The scene is hot, but the food is not at this trendy new raw food restaurant in Yoyogi


Originally published on on August 2009

Photo courtesy Manna

Photo courtesy Manna

Tired of the typical lunchtime lineup? Well, meals are anything but typical at Manna, a swanky reservations-only spot in Yoyogi Koen. Manna serves up raw, vegan fare, which means that dishes consist of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that are blended, juiced, dehydrated and artfully arranged, but never heated to over 48°C.

During summer, we can think of nothing better than a luscious meal of fruit and veg, so we headed to Yoyogi Koen to investigate. Manna is located on the sixth floor of a modern residential building; the space is compact but chic, with exposed concrete and an unbeatable park view. Rather than creating an air of exclusivity, the reservations-only system was set up to guarantee that none of the food goes to waste, but we relished feeling like members of a private club when we were buzzed in.

Being raw food novices, we opted for the lunchtime set menus. “Course 1” includes soup, appetizer, main dish, salad, dessert and drink (¥2,800). Course 2 adds fresh fruit and another dessert (¥3,800). If you think it’s impossible to fill up without meat (or heat!), just go for Course 2. Trust us, you won’t have a hankering for much more than a lazy stroll through the park afterwards.

In fact, from our terrace table, we couldn’t help but appreciate the parallel between the lush greenery of Yoyogi Park and the vibrant colors on our plant-based plates. As we took in the combination of fresh food and al fresco dining, the slow pace of our meal suited us, but those with time limitations may find themselves rushing through their final course.

From the drink menu, we ordered a fruit and green vegetable smoothie, which may be the perfect way to sneak some greens into your diet. This fruity, pulpy, sweet and refreshing concoction—despite its verdant hue—contained no trace of green vegetable taste. Our other beverage, chai-flavored almond milk, was a heady blend of spices that would have appealed to us more at the end of our meal, but was tasty nonetheless.

The main dishes—a choice of sushi, pizza, or hummus sandwich—are also available as “Plate” lunches for ¥1,300. The pizza, our pick, uses a dehydrated nut and seed-based “bread,” which is softer and denser than its cooked counterpart, yet hearty and satisfying. The cheese—a pâté made from walnuts and basil—has a texture that resembles ricotta rather than mozzarella, but the fresh herbs lend it a complex and full flavor. Topped with slices of eggplant, chunks of mushroom and fresh basil, this dish very closely approximates the flavors and textures of a conventional pizza, minus the heat and grease.

With everything from chocolate chip shakes to macaroons, choosing a dessert was painstaking, but the brownies did not disappoint. Dates, nuts and raw cacao gave this treat a gooey “fresh-baked” texture. The accompanying chocolate sauce was so mouthwateringly addictive we had to stop ourselves from licking the plate.

The menu items at Manna may only loosely resemble the conventional versions of their namesakes, but your taste buds won’t mind at all.