So you’ve had your share of red chile, green chile and beans – what do you do for a change? This question has become more complicated for those who have chosen to forego animal products, and if you’re vegan, the options are narrowed further still. No problema! You can satisfy your understandable urge for a non-New Mexican meal, stick to your vegetarian or vegan principles and still eat great food right downtown, since Shohko, Santa Fe’s original Japanese restaurant, founded in 1975, is still going strong.
Shohko and Hiro Fukuda came to the City Different in the 1970’s, part of a wave of modern-day settlers seeking the alternative lifestyle Santa Fe has always offered. Their commitment to natural foods began in Japan in the 1960’s, when they studied under George Ohsawa, the founder of modern macrobiotics. Raising three beautiful daughters on a clean and healthy diet, they began their service to the Santa Fe community by opening a natural food store. They expanded this mission by taking their skills and wisdom into the kitchen when they opened the cafe, now in its 34th continuous year.
Being a non-vegetarian creature of habit who always orders the bento box, I merely rotate the protein component, but my lunch buddy recently became a vegan, hence our quest for new alternatives. Ordering off the vegetable selections on the Izakaya menu and the Sushi menu gave her a delicious variety of tastes from which to choose, with the added benefit of organic salt, miso and shoyu. As we put down our napkins yesterday, she pronounced herself pleasantly full – well, okay, she said she was stuffed! And I could happily say the same. One of the first things I eat from the bento is the tempura green chile (guess chile-heads don’t really want to escape that capsaicin high!), but I’m also quite fond of the seaweed sesame, which tastes great and feels virtuous.
Housed in a former 19th century bordello with 3-foot thick adobe walls and original vigas, the restaurant’s décor fuses simple Japanese and Northern New Mexican design elements. Shohko’s arrangements of fresh flowers, locally bought or cut from her flower garden, brighten tabletops and hallways. The presentation is lovely, on clean white sculptural plates, the ambiance is peaceful, and the service professional yet unobtrusive.
Ideally located downtown just steps from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and only a few blocks from all the attractions of the historic Santa Fe Plaza area, Shohko Cafe has consistently offered a reasonably-priced lunch or dinner alternative from the bean-y cuisine of New Mexico. The Fukuda Family continues to honor their commitment to providing delicious and wholesome food, and that’s very good news for food lovers who show love for sentient beings by keeping them off the plate.
All photos: Eric Swanson Photography