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This is Shanghai's First Vegan Japanese Eatery, and They Nailed It

Jun 26, 2019 | 16:00 Wed

Maruyama is the first (also currently the only) place in Shanghai where you can eat vegan sushi, vegan temaki sushi, vegan gyoza (Japanese potstickers) and many other vegan izakaya dishes. And they don't disappoint. Although the restaurant puts "shojin-ryori" (Japanese Buddhist cuisine) in its Chinese name, Maruyama is much more casual and hearty than that makes it seem.

Open since March, the homey Maruyama attracts a diverse crowd. When I went, the other customers were a small group of nuns, an expat and his local friend, a couple of white collar friends and a solo diner.

I had heard alot about Maruyama's sushi but was still dubious. Would it be rubbery? Do they use veggies to mimic the texture? I started to become convinced when my first "salmon" sushi came out, made from konjac and colored with red yeast.

With the rice, soy sauce and a bit of wasabi, it tasted just like salmon but with the fattiness toned down. The staff later told me that they brushed it with their home-made teriyaki sauce and used a blowtorch to brown the "fish" — making it slightly chewier than jelly. From a health perspective, I felt less guilty — konjac has almost no calories.

The "grilled eel" was quite good as well. The soy fiber managed to create a firm-fleshed texture. Although not as deceiving as the salmon sushi, it nevertheless was a sophisticated small bite.

Maruyama also serves veganized oden, fried "chicken" nuggets and "beef" bowls at night to a soundtrack of old-school Japanese pop music. Pricing is about 120rmb and cheaper at lunch, when they offer sets.

Maruyama is a ten-minute walk from the established Buddhist restaurant Vegan Delights. Like their neighbor, I hope they stick around for a long time to come.

Maruyama, 451 Dapu Lu, near Neihuan Gaojia Lu.

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