Middle Eastern-style Vegetable Cuisine in Tokyo
Yonezawa Fumio, who trained at the 3-star Michelin restaurant, has opened Salam, a restaurant. Although mainly Middle Eastern-style cuisine, his expertise in French culinary aesthetics is still palpable.

PhotoAnita Lin

TextAnita Lin

In Japan, people rarely use stir-fry in their cooking, and the food taste is relatively light, but they still can't live without meat in their meals. With the fish catch is decreasing year by year, the tendency of "carnivorous" is emerging. Moreover, Japanese monks are allowed to drink and eat meat, so in the past, it was not so easy to eat all-vegetarian food in Japan, and the best you could think of was tofu soup!

However, in recent years, Japan has opened up to a large number of foreigners to work in Japan, and as more and more people of different races and religions enter the country, the demand for vegetable cuisine has also increased. In addition, Japanese people who have been eating and drinking at home due to the epidemic have been aware of the need to consume more vegetables to improve their health and beauty. And since 2020, vegetable restaurants have sprung up, and even general restaurants are offering the easy option of eating vegetables.

The Rise of The Japanese Vegetable Trend
The Hiroo area of Tokyo has always been known as an area where rich people gather, as there are many embassies and expatriates in the vicinity, and many famous artists also live here, so this trend of vegetable food certainly cannot be unnoticed by them. Among the restaurant complex EAT PLAY WORKS, which opened next to Hiroo Station in July 2020, is Salam, a Middle Eastern vegetable restaurant that boasts new possibilities with vegetables and spices.

EAT PLAY WORKS has 17 restaurants on the 1st and 2nd floors, each with a bar and a few seats, a bit like an upscale version of a food court, but each restaurant is a big deal, and several even have Michelin stars. Customers can choose to eat at the restaurant or in the open outdoor public space. I visited the restaurant during the late summer season, so I chose to dine inside and enjoy watching the cooking process.

Supervision of Chef in 3-Star Michelin Restaurants

Yonezawa Fumio, who established Salam, spent four years at Ebisu's Italian restaurant after graduating from high school and then went to New York to study at the three-Michelin-starred Jean-Georges in 2002, becoming the first Japanese to be promoted to sous chef. When Jean-Georges opened a branch in Japan, he became the head chef of the Tokyo branch. Later in the summer of 2018, he was the head chef at The Burn, where he and his colleague Rachel Dow clicked immediately, leading to the opening of Salam in 2020 with Rachel Dow as the head chef.

Rachel Dow is an attractive tattooed woman who looks cool but is super friendly and speaks Japanese fluently. When asked about the food, she always answered patiently with a bright smile on her face. The lunch menu of Salam features a set meal with three options, one purely vegetarian, the other two common Middle Eastern chicken and lamb dishes, and choices of soup and dessert.

The Delightful Hanabi Flourished Between the Spice and Vegetables

The first dish served was the lentil soup, which was served in a bowl full of Middle Eastern charm for eyes to enjoy as well. I thought it would be a cold soup that foreigners would like, but it was a hot soup, which was a surprise to me because it was exactly how I like it. Although the soup is made from ground beans, you can still feel the texture of the beans when you drink it. The white dots are the yogurt used to garnish, and its slightly sour taste makes the soup much more refreshing.

When the main dish is served, you will be surprised by its beauty and take out your phone to take several pictures of it. The salad consists of only the most tender part of the front of the lettuce, with shredded white radish, cucumber, pine nuts, and finally garnished with chrysanthemum petals. The potatoes with skin are fried and seasoned with spicy oil, green onion, and yogurt, and when you bite into them, the outer skin is crispy and the inner layer is soft, and with a rich layer of taste. The green bread was a surprise when it was lifted, underneath was a red and black sauce made from ground beans, sesame seeds, and garlic, slightly sweet and salty. The sauce made from tomatoes and eggplants is unexpectedly cold, but not in the "dish is cold" kind of way, but rather like the chef's intention to create a refreshing sauce that can be mixed with either Naan or bread.

Having such a wonderful experience with Middle Eastern cuisine for the first time makes me look forward to the next trip to explore more surprises in vegetable cuisines.

Time:11:30〜14:30 (L.O. 13:30) / 17:30〜23:00 (L.O. 22:00)
Official Website:http://salt-group.jp/shop/salam/

Tokyo Field Observer and Guide

Anita Lin

A contradictory person who is lazy in nature but always has a high level of action for what I like. The biggest action in my life is to come to my favorite country, Japan. In the third year of living in Tokyo, I go out with my camera to eat, walk, and travel whenever I want to record every bit of my life in this amazing country.

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