Residents of Japan may be familiar with the chain cafe Komeda’s Coffee, which is like the family restaurant of cafes. Well, the company on July 15 opened its first plant-based cafe in Tokyo, based on the concept of sustainable living and “taking a break from meat for a day.” Its name? KOMEDA is □. Yes, the name officially has a blank that you’re meant to fill out with your own adjectives.
Some suggestions, as per the main banner on the official website, are relaxing, ecology, delicious, creative, and a coloured drawing of a girl in a pink dress sitting among flowers and leaves.
That was enough to pique my interest, and the photographs of the food looked positively yummy. And since the cafe is located relatively close to my gym, I decided to drop by for a bite after a workout session this weekend.
Concept & Vibe
For the sake of simplicity (and correct English capitalisation), I’m going to refer to the cafe as Komeda Is for the rest of this review. The concept of this relaxing new cafe has three core self-professed goals:
1. Reducing greenhouse gases and resource depletion by switching to a plant-based lifestyle
As is common knowledge nowadays, the process of producing meat and diary products generates a ton of greenhouse gases, which in turn leads to global warming. Komeda Is promotes eating less meat, thereby reducing the depletion of resources such as water, land and forests needed to raise livestock.
2. Creating an original plant-based menu full of flavour
This being Japan, soybeans are a recurring base ingredient in many dishes. Rather than using plain flour for their pancakes, the cafe also uses domestically-produced rice flour for a healthier dessert.
3. Creating a relaxing, environmentally-friendly space that reuses and recycles
It seems that many elements of the cafe’s interior have an environmentally-friendly origin story. The two “tree trunks” that forms the highlight of the decor are made from recycled wood that was once a pallet for transporting goods during distribution.
The wall behind the register counter is made from volcanic ash from Takachiho and residue of coffee used at Komeda Is. The floor of crystal stone sand is made from crushed glass bottles, with volcanic ash mixed in for good measure. The glass shades for the pendant lights hanging from the ceiling were materials discarded during a glass blowing process for manufacturing. And so on.
There are hand sanitizer dispensers and a temperature-measuring device at the entrance of the cafe, which seems to be built with social distancing in mind.
There are also plenty of window seats for solo patrons, with high partitions between each. The booths are also well separated.
Ordering is done through a tablet placed at each table, so you don’t even need to talk to the staff to order. (You do need to interact with them to pay the bill when you leave though). WiFi works well and there are outlets at the solo tables for you to charge your device. Indeed, a guy sitting two seats away seemed to be working from the cafe. He had his laptop plugged in and was surrounded with pieces of paper.
With the company’s roots in coffee, Komeda Is also prides itself in serving the “Komeda blend” and various kinds of hot and cold drinks. Unlike the traditional chain, however, it also serves alcohol, including an original fruit liquer.
But the main attraction (for me, at least), is the food. There is a decent selection of dishes for all meals of the day, from toast sets to burgers to pasta to desserts. A very delicious-looking menu can be found here.
I have a soft spot for burgers, so I ended up ordering one of their Beppin Burgers. Namely, the Tartar Wasabi Burger with fries. Sandwiched between two soft buns was a soy patty, tomato, cabbage, a piece of nori seaweed and, true to its name, tartar wasabi sauce. Despite the lack of meat, the burger was a generous size and very filling. The chunky fries were also extremely delicious.
It is worth remembering that vegan does not necessarily mean low fat. For example, all the soy meat patty burgers with fries have over 1,000 calories! That’s a lot for one meal. It’s more than half my BMR, for one. The sandwiches, salads and most appetizers keep to a more reasonable amount of calories, so if you’re looking to lose weight, skip the burgers and pancakes.
The official website does contain a handy PDF listing the calorie count and possible allergens of all menu items (Japanese only), but it disappointingly doesn’t show the macronutrient breakdown.
As with a lot of vegan and “healthy” eating cafes with finely-selected ingredients, prices tend to be on the high side. But given that it is located in the upscale Ginza area, it’s actually pretty reasonable.
The Beppin Burger sets all costs upwards of 1,000 yen, as do the pasta dishes and pancakes. Appetizers, which include tofu fritters and soy cream croquettes, range from 490 yen to 790 yen. Coffee starts from 650 yen a cup, as do the teas and soft drinks. Alcohol starts from 690 yen for a glass of ale beer.
Getting to Komeda Is
Komeda Is (コメダイズ) is located on the first floor of Ginza Shochiku Square (aka the Tsukiji Shochiku Building) in east Ginza. The closest station is Higashi-ginza on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya and Toei Asakusa Lines.
Address: 東京都中央区築地1-13-1 銀座松竹スクエア1階
1F Ginza Shochiku Square, 1-13-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours are usually 7am to 11pm, but this has been temporarily shortened to 7am to 10pm for August as requested by the Tokyo metropolitan government. Please do not ask me what difference one hour makes. Maybe the Japanese government believes the coronavirus can only infect people between the hours of 10:01pm and 4:59am.
Final rating: Komeda Is
Food: 8/10, I’ve only tried the burger so far, and it was more than satisfying. I look forward to trying more of their plant-based menu.
Vibe: 9/10, maybe because it’s still new, but there weren’t many people there in the evening. This made it very relaxing and peaceful.
Customer service: 8/10, no complaints here. All the staff were very pleasant and accommodating.
Cost performance: 7/10, a bit on the pricey side for a cafe, but reasonable in terms of vegan food and location.
Overall: 8/10. Given the proximity to my gym, good WiFi, and peaceful surroundings, I can see myself becoming a regular customer here!