A trip to Japan can be an overwhelming experience. There's so much to see, do and eat. There's so much to taste that you could find yourself overdoing it. At some point you need a break, and Oak Cafe has just the thing.
It's a tiny place, seating only 6, along one alley of Iroha Yokocho. A macrobiotic store (which basically means healthy food), meat, eggs and white sugar are not used in the food; most meals appear to be vegan. Although it's small, clever use is made of the space, and you can even buy some produce, like the soy mayonnaise used in their meals. The owners have a main produce store near Nishi-koen, which has been running for longer than the cafe.
Oak Cafe is only open around lunchtime, but it's open every day of the week. On certain days they have special additions to the menu, and the daily special is the same but different each day.
When I went the daily special contained chickpea croquettes. They were crisp on the outside and soft inside. The fruity sauce was a great addition; the second one was black sesame salt for the rice. You can choose from brown rice and mixed grains – or even go 50/50. Either way it's delicious. Most of the plate was taken up by a selection of various salads – green, potato, carrot, and seaweed and mushroom. Of particular note were the potato salad, which benefited from the more subtle soy mayonnaise that wasn't as cloying, and the carrot salad, vinegary and accented with sultanas. The latter was a perfect accompaniment to the fried croquettes – it cut through and refreshed the palate.
The miso soup is going to be hard to beat – not overpowering or too salty, you can practically drink it.
Dessert was heavenly. It was their usual tangy soy yogurt, balanced by sweet maple and given crunchy texture with granola, but that day there was a little extra – a cocoa cookie. It was crumbly and moreish and everything was gone too soon.
It was a meal fully worth ¥1050. I was so impressed by it that I decided to buy a piece of their sweet potato pound cake, made with brown rice (¥300). The texture wasn't like traditional cake; it was quite heavy, so the pieces of potato, sultanas and walnuts were very welcome. In some ways it was a bit bread-like, and it made a great fortifying snack. Above all it was fresh and homemade.
Going back, I tried the tomato risotto, ¥900. It turned out to be rice mixed with a pre-prepared sauce, alongside the same selection of salads, and dessert. I thought that using frozen sauce was ingenious, and it didn't detract from the flavor at all. Given the restrains of the tiny kitchen, it saves them, and the customer, time. I would definitely order it again, but it might have to wait until I've had the vegetable curry...