There are two problems common to many vegetarian places. One: They use fish or chicken stocks and thus are not vegetarian. Two: They're so holier-than-thou (nonfat gluten loaf with wheatgrass dressing anyone?) that the food is more reminiscent of cardboard than anything real humans are meant to be eating. Fortunately, the recent addition of Sofa to the Tokyo veg scene means no more holding your nose while trying to eat healthy.
Sofa's culinary philosophy, or "sofa-losophy" (the "so" comes from sosai, or vegetarian, while "fa" derives from family) is a New York deli-style presentation of vegetarian fusion, an east-meets-west blend of Chinese and Italian, painstakingly prepared without the use of fish stock, gelatin or any other animal byproducts. Sofa eschews onions, scallions and garlic as well, and where the recipes use egg or milk products they're labeled clearly.
So - what does all this mean? More New Age cardboard? Thankfully, no. Sofa dishes out delicious, creatively seasoned, absolutely vegetarian food and meat imitations that are almost ominously realistic. The "ham" in the "ham sandwich" looks like sliced deli meat, while the spicy Chinese "chicken" approximates the chewy texture of chicken without the loss of a single bird.
I'm more taken by their non-imitation dishes, however. The Chinese mabo dofu is an assertively spicy flavor-packed tofu and something dish; I'm at a loss as to how it tastes so good without the garlic. Eggplant lasagna, made with rennetless cheese from Hokkaido, is subtle, delicate, sublime. Pizza, salads, sandwiches, spring rolls, steamed buns, tofu bento and chinjao beans fill out the rather bizarre menu. Oddly enough, it all works, my only quibble being that the serving sizes are rather too small.