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Soh Soh near Matsuyama JR Station

Healthy meals in a smoke-free environment

Soh Soh has maintained a very popular restaurant on Matsuyama’s Ropeway Dori street for a while, but recently they’ve expanded, with a new restaurant just across the road from Matsuyama JR Station. I went there for Sunday lunch to see if the new shop is as good as the original.

It is. It has the same clean, modern Japanese décor featuring bamboo and pine, but with the addition of beautiful displays of dried flowers in glass cases. These are arranged at eye level down the center of the main table to serve as a kind of artistic partition so that you’re not staring at the people across the table. They turn the restaurant into an art gallery, one that adds culinary pleasures to the visuals.

Soh Soh offers just one lunchtime option, but in two sizes, and with three different types of rice. I chose the default lunch, served with brown rice flavored with cabbage and plum. While I waited for the food, I was served a pre-prandial glass of juice—grapefruit flavored with the herb shiso. It tasted shockingly healthy and it certainly piqued my already rampant appetite. Soh Soh is the only place I know that offers this service, and by the way that the waitresses grin when they serve it, they know it’s a kooky thing to do.

Soh Soh also boasts that its lunch uses ‘loads of vegetables’. Soon a plate arrived with; A bowl of dried daikon radish stewed with fried tofu; a salad of broccoli and lotus root with curry mayonnaise; potato, leeks and chunks of rich ham; egg roll with sesame and hijiki seaweed; cabbage and beans; salted cucumber slices, and a fantastic concoction of shiitake mushroom stuffed with chicken mince in tempura batter. Oh, and a bowl of rich miso soup. Everything was delicious. It was a great mix of Japanese, Asian and Western tastes on a single plate. For people who are traveling, shortage of vegetables can be a problem when you're eating out all the time. For this reason, and because Soh Soh doesn’t permit smoking, it’s a good place for traveling families to eat.

Soh Soh is very popular with the ladies. Indeed, I was the only male in the place at lunchtime. Even the background music was girls. But this shouldn’t deter male customers. Many restaurants that are popular with women don’t make adequate provision for male appetites, but the servings at Soh Soh are generous, and you can ask for refills of any of the rice options, so you won't go hungry.

The restaurant is on the second floor, and the first floor has a takeaway and a shop selling a range of packaged and fresh food. Soh Soh offers a varied evening menu too, and serves alcoholic drinks which can be enjoyed in a smoke-free atmosphere.

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