I’ve spent these last few weeks settling into my new life in Minoh, which I’ve just recently begun to call home. Beyond Minoh, I’ve taken the train to Osaka city several times, but I’d never gone farther than Namba. Yesterday though, I finally ventured beyond Osaka Prefecture into Hyogo for a day trip at the Kobe port terminal – a go-to destination for tourists, known for its sky tower and a beautiful view of the water (and an unnecessary number of shopping malls).
My friend/semi-tour guide and I wandered through the strip of shops and Italian restaurants and ice cream stands, stood at the edge of the pier and watched the sea. Around noon, probably taken by the smell of fresh pizza dough wafting from the artisan cafe behind us, we decided to search for a place to stop for lunch.
The night before, the two of us had indulged in omurice for dinner – which I highly recommend for all interested in a comforting, and equally gratifying, meal, but not for those interested in trimming their waist line. Our stomachs were still a little tired from a long night of breaking down yolk, ketchup, and rice, so we decided to search for food that would soothe our digestive systems rather than decimate them.
With a bit of Googling, we decided upon a vegan (yes, vegan) cafe called “Modernark,” which labeled itself the self-healing cafe. My friend and I liked the sound of that, so we left the air-conditioned strip, stepped into the humidity, and headed to Modernark, ready for a dose of intestinal cleansing.
Modernark is about 20 minutes away from Kobe Port on foot. Though the weather made for a sweaty commute, the walk itself is simple and straightforward, and makes for a fascinating stroll if you decide to take the detour through NankinMachi, or Kobe’s Chinatown, along the way (which we did).
Modernark is known for their array of tea options, but they also have a well-rounded, and reasonably-priced, lunch menu. Though, their lunch menu is pretty limited. There were only three options for lunch: a vegan plate with an assortment of seasoned vegetables and brown rice, vegan curry with brown rice, and a burrito (which was also, yes, vegan) with a side of salad.
I chose the vegetable plate, because I thought it looked the most interesting of the three choices. The plate came with marinated carrot and cucumber strands, soft tofu with sesame burdock root, fried tofu with bean sprouts and slivered almonds, mashed potato, and salad.
After tasting the spread, I’d say it tasted just as… unusual… as its appearance. Though the presentation of the dish reminded me of something I’d receive in a vegan restaurant back in the states, all of the vegetables were coated in seasonings that were strongly Japanese in flavor – sweet, subtle, with an aftertaste of sesame oil.
The flavors weren’t all that new to me. But the textures caught me off guard. I’d say the strangest was the fried tofu and bean sprouts – the sprouts were light and airy, and dripping in a sauce with a taste that I can’t quite explain. The tofu was an experience in itself; chewing on it felt kind of like chewing on white bread that’d been soaking in mayonnaise for a few days. Not that I’ve ever eaten white bread with mayonnaise before…
Though the flavor profile wasn’t anything to rave about, and the textures were a tad questionable, I can say with confidence that I did feel very refreshed and rejuvenated after my meal. The produce was fresh, the spread was well-balanced, and I definitely wasn’t suffering from the same regret I’d experienced the night before after stuffing myself with omurice.
I didn’t have the chance to sample anything else on their menu, but Modernark also had a long list of herbal teas, flavored lattes, and wines. If I’m ever in Kobe again, I’ll be sure to stop by Modernark to sample a few of their drinks – and their vegan desserts too, which the cafe also had quite a few options for. Though, I’m a little hesitant to say their cakes and assorted pastries are conducive to “self-healing.” But hey, who knows… I mean, it is vegan right?