The term "health-food buffet" may draw odd expressions just by the sound it, but Shunsai Shokuken Hinano, or Hinano for short, still deserves checking out. In a crowded market, competing with traditional all-you-can-eat/drink establishments, buffet 'viking' restaurants and some other hybrids (yes, all-you-can-eat-bread bakery restaurants are a thing), Hinano manages to set itself apart from the competition rather well.
Hailing from Sendai where it all began back in 2007, Hinano now boasts over 50 outlets nationwide thanks to its successful model of providing locally-sourced, healthy, natural and organic choices at affordable prices. For ¥1,575 at lunch (11am-4pm) or ¥2,100 at dinner (5pm-10:30pm), you get all access to a dizzying variety of healthy, freshly prepared food and drinks.
Hinano is a great way to try a large number of traditional Japanese dishes all at once: healthy fresh salads, soups (Miso etc), curries, tempura, tofu, nikujaga and more. Whilst the fare is predominantly vegetarian, there are some meat and fish dishes to cater to all tastes. There'll usually be multiple kinds of noodles available (not just soba/udon but harusame and some others), and rice in some of its 'umamified' versions: mixed grain gokokumai and Kayaku gohan (with chicken and vegetables).
You'll also have a good chance to sample all the weird and wonderful ingredients you may simply not find back home, such as daikon, renkon, enoki, konnyaku, nijiki, wakame and so on. By themselves, I would find them far too healthy (i.e. lacking in taste) but as part of the many prepared dishes available would go perfectly as a number of options you can scoop up onto your buffet-style plate.
Most dishes rotate both seasonally and throughout the day, so grab what you want when you see it. For subsequent rounds (you are being healthy, right?), staff will whisk away empty plates from your table so you can just pick up a new one. Also worthy of note, there is no run-of-the-mill drinks bar in sight, but instead a good selection of organic, fresh fruit juices and coffee/tea.
If you make it to the end of your meal without overindulging, you may want to run away before you glimpse the equally impressive desserts selection. Thenagain, after all this healthy eating who wouldn't want to treat themselves a bit?
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