Eating out in Ginza: the old and the new

Ginza is a must go place now in Tokyo for shopping and eating: you can shop for the new, but eat in the old. Ginza has lots of what Japanese call “shinise”, old established eateries that are institutions, and thanks to the influx of new international shops like Forever 21, the disco like Abercrombie & Fitch, Uniqlo or the revamped department store Mitsukoshi (also with tons of new eateries on level 12), the once slightly dowdy mecca for “women of a certain age” and “businessmen of certain proclivities” is altogether quite groovy.

One of the more famous shinise or Japanese culinary institutions is Toraya, the venerable wagashi (Japanese sweets) establishment that does afternoon tea to perfection. Toraya is famous for Yo-kan, azuki bean jelly that is served with matcha or strong green tea. For the western version of Toraya, go to West, a cake, sandwich and tea place that is olde Europe in mood finished off with classical music. It’s tiny but well frequented, mostly by shopped out ladies. I love the ham sandwich, which is quintessentially Japanese–carefully manicured fluffy white bread with a perfectly measured hint of mustard.

Lunch big in Ginza–plenty of fantastic kaiseki restaurants to go to, and most do reasonable lunchtime bento for about 3,500 yen. Like the Michelin hatted Uchiyama is a favourite of ours (see picture above and bento below)-its understated decor, the crisp personalised service, the very traditional Japanese cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients is really worth it if you want the “authentic” culinary experience. Bento lunch with Taichazuke (snapper rice with tea, served with sesame sauce, a traditional dish) is still 3,500 yen. Kei visited recently for dinner and had the seasonal kaiseki menu including crab, and raved about it. We both love the grilled gomadofu (sesame “tofu” made with arrowroot).  If you can’t get into Uchiyama, go to Asami, which also does “authentic”.  No website, but phone number is (03) 55651606 and open lunch and dinner except Sunday. Lunch about 2000-3000 yen, dinners are 15,000-20,000 yen (about $200 AUD), which is a similar price range to Uchiyama.

For some innovative fusion, go to neo French Yugao. Kei did the dinner menu and was wowed. The dishes were so delicately presented and the tastes were subtle yet exciting, she reported.

Shiseido Parlour is a beautiful building, the original home of the international cosmetics brand. There’s a great modern art gallery downstairs, and one of the best yoshoku restaurants in Tokyo and busy tea room upstairs. Check out the fabulous design of the cookie tins on the ground floor. For fresh scrumptious anpan (red bean buns), go to Kimuraya.

The great tea store Uogashimeicha has a nice tea room close to the Dior store. And around the corner is also the famous Akebono store which has a beautiful seasonal window you can’t miss. Also close by is the “fruits parlour” with a difference is the well-known Sembikiya which has awesome fruit parfaits and very expensive melons that people always go gaga over.

by Masako Fukui, Copyright Kei’s Kitchen

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