Taste of Japan: Going vegan easy at Falafel Brothers in Tokyo

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

Taste of Japan: Going vegan easy at Falafel Brothers in Tokyo

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Editor’s Note:  Always follow the guidelines set by your base command. And when you travel, please practice preventative measures at all times including wearing a facemask, social distancing and washing/sanitizing your hands often.

Full disclaimer: I’m not a vegan. My diet consists of way more meat than vegetables. I love yakiniku, sukiyaki and rib steak. When I’m celebrating something, my go-to is a yakiniku feast with meat. Lots of it. And for my usual lunch, you’ll find me chowing down on a hamburger, karaage, pork cutlets or anything a carnivore would devour.

So, to knowingly go to a vegan restaurant and try falafel, a vegan Middle Eastern dish, was a sort of eye-opening experience I was a little unsure about at first. You may have tried these fried morsels made from ground chickpeas, fava beans and spices before, but for me it was a first.

I was on assignment with my editor to check out the Nintendo Tokyo store inside the PARCO Shibuya department store, when we decided we should head up to the restaurant floors for a quick bite. Department stores are known for their restaurants on the top floors and usually one or two floors below ground with a maze of groceries and deli foods worth spending a few hours exploring. For us, however, it would be ending our visit with the Mario Bros. to grab lunch with another set of brothers— the Falafel Bros.

We entered Falafel Brothers’ small location, which can seat about 20, on the 7th floor of the same department store. There were a handful of small tables, but we chose to sit at the largest table— a high-top shaped and decorated to look like a falafel-stuffed pita. Yes, a pita table. This was probably the most outrageous thing about the restaurant besides the fact that there is no meat to be found in the menu at all.

After staking claim over the pita table, we lined up to place our order. Falafel Brothers offers four lunch set options to enjoy their crisp falafel – sandwich, hummus plate, salad bowl and rice plate starting from 1,450 – 1,500 yen (around $13). Each set lets you to choose a base vegetable from lettuce, kale or spinach, and then allows for customization as customers can choose up to three toppings and sauces to perfect their masterpiece.

I ordered the full-size sandwich set for 1,450 yen. The set comes with a complimentary drink and a choice fries or soup. I chose the daily juice, which was mango, and cold pumpkin soup.

I waited a few minutes and was called up to the glass case stocked with toppings to choose what I would customize my sandwich with. I chose kale as the base vegetable, then I chose from the dozens of fun-named toppings like “Spoitato,” “Purple Rain,” etc. and went for “Crazy Carrot,” “Chili Chili bell bell” and “kabocha no cha cha” as these were more familiar and I already knew I wouldn’t be getting any surprises with carrots, bell pepper and pumpkin.

The toppings available change depending on the season, so you can enjoy taste variations by frequenting the shop, according to the menu.

 

My sandwich didn’t look like a sandwich as it came inside a pita, giving the impression of soft naan served with Indian food. At first taste, my first thought about this vegan dish was “not bad.” As the falafel are cooked fresh in the morning, they were hot, fresh and very crispy. But, since it sort of tasted like a karaage chicken burger with all the fixings, I think I was expecting the same give of biting into chicken. The falafel texture was not chewy enough and too simple, but it was me expecting meat when there was none. My mind started to change and adjust with every bite as the herbs, veggies and sauce melded together. A few bites in and I didn’t miss the meat anymore.

Against my expectation, the healthy vegan dish made me very full and satisfied. I will definitely need to come back to try the other combinations the brothers offer.

I might not have left there a vegan convert, but Falafel Bros. and veggies definitely gained a fan in me.

Falafel Brothers
Location: Shibuya PARCO 7F, 15-1 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (A 5-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station)
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
URL: Website
Tel: 03-5422-3188

*Falafel Brothers has two other shops in Roppongi and Ebisu in Tokyo, as well.

Roppongi
Location: 5-1-10 [1F] Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (12-minute walk from Hardy Barracks)
Hours: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
03-6459-2844

Ebisu
Location: 1-1-36 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Tel: 03-6427-3398

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