Matsumoto ended up on our Japanese itinerary purely because I saw a picture of this castle and wanted to visit it. And I’d say it was worth it, it was truly a work of art. We saw a few more castles during our travels, but this first one remained the best, possibly just because of that dazzling first impression.
While I loved the castle, it’s possible that there was actually something better in Matsumoto: a vegan cafe! We’d been to a lot of restaurants in our first few days in Japan, but I soon found myself craving a cosy little cafe. We finally found it in The Healthy Penguin, a cosy, friendly place run by a Glaswegian (which meant that the service was more in line with what we’re used to, rather than the hyper polite Japanese style).
They had three lunch options, all served until 2pm, though we arrived at 1:55pm and they still happily hooked us up. When we called in they had a burrito bowl, rainbow noodles, and avo toast. Dr HH enjoyed the noodles, which were fresh and zingy with some excellent textures and a sublime lime and peanut dressing – I could smell it across the table! Meanwhile, I went for the avo toast, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The bread was excellent, there was a generous helping of avocado, and the beetroot hummus was very tasty. Quite a treat!
There was only one dessert left, so we shared a portion of the raw raspberry and lemon tart. We don’t have a lot of faith in raw desserts, so we were relieved to see that this one was just a good old fashioned cheesecake! It was light and tasty, but a wee bit frozen in the centre. Still, this was a charming spot, and we had a really relaxing hour or so in there.
We didn’t actually have any Japanese food in Matsumoto, because in the evening we went along to Everest, an Indian restaurant. Happy Cow led us to believe there’d be some good vegan options, and so it was – there was nothing vegan marked on the menu, but the staff happily informed us of what we could have, and there were quite a few options, starting with the samosas! These were the highlight of the meal. The pastry was excellent, and the filling was really tasty. We weren’t expecting Indian food in Japan to be this good, so it was quite a pleasant surprise!
Dr HH went for his default order, chana masala. He declared it good but a bit too sweet, and bemoaned the presence of some unnecessary peppers. I was more impressed with my spinach and potato curry, which had a pleasant kick to it.
We shared a portion of garlic rice, which was mega garlicky, and and a few off-menu chapatis, which turned out a touch too thin and crispy, but we appreciated the effort, and some bread is always better than no bread!
I don’t usually eat in Indian restaurants on holiday because I suspect the food will never be mind-blowing, nor particularly unique to the place we’re visiting – but in Japan, these Indian restaurants became our safety choice when other vegan options were a bit thin on the ground. In Europe I feel like falafel is always my back up; in Japan, it was Indian food!
There were a few other spots with vegan options that popped up on Happy Cow as well, making Masumoto a good option for a short stay. There wasn’t loads to do, but it was really nice to be in a smaller city. And bonus points to them for having a local bus called the town sneaker!
Indian food, falafel, or something else entirely: what’s your emergency vegan spot on holiday?