It can be tough to be a vegetarian in Japan, a country that loves its yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and marbled beef. I haven't disavowed animal products, but I definitely like to load my diet with vegetables whenever possible. Which is why I was quite excited to stumble across the Jyagaya Vegetable Dining restaurant while strolling down Kumamoto's Shimotori shopping arcade.
The first thing you see when you step off the elevator into Jyagaya's entranceway is an entire wall of colorful fruits and vegetables, which bodes well for what you'll find on their menu. Those menus are only in Japanese, but there are plenty of pictures to help you figure out what is on offer. Unsure if our menu included more than one plate, we ordered three main dishes to split between two adults and a toddler. As it turns out, Jyagaya's set lunches - none of which costs more than ¥1000 - will get you a whole lot more than one plate.
Our meal began with a sizable salad, served with three homemade dressings - sesame, a vinagrette and one that tasted like French dressing. Salad was quickly followed by cold soup with a cheese base - perfect for the 90 degree weather - and then glasses of fresh banana juice. By this point, I was starting to regret our choice of three full entrees but somehow we managed to make room. The vegetable pizza was generously topped (though thankfully no corn, as is standard on so many Japanese pizzas) and the dough was nicely crisped on the bottom. The prosciutto sandwich - one of the only meat offerings we saw on the menu - was served with a still-warm fresh pita, the standout part of that plate. But hands down, the winner was the imitation hamburger, made from tofu and drizzled with a mushroom sauce. I don't think my dining companions had more than one bite each, as it disappeared into my stomach before they could blink.
By this point, we all were pretty sated, but managed to make room for vanilla pudding with a side of watermelon. For the bargain price of ¥1000 per meal, this is definitely a place to put on your Kumamoto must-eat list.
Jyagaya is open for lunch from 11:30am-2pm and again for dinner from 5pm-midnight.