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Japanese Food For Vegetarians at Chijuya
By Uvia Chang Translated by John Johnson

The trend for restaurants in the 21st century is healthy, including organic food and dishes suitable for vegans. However, it is not necessary to be a strict vegetarian or vegan to enjoy all this. It could be that you are simply looking for a fresh change from meat and fish.

Chijuya follows the health trend and fills a unique niche by providing vegetarian Japanese cuisine. Numerous traditional Japanese meat dishes appear on the menu, but are all made from non-meat ingredients, prepared in such a way to match flavors with those of their namesakes. Some may be curious as to why the names of common meat dishes are still used, even though all of the food is vegetarian.

"Actually, many people are now vegetarians for health reasons, so vegetarianism is not only confined to religious beliefs. Using the names of non-vegetarian dishes is only a way to allow customers to understand what they are ordering," responds head chef Lin.

The restaurant is located on Meichuan West Road, section 1, near the corner of Taijung Gang (Taichung Kang) Road. From the outside, this one-story building appears simple and plain. The front door faces the Mei Chuan green belt, a quiet boulevard lined by a canopy of trees. Thus, this restaurant is a conveniently located escape from the city center's hustle and bustle.

Inside, enjoy the view of the green belt from the large picture windows. The dining area is separated by simple, but elegant, bamboo partitions into sections, each seating eight to 10 people. The buffet, too, is different from most other normal buffets, due to the fact that you pick what you want and the server brings it for you. While in the comfort of your seat, the staff promptly pours tea and places orders, allowing the customer to enjoy the relaxing environment. Try to sit next to a window, so that you can eat and see what is happening outside. Soothing background music enhances this dining experience.

The best thing about Chijuya is that the dishes are made fresh with each order. The all-you-can-eat lunch menu is NT$299 and NT$399 evenings, weekends and holidays. In the menu, there are photos of each item, including hand rolls, sushi, salad, steamed and fried dishes, and even vegetarian sashimi (with wasabi).

The restaurant also offers vegetarian grilled Californian shrimp (NT$150), tempura (NT$150), vegetarian chicken and vegetarian fish. All of these dishes were developed by the head chef, with care and attention paid to the texture and flavor. The restaurant also offers "Sour Shuiyun" (NT$ 120). Shuiyun, literally "water clouds", is a type of seaweed and it is served with vinegar and cucumber and chilled on a bed of ice. Its texture resembles that of slippery chilled noodles, a truly Japanese taste.

Three types of hot pot are also offered: Miso Hotpot (NT$350), Chiju Hotpot (NT$450), and Tofu Hotpot (NT$280). The soup base is made from kelp, Chinese cabbage and fruit. The chief ingredients are vegetables, "glass" noodles, vegetarian "meatballs", and mushrooms. All of these dishes are served on an all-you-can-eat basis, which makes this restaurant very affordable in comparison to non-vegetarian Japanese restaurants.

Dishes not on the all-you-can-eat menu include fried pineapple with sesame, (NT$180) and fried sweet tangerine (NT$150). This restaurant also caters banquets with prices ranging from NT$3,990 to NT$6,000 (for 10 people). Although the Chijuya chain only has one branch in Taichung, there are also stores in Taipei, Taoyuan, and even in Thailand and Australia. So, if you are fond of vegetarian food and Japanese food, or simply are watching your weight, it's hard to beat this restaurant.

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