Recently we went to Zen, a restaurant located on the 16th floor of the Next 21 building near the heart of Furumachi. Here, you can practice Zazen meditation and have breakfast fit for a monk in the morning and come back to have a Tanita Shokudo balanced meal for lunch.
Morning Zazen and Breakfast (7:00- )
Zazen, which lasts from 7:00-7:40, is led by 1-3 monks from within Niigata Prefecture such as Agano temple. There are 40 monks on rotation to come to lead the meditation. This means that the experience is different depending who leads the session and who comes to participate.
No matter what though, they make it accessible for beginners by providing the zafu cushion to sit on as well as provided a (non-mandatory) robe rental (700 yen). They have locker rooms that you can use to change into your zazen robe or other comfortable clothes and lock away all of your accessories and things.
Once meditation is over, breakfast is served. It is a traditional shoujin ryori meal meaning that it is vegetarian. It is served in the simple and elegant dishes that are pictured. Each dish is for a specific thing as the meal follows a set pattern of 5 dishes: okayu (rice porridge), nimono (simmered items), sesame tofu, pickles, and gomashio (sesame & salt). There isn’t an official ending time to breakfast so you can take your time eating your meal and taking in the view of downtown Niigata in the morning.
The total cost of Zazen and breakfast is 1,500 yen (plus tax). Reservations can be made by phone or online and are required. They take no more than 40 people per session. Doors open at 6:45 so you can get changed before meditation starts at 7.
Until last order at 2pm, you can choose from their regular “house” menu, special limited-time menu, or the Tanita Shokudo set.
Their regular menu, which uses as many local ingredients as possible, includes karaage (fried chicken), shougayaki (ginger pork), and fish dishes. Each set is well balanced, has great variety, and is bound to keep you full until dinner. These sets cost about 1,500 yen + tax.
You can read more about Tanita Shokudo in this article but basically a health foods company opened a cafeteria and created a set list of healthy, well-balanced meals that are set at a very strict standard to make sure you get exactly the calories and other nutrition that they say. Zen is the only restaurant in the prefecture to have passed the strict tests to become qualified to serve the meals and call them “Tanita Shokudo meals.”
The meal set for each day changes and they provide the schedule on their website. The price is always 780 yen + tax. Each meal is about 500 calories, is a great way to get your veggies in, and is surprisingly filling. They make sure to not overcook the vegetables and give you a timer so you take at least 20 times to eat the meal. This tricks make your brain think you have eaten more than you have so you stay satisfied for longer.
They also have a separate cafe menu that includes cakes made by their in-house patisserie, drinks, matcha and sweet set, and a matcha fondue set that you finish off as a matcha latte. Last order is at 4:30.
Chef’s choice course by reservation of at least 4 people only. 5,000 yen per person.
It is a lovely, relaxing place to enjoy a meal.
At a glance
Food: The regular sets are overall more flavorful than the tanita sets but those are made for the healthiness, not flavor (but still aren’t bad).
Atmosphere: Open, and calm
English Friendliness: 3/10 There is no English but everything has pictures.
Price Range: Lunch ￥800-1,600
Dinner: 18:00-21:00 (reservation only)
Closed: Open everyday
951-8061 新潟市中央区西堀通六番町866番地 NEXT21ビル 16F
Next21 building (16th floor) 6-866 Nishibori-dori, Chuo-ku, Niigata, Niigata Prefecture 951-8061