Itadaki Zen: Vegan Japan in London, UK
A new cafe called Itadaki Zen in London is billed as “Europe’s First Organic and Vegan Japanese Restaurant”. The restaurant is sponsored by the Academy of Agriculture Philosophy in Japan which aims to make the restaurant self-sufficient by producing its own vegetables following sustainable farming methods.
- Itadaki Zen’s concept is to provide a source of food which is both very healthy and with little environmental impact … thus organic and vegan.
It is also a social project, attempting to raise awareness about food issues while connect customers to the Academy’s organic farming and eco projects. One such project is being run at Culdees in Scotland, others are taking place in Japan, where there is a small renaissance of interest in traditional farming taking place amongst some young people, Africa and Italy. Entertainment nights include event featuring shamisen music, as well as jazz and classical.
Itadaki Zen looks like a fairly traditional Japanese restaurant furnished in natural colours with minimal decoration. The venue has been renovated by a volunteer group based on the Japanese agricultural philosophy this restaurant takes its name from.
All the wooden tables have been made and fitted by hand, and the chairs stripped bare of varnish to reveal the natural wood underneath. The walls are covered in a mixture of lime, clay and straw, giving them a warm yellow tone. The darker wooden elements have been dyed using homemade sharon fruit (called kaki in Japan) extract. As is usual with Japanese restaurants, there is a row of seat perfect for solo diners in a hurry.
Dishes include harumaki, agesan sushi rolls, agedashi tofu, vegetable tempura and desserts such as kanten and warabe mochi are available.
Readers in Japan, where the vegan movement is still in its infancy and food fashion fads still ape the West, might be very surprised to discover the profound influence traditional Japanese diet and ingredients have had on the Western wholefood and vegan movements. This is especially thanks to the work of followers of the Japanese macrobiotic teacher, George Ohsawa, such a Craig and Greg Sams.
The Sams Brothers were the two of the original pioneers of wholefoods in the UK and early importers of high quality, organic Japanese staple foods such as misos, tamari, brown rice, soba. They popularised the traditional Japanese diet and lifestyle through their 1960s magazine called Harmony and a restaurant in Notting Hill called Seed, popular with musicians and artists such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They also promoted it at many free events targeting the 60s opinion forming “counter culture” generation. This spread from the UK to Europe at the same time as others such as Herman and Cornelia Aihara, and the Kushis, were promoting it in the USA.
The Japanese influence remains to this day and it has benefited the health of the vegan movement in the West hugely.
Address: 139 King’s Cross Road
London WC1X 9BJ
Sunday : Closed