I’d been hearing a lot about a restaurant chain called Mr. Farmer. Friends had told me it was vegetable-centric; a healthy-delicious sort of place. It sounded suspiciously trendy but a look at their menu piqued my curiosity, so I decided to find out if it was just hype or if the place was legitimately good.

It’s run by Eat-Walk, a company operating a number of restaurants with an emphasis on food as energy. The Mr. Farmer offering is, as the name suggests, focused on the farm-to-table idea. I visited the Roppongi location late on a Monday afternoon. My fellow customers were a pair of men having a meeting, a mother and her toddler, a group of retired ladies having a quiet chat, and a couple.

Mr Farmer_04The vibe here is one of impeccable tidiness as a well-decorated farmhouse, complete with abundant plant life. The menu has a nice selection of salads and meatless protein dishes, along with vegetarian and vegan options. Some dishes are a la carte only; others have a “plate” option (dish + side salad and potato). Out of sheer curiosity, I’d been hoping to try their kale and mushroom vegan burger but it had sold out. I opt for the other vegan item on the menu; taco rice with quinoa (¥1,580). I also go for the soup of the day (¥650).

When my food arrives, the first thing I notice is the side of salsa accompanying my taco rice; the serving utensil is a tiny shovel. While I feel this cheapens things, I am a bit impressed by the attention to detail.

Tableware aside, the vegetables are indeed the focus. The zucchini and eggplant are treated simply with olive oil. The quinoa taco rice is not particularly taco-ish but hazelnut toppings and the sweet-spicy salsa enhance things greatly. The stars of the dish are the tomatoes; skins removed, they are bursting with a delicious and fresh sweet-acidity. The onion soup is quite simple; fine for a side, but I am underwhelmed, especially considering the¥650 price tag.

I do not order any drinks, as there is a self-serve “water bar” at the entrance. Gimmicky though it feels, it presents an interesting option to tailor your water choices to your meal.

Mr Farmer_07For dessert, a vegan strawberry mousse with cacao nibs (¥890). While not fluffy enough to be called “mousse,” it is lovely! The strawberry is not overwhelmingly sweet, and the cacao nibs have a great crunch. The granola crust is great; I’d like to try making a dessert with this technique.

My damage: 3380 yen. I leave feeling as though I could have eaten more, though I am not especially hungry.

I try the Shinjuku location next, on a Wednesday night at 8:30. It is packed. I am by myself but still have to wait for a seat. A blackboard above the register lists vegetables and names, presumably of farmers providing produce to the shop. My inner cynic wonders if it is real. My inner child wonders if they have tiny shovels here too. They do.

Fellow customers are mostly pairs of women. There are a few couples and one other person alone like me.

The menu has quite a few more options than the Roppongi location (including gluten-free dishes). I decide to try something meaty. Ever on the lookout for a good sandwich in this city, I go for the roast beef, kale, and Monterey Jack cheese sandwich (¥1,850 yen).

And damn it, they have once again sold out of my first-choice item.

Staff suggest the spinacMr Farmer_08h and bacon croque-monsieur (¥1,750), a cheesy, béchamel sauce-laden, decadent excuse for dinner. I order the thing.

When my (massive) dish arrives, I can barely wait to finish obsessively taking photos for this review. The smell is tantalizing.

My god, the cheese. Cheddar and gouda melted inside, with pecorino topping the entire situation. The bitterness of the spinach helps cut through all the fat. There is so much cheese that the lone slice of bacon in the middle nearly gets lost. The bread choice was interesting; campagne is a French bread made from a sourdough starter. It is rather dense and moist but has the familiar tanginess of sourdough. Side dishes are nice and fresh. The salad gets a simple vinaigrette dressing, and the tender potato is topped with crispy bits of garlic and fresh rosemary. Yum!

When I finish, I need a nap. I cannot possibly handle dessert, despite my interest in the veggie donuts on the menu.

Takeaways: “plates” are a better deal than a la carte. The menu has enough variety to suit multiple dietary needs, so you can confidently visit with people who have special requirements. Great for a sunny weekend afternoon lunch, if you can get a seat! Enjoy the tiny shovels.