I posted a version of this today on Being-A-Broad, but I know I’m going to want to refer to it again, so I’m reposting here with some modifications. (No promises on the grammar being correct, but these phrases usually work for me.)
Bejitarian desu. ベジタリアンです。
This is may cause your waitress to look at you askance. So get ready to explain yourself.
“I don’t eat meat and fish.”
Oniku to sakana wo taberaremasen. お肉と魚を食べられません。
Now she is sort of getting it. But if you are vegan you’ll need further explanation.
“I also don’t eat milk, cheese and eggs.”
Gyunyuu, chi-zu to tamago mo taberaremasen. 牛乳 チーズと卵も食べられません。
At this point, the waitress is frantic. Be prepared with the next phrase!
“Vegetables, fruit, tofu, noodles and rice are ok.”
Yasai, kudamono, otofu, men to gohan ga ii desu. 野菜、果物，お豆腐、麺とご飯がいいです。
Whew, you are not going to starve in her restaurant.
“Is there meat in it?”
Oniku ga haitte imasu ka? お肉が入っていますか？
It never hurts to ask. Ham sneaks into all sorts of things here.
“Does this soup have bonito or sardine broth in it?”
Kono su-pu wa katsuobushi toka iwashi ga haitte imasu ka? このスープは鰹節とかイワシが入っていますか？
90% chance the answer will be yes after the waitress runs off to check.
“Which food is only vegetables?”
Yasai dake no ryouri ha…? 野菜だけの料理は。。。？
Use when gesturing at the menu after too many “that has meat in it” answers.
“Can you take out the meat?”
Oniku nuki dekimasu ka?. お肉抜きできますか？
It doesn’t hurt to ask, but be reasonable. You can’t do niku-jaga or beef curry without the meat.
“Remove the meat, please.”
Oniku nuki, onegaishimasu. お肉抜きお願いします。
This can be generalised to “X nuki” to have anything taken out of a dish.
“Without the cheese, please.”
Chi-zu nashi, onegaishimasu. チーズなし、お願いします。
Again, can be generalised to ” X nashi” to have an ingredient omitted. Nashi seems to work best for things on top – egg, dressing, cheese, etc.
“Which dishes have only a little oil?”
Abura sukunai no ryouri ha…? 油少ないの料理は。。。？
Generalise “X sukunai no ryouri” for low salt, low spice, etc
“Do you have organic food?”
Yuuki ryouri ga arimasu ka? 有機料理がありますか？
At this point, the waitress is apoplectic. Be kind, smile.
“This is difficult. What do you think?”
Muzukashii, ne. Doushiyo? 難しい，ね？どうしよ？
When all else fails, see what the waitress suggests.