Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Loving Hut Tokyo

Updated March 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Practical Details

Wed-Thu: 11:30-14:30, 17:00-20:30; Fri: 11:30-14:30; Sat 11:00-15:00, 17:00-20:30.
Saturday lunch buffet 11:00-15:00. 

In mid-March 2020 the buffet has been temporarily suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  
A-la-carte dinner: 17:00-20:30 (reservations recommended)
Five minutes’ walk from Jimbocho Station (Toei Shinjuku Line, Toei Mita Line, Tokyo Metro Hanzomo Line) (Exit 5).
Twenty minutes’walk from Yasakuni Shrine, or one stop on the Shinjuku Line (Kudanshita Station to Jimbocho Station).
101-0051 東京都千代田区 神田神保町1丁目54 岡田ビル 2F
Okada Bldg 2F, 1-54, Kandajinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0051
03-5577-6880 (Staff speak English and Chinese.)
Great-value all-vegan buffet.

Introduction

Japan's only Loving Hut has been around for well over a decade, making it one of the very few pioneer vegan restaurants in Japan to remain open today. While it's not in a prominent location, it's only a few minutes walk from Jimbocho Station and is well worth the short trip from central Tokyo; it also works very well with a day exploring Ginza and Chiyoda. I recommend that most tourists visit the Loving Hut after the Imperial Palace East Gardens and/or the (controversial) Yasakuni Shrine and its attached Yushukan (war) Museum.

Menu

The Tokyo Loving Hut serves a delicious range of Japanese, Taiwanese and other fusion favourites, with basic meals starting at under ¥1,000, including fried rice, ramen and soup dishes. Like many Loving Huts around the world, it uses fake meat, in fitting with the chain's purpose of helping omnivores switch to a plant-based diet. But while a lot of fake meat contains animal products, the Loving Hut company manufacture theirs from raw ingredients in their own factory in Taiwan, ensuring that they are not only vegan but as healthy as processed protein-rich foods can be. Also, all Loving Hut staff and owners are strictly vegan, making them among the safest places for vegans to eat around the world.

In fitting with the purpose and teachings of the chains founder, spiritual teacher Supreme Master Ching Hai, Loving Huts do not serve alcohol, due to its negative effects on society and those who consume it. This makes running a business in Japan much more difficult, because the standard restaurant business model there is to give away food with little if any profit and make money on drinks; the average person spends about as much on drinks as they do on their food, and all the restaurant needs to do for that money is to open a bottle and recycle it afterwards. As far as I am aware, there is only one other vegetarian restaurant in Japan which doesn't serve alcohol for ethical/spiritual reasons, and that is Vege Herb Saga (also in Tokyo) which is owned by a Jain (the world's oldest religion of non-violence, from which the concept of Ahimsa comes). It mostly serves Indian vegetarians who also don't consume alcohol and are willing to pay a little more for quality food cooked in a vegetarian kitchen, and eat in an environment without meat or alcohol.

These fried dumplings are the largest I've ever seen. I should have photographed them with something else in the picture for comparison.

Saturday Lunch Buffet




The Tokyo Loving Hut is the most famous for its weekly Saturday lunch buffet, which, at ¥2,000 is the best-value buffet meal in the Tokyo, if not the best-value of any meal in the city. Anyone who's familiar with Taiwan will recognise versions of the favourites from the buffets for which Taiwan has been famous for among vegetarians and vegans for decades, but the Loving Hut also offer a range of Japanese and other dishes. All are cooked to perfection, and the busy staff never seem to stop bringing out fresh plates of delicious dishes. Happycow reviewers describe this multi-course meal as the best they had in Japan. Of course, no buffet meal at this price it can't rival the expensive shojin ryori served at Buddhist temples in its exquisite presentation and fine dining experience, but for me -- and clearly many other diners -- the Loving Hut offers the most elevating dining experience in Japan, as their purpose and passion for veganism showing through into the food, the restaurant atmosphere and the whole experience.

Bentos 

The Tokyo Loving Hut sells bentos (meal boxes) for ¥800. While it's great that there is now vegan food available in Tokyo Station, I would alway prioritise food from a Loving Hut over any other, because it's a completely vegan company whose purpose is to support the growth of veganism around the world. (Ts Tantan in Tokyo Station, which offers ramen and take-out sandwiches, is also a totally vegan company, but Ekiben, which also sells vegan bentos, offers one vegan option among a store full of fish products).

This is how my bento looked a decade ago, after I carried it up Mount Fuji in my backpack and kept it overnight for breakfast. Please take my word for it that the bentos look a lot better under normal circumstances! While nowadays sandwiches from T's Tantan in Tokyo Station would probably be more practical for this purpose, at that time I was very, very grateful for any take-out food which I could trust was vegan.

If you visit the Loving Hut before day trips out of Tokyo or leaving the city to travels to parts of Japan which don't yet have vegan restaurants I highly recommend taking some with you. Ask the staff how long they will keep unrefrigerated at that time of year. 

Store



The Tokyo Loving Hut is located in a pleasant, second-floor restaurant. It also features a small library of uplifting books, mostly on veganism, the environment and related issues. It also sells some take-out food. Like all food at Loving Huts, we can be totally confident it's vegan.

Festivals


Loving Hut stall at the Tokyo Veg Festa, 2010.

The Loving Hut often hold a staff selling vegan food at festivals, such as Earth Day and of course the Tokyo Veg Festa (vegetarian festival) in October, Japan's largest vegetarian event (see photo above). Their booth always has a long cue, and often runs out of main dishes early. During these times the main store closes, check their Facebook page for any announcements of closures or changes to opening hours.

Old Stuff

While I've just updated it in March 2020, this post dates back to a time before everyone carried smartphones and had data connections. I'm leaving the information here for posterity and for anyone without a smartphone, but if you do have one I suggest clicking on the 'Directions' link in the grey box at the top; this should bring up directions to the restaurant from your current location. 


Directions

Go to Jimbocho Station and take Exit A5.
Walk around the corner so you are heading north.
Walk north about 250m until you see a small yellow Loving Hut sign.



Take that alley, and the Loving Hut is on the second floor of a small building on the right, about 50m down the alley.




Old Photos


As of April 2014 this dish no longer appears to be on the menu.

The 'Loving Burger' has been a staple of the Tokyo Loving Hut for years, and is typical of Loving Hut food worldwide: simple, healthy, appealing to non-vegans and very well priced at around 1000 Yen. Maybe discontinued as of April 2014.

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Hello Jesse,
    Thank you for visiting Loving Hut Tokyo.
    Just wanted to inform you that we've updated the conditions for our cooking lessons, so pls check our website: http://lovinghut.jp/?page_id=1090
    We now serve lunch on fridays too!
    Many thanks, and please come again :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you. I updated it - hope it's ok, but please let me know if there's anything else to fix. Thanks :)

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