From the outside, Souen Soho appears quite subtle, nestled into a small area at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Prince Street with bicycles parked all around the ramps. Inside, however, the restaurant feels very roomy, even being furnished with such small tables. The best place to sit is in the back towards MacDougal Street, as it offers a peaceful view of neighborhood apartments, rather than the passing traffic on Prince Street or Sixth Avenue. Once seated, the many potted plants and vines placed around the restaurant present an earthy feel even within the Downtown Manhattan setting.
Souen originally began in 1971, as a hippie joint on the Upper West Side. Since this era, the main restaurant has moved downtown to Soho, and is frequented by many health-conscious vegans and yoga students. The food at Souen is dual-themed. First, it is Macrobiotic, which is a type of diet that utilizes grains as the staple food, supplemented by other ingredients like local vegetables. Many healthy grains make up the menu options, like brown rice, corn bread, spelt bread, house bread and even a “grain of the day”. For those who are intrigued by this concept, they can try the Macro Plate, which the manager prides as being the best deal for organic food in the world. The Macro Plate offers steamed greens, vegetables, brown rice, beans, seaweed and dressing for $8.75. Secondly, Souen is a Japanese restaurant that has many of the usual options, such as edamame, dumplings, miso soup, tempura and tofu teriyaki. Wheat Udon and buckwheat Soba noodles are on the menu, and many vegetarian and fish sushi options can be created upon demand. Souen takes after the Japanese style of making elegantly-presented, colorful dishes.
Souen Soho serves a handful of fish dishes, such as salmon and cod, but no meat like chicken or beef, nor any dairy or eggs. Many of the dishes can also be made gluten-free. For an interesting beverage, there is a caffeine-free coffee substitution that consists of roasted barley, rye and chicory (but, it is in Soho, so there are many excellent coffee shops around the block if you need that post-meal caffeine boost!). As for alcohol, some different Japanese sakes of varying quality are available, along with organic wines and a few beers.
Spacious within the dense urban atmosphere, Souen Soho is a fine place to eat lunch or dinner. The chef at Souen has been working there since the late 1970s, and is always making different amends to the organic menu. With tasty, healthy portions of neatly-presented Japanese Macrobiotic cuisine fused with Western and Southeast Asian options, this restaurant can please many types of health-conscious or open-minded diners.