- Travel Home
- Travel News
The Japanese chef who makes everything with vegetables
Carrot cake, OK. But spinach and tomato cake? And sushi with no fish? Aya Kakisawa is perplexing palates at two Tokyo eateries
If you've ever had trouble getting your kids to eat their greens, you need to head to Potager bakery in Nakameguro. This is where carrots, leeks, tomatoes and other leafy things become delicious desserts.
Or can't stand fish but always fancied some sushi? Head for Potager's newly opened sushi restaurant at Roppongi Hills, again purely vegetarian.
Both have been borne out of the imagination of owner/chef Aya Kakisawa. “If you’re going to eat dessert, you might as well get some nutrition out of it, right?" she says.
Digging into the greens
At Potager bakery, opened in 2006, your experience should start with the green shortcake (¥450).
The colorful dessert has a green sponge cake infused with calcium-rich mustard-spinach (komatsuna) and mini red tomatoes replace the strawberries between moist layers.
But you’ll be surprised to find the tomato tang is softened by sugar and cream, and produces the same sweetening effect as sprinkling sugar on a grapefruit.
It is the most popular dessert here at Potager, but it is not the most adventurous.
There's a Garland Chrysanthemum Opera (¥480) -- a chocolate cake layered with bright green mousse.
For a real challenge, try leek in a baked cheesecake or edamame pudding.
Just reading the ingredient cards at the shop is sure to induce a chuckle followed by genuine curiosity (Soba and chai? Lychee and Chinese cabbage?)
It is one of the reasons celebrities and locals alike leave with boxes packed with a variety of the cakes.
It is also why many of the desserts sell out before lunchtime, and why it is impossible to get a seat during busy hours.
To change the way people perceive vegetables
Potager just opened their second location at Roppongi Hills, a sushi restaurant where vegetables replace the fish for another new concept.
Here it is a more formal sit-down affair for about 37 patrons at a time, and the “sushi” comes out in courses with a thorough explanation of the intricate process and ingredients used to achieve the look and, dare we say, delicious taste.
That “tuna” nigiri is actually filleted tomato and compote, and the orange “uni” sea-urchin is carrot crème.
The rice used in the sushi is warm, and most of the vegetables have been steamed or sautéed before being served.
Eating here is like getting a box of chocolates, where half the fun is guessing what’s inside each bon-bon.
Kakisawa, 32, trained in Japan and France and studied macrobiotic cuisine before opening her two shops in Tokyo, both of which are the first in the world in their respective vegetable-fusion categories.
It was being a vegetarian that spurred her to experiment.
“It seems like it would be much easier to be a vegetarian in a place like the U.S. over Japan where restaurants don’t understand our special needs. Even at these so-called ‘vegetable’ restaurants here, you’ll find they serve most of their dishes with bacon,” she laments.
Kakisawa’s enthusiasm for healthy eating has landed her in the spotlight, and it is not uncommon to see her on TV, touting the veggie revolution.
She also puts her money where her mouth is by using only organic greens, all sourced from local farms.
View gallery for more images.
Vegetable Sushi Potager, Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka-Dori, 6-9-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tel: +81 (0) 3 3497 8822, AM11:00-PM23:00