June 2nd, 2018

Peace Café Expands to Japan

Forget the stereotype: You won’t find anything tasteless or bland at Peace Café, a vegan restaurant with a Japanese flair serving its own delicious versions of yummy dishes like ramen and katsu. Owned and operated by Shota Terai, Peace Café is located on King Street, next to Stadium Park and across McCully Bike Shop. 

Terai was raised in the kitchen – his father owned a restaurant located in the fancy neighborhood of Roppongi in Tokyo, Japan. Thanks to his dad, Terai was familiar with the ins and outs of a kitchen since he was ten. It wasn’t until 2013 when he became a vegan – coincidentally, the same year his Peace Café supervisor Brenn Miller also became a vegan. Miller also has Japanese roots: he worked in a vegan restaurant in Japan, cooking vegan macrobiotics meals that were starting to get popular.

Terai moved to Hawaii in 2013 and bought Peace Cafe the following year. “I loved the idea of working in a place that’s blessed with beautiful weather and nature, and I wanted to share healthy meals to the people of Hawaii,” says Terai. 

The restaurant quickly grew in popularity under Terai, who tweaked a few original Peace Café recipes and added a few of his own. “Our preference is to buy local organic first, and if that's not available, then local, then organic from grocers,” says Terai. “We buy our ingredients from the local farmers’ markets, Whole Foods, Down To Earth and an organic store on the mainland. Every ingredient is carefully checked before we cook with it.” 

Dish: Peace Sampler

In 2016, Peace Café opened a food truck at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (http://manoa.hawaii.edu/food/peaceCafe.php). The vegan dishes also found popularity in Japan -- as of this month, Peace Café’s recipes were picked up by a Japanese manufacturer and are being sold as bentos (https://gochikuru.com/2207/). “Vegan shops have increased considerably in Japan over the last couple years, but there is still a lot more to be shared about what vegan is,” says Terai. “Our goal with the bentos is to bring health-minded, vegan-oriented meals to all in Japan.”

Dish: Katsu Plate

One of Terai’s favorite items on the menu is the Tempeh Katsu. The katsu is made from tempeh, a traditional, healthy soy product originated in Indonesia, and then baked in a homemade katsu sauce that’s been aged for a year and a half. The tempeh is then dipped into a special katsu butter: homemade breadcrumbs – made from dried ciabatta bread sourced from a local bakery in Aiea— flour, water, turmeric and pepper. Then the tempeh is fried and served with a karashi (spicy mustard) and katsu sauce. Terai’s tip: use both sauces!

For Terai, being vegan is more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle. For new vegans, Terai says, “The thing that you have to be careful is that you come up with the idea that if you don't eat meat, everything is good. But while white sugar, for example, is originally vegetable, it can be bad for the body. I think that the most important thing you should keep in mind as a vegan is to always eat with awareness of what you incorporate in your body. You are what you eat.” 

Peace Café continues to grow, as Terai and Miller are in the process of building a new shop in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, close to where the next Olympics will be held in 2020. Stay tuned for more news by following @PeaceCafeHawaii on Instagram and Facebook!