Tasteful Tokyo: Cafe The 6BT
Slurp-worthy vegan ramen in Roppongi
The concept of being a vegetarian or vegan is not yet that common in Japan — yes, we love meat, fish and dairy products. Even with the abundance of vegetable and tofu dishes, Japanese cooking involves a lot of katsuo dashi, so if you're a strict vegetarian or vegan, making food choices can be a challenge when eating out here. Our new Savvy contributor, Miss P, checks out a healthy ramen joint to help vegetarians and "ramenists" alike decide if they'd like to try it.
Lately, however, more organic and macrobiotic cafés have become popular in Tokyo, but very few are completely vegetarian — even less are vegan. Café the 6BT is one of the rare, truly vegan eateries in central Tokyo. Only a few minutes walk from Tokyo Midtown or Nogizaka station, not only is its menu strictly animal and dairy product-free but there is no MSG or refined sugars used— and their main item is vegan ramen.
Vegan ramen? Isn’t ramen the antithesis of vegan food?
It’s one of the not-so-healthy Japanese dishes. For a good bowl, though, you forget about eating clean and suppress the guilt because you know it’s worth it… oh so worth it.
So, without all the meat essence oozing in the soup, the slice of chashu (roasted pork filet), the fat in the broth or the eggs in the noodles — how good can it be? If it’s a bowl of watery veggie broth with konyaku (taro-like potato jelly) noodles — aka, diet ramen — Miss P will quietly walk away, thank you very much. But today, she had to find out.
They have a handful of choices: from simple shoyu to miso, tomato and curry ramen; but for the first time, to get a real taste of the soup, stick to the basics — the vegan shoyu ramen (¥900) . When the bowl came, there was a beautiful sheen of oil atop the broth — it looked like real ramen! The noodles were thinner and whiter than the usual type, so you could tell that they were egg-free; the shoyu-based soup (konbu broth, soy sauce, garlic and ginger) had nice depth and balance; the double topping of sautéed onions and slices of raw naga negi (leek) gave body and a zesty zing; and the roasted gobo (burdock) chip garnish was a nice addition, giving the bowl a unique twist. The verdict? Surprisingly, once you start slurping — there’s no stopping! And even if you’re on of those types to finish the soup, there’s none of that post-ramen bloat or greasy feeling.
Pleasantly surprised, wholly satisfied and impressed, there was now another choice to make. Ice cream after ramen? Yes! (I know it’s not just me.) Their soy-milk vanilla ice cream with brown rice cookies (¥500) was dominated by the soy flavor but it was a refreshing after the ramen’s oniony-ness. The cookies had a telling biscotti-type texture that was indicative that no butter was used. Light, semi-sweet and crunchy — it was a nice pairing with the sweeter ice cream. Along with its vegan dessert menu, Café 6BT also has deli side dishes. The other main offering here is a variety of energy-boosting, cold-pressed juices and smoothies. There are dinner plate options, as well, and a full list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including organic wines, beers, coffee and original cold-pressed juice cocktails.
The café is not that big but the entrance is open and it feels spacious with its wide passageway. There are regular table seats in the back and a few sofa seats in the front. The server politely warned me that the sofa seats are “not great” for eating a meal (even though the seat near the entrance seemed nicer and the tables seemed a little too close to each other for Miss P). He was right — the chair was too high for the table. Perched on the seat, it wasn’t an elegant sight bopping up and down over the ramen bowl… But the air felt nice and it was fun to watch the mix of people come and go. Some seemed like regulars, coming in for their lunch break with their wallet in hand and some were just picking up a bottle of cold-pressed juice at the counter for a quick boost. Many of the customers were solo diners.
There is free Wi-Fi. The staff are accommodating and polite. There’s a constant flow of people but there’s never a line. The menu is only in Japanese but the appetizing photos make it easy to choose and they do have English explanations on their website.
The Reason Miss P Visits
Yes, vegan ramen sounds puzzling at first, but don’t think that you will have to swallow quality over flavor (bland) because once you try it, it will override any suspicion you may have. You might even become hooked!
The food, atmosphere and crowd have this intriguing yin-yang quality and balance.
(Mmm… except maybe for the sofa seats and the taped signages and hanging flags, typical of Japanese establishments, that downgrade the image — so unfortunate when everything else is nice.)
It’s not hippie, nor is it posh. And for us ladies who aren’t comfortable going into a ramen shop alone and sitting next to guys who slurp down a bowl in five minutes, this is a perfect place to get your fix of noodle soup — peacefully. It’s a guilt-free, healthier choice and it’s low-key despite it being in Roppongi near Tokyo Midtown. It’s a nice spot for a break after a visit to The National Art Center, Tokyo; to re-fuel as you plan your next move; maybe wind down with a fresh cocktail and veggie chips after a long day. Or you can go a little crazy and go for the 90-minute-all-you-can-drink-organic-wine course with a veggie nabe (hot pot) plan for an afterwork soirée or ladies’ night.
And if you’re wondering what the “6BT” stands for, they took the first letter of each kanji in Roppongi (六本木) in English — as in six (六) book (本) and tree (木). Now you know.
Tastefully yours, Miss P♡
Address: 1F 9-6-26 FonteRoppongi Akasaka, Minato-ku
Business hours: Open Mon-Thu, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Sun & holidays, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Access: A 2-minute walk from Nogizaka station; a 5-minute walk from Roppongi station.