi – the sweet seasonal Japanese ginger known as myoga, shiny and pink in appearance, appeared surprisingly fish-like perched upon a perfect rectangle of rice. The enoki mushroom roll was clever and tasty as well as the sushi of green and yellow strips of pepper. But my favorite was the tempeh and sesame roll. It was full of nutty goodness with the delicate flavors of brown rice, tempeh and sesame blending artfully in the mouth and tasting a bit like tahini.
Paul got the Cheese Risotto with brown rice (¥1250 / $13.10 USD). He was a little dubious at the idea of brown rice replacing the traditional Arborio rice, but curious enough to give it a go. I must admit when I saw Paul’s dish arrived at the table, I was immediately jealous. Presented tableside in an actual block of Parmigiano Reggiano, the risotto is scooped into a bowl and then the block of cheese is scraped by the serving spoon to yield large strips of Parmigiano Reggiano to garnish the dish. The presentation was impressive and so was the taste. While I really enjoyed my dish, I wanted my last bite to be Paul’s risotto ?
Given the success of the entrees we were interested to see how Gaya would do in the dessert area promising dairy free and sugar free desserts. Paul ordered the Cereal / Soy Ice Cream / Coffee parfait while I opted for the Cinnamon Donuts with Soy Ice Cream (both ¥700 / $7.65 USD each). Paul again, dubious…ice cream without cream? Whole grain cereal as dessert? But he was happy to be proven wrong – the soy ice cream (a chocolate orange flavour) was rich and satisfying. It was served with soy milk on the side, and when combined with the parfait, it yielded a healthy and delicious sort of milkshake. We both agreed though that mine was the best…whole grain donuts with the same chocolate orange soy ice cream on the side. Crispy on the outside and moist and cakey on the inside, the donuts made me forget we were eating healthy!
Beyond the food, it also bears mentioning that the staff was incredibly welcoming and attentive…wanting to make sure we were comfortable, explaining the dishes, and just exhibiting an overall hospitality that uniquely set them apart from some of the other dining experiences we have had. Even getting the bill was a pleasure – as it was presented beside an origami swan on a lovely piece of washi (decorative Japanese paper) with a handwritten note full of smiley faces. In fact everyone was genuinely warm and happy and seemed to want to share their good vibes with the customers – maybe it is the wholesome, healthy food that makes them feel so good?
Gaya Organic Izakaya
Basement floor, Kurusu Building
2-2-5 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
+81 (0)3 3498 8810