This article first appeared in Metropolis magazine on May 13, 2010. Some of my favorite cheap eats in Ginza.
With shops like Forever 21 and H&M recently opening on Ginza’s main drag, the neighborhood is beginning to shed its reputation as a jet-setter’s playground. Yet budget-conscious diners have long known that the area is home to excellent inexpensive restaurants. Here are some favorites that will leave some yen in your wallet to splurge on a bit of fast fashion.
This popular Chinese restaurant, renowned for its jumbo gyoza, often has a line outside at lunch. Neon lights over the door and a red sign on the sidewalk designate the entrance just off of Chuo Dori, along with a display case of plastic versions of the popular dishes. The gyoza set menu (¥1,020) comes with six thick-skinned, chewy dumplings stuffed with pork and vegetables served with a bowl of rice. Notably, no garlic is used in the gyoza, which means Tenryu could serve as an off-price date destination. Other popular dishes are chahan (¥920), yakisoba (¥920), shrimp in a sweet and hot chili sauce (¥2,100), sweet-and-sour pork (¥1,900), and more. The gyoza are so popular that they’re even sold to go, omiyage-style.
Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-6-1 中央区銀座2-6-1
Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-9pm, Sun & hols 11:30am-8pm
Located between Yurakucho station and the area’s large Muji store is Scorpione Stazione, popular for its selection of pastas and its large portions. On a recent lunch visit we had a hard time choosing, so tempting were the options, in particular the pastas with seasonal seafood. The lunch set includes bread and olive oil, a serviceable salad, a generous helping of pasta, and coffee or tea. Service is professional, albeit rushed, and during our visit the pasta was a bit overcooked—but, at ¥1,000 with everything included, we weren’t about to complain. Scorpione Stazione is the ideal spot if you’re on a lunch break, but if you hope to linger, let the staff know to bring your drinks after you’re finished; our espressos arrived while we were still eating. This is a large restaurant with about 100 seats, and at nighttime the prices rise to more standard levels.
Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 3-8-3 千代田区丸の内3-8-3
Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-1am, Sun 11:30am-10pm. Lunch until 2pm.
Located near the Sony building and the Sukiyabashi crossing, Ginza Una is the local branch of the Iwate-based Pyon Pyon Sha restaurant chain. The signature dish is the regional Morioka specialty of reimen, a bowl of spicy, cold noodles. A similar Korean dish uses noodles made from buckwheat, but the Morioka variety is made from potato and wheat flour. Ginza Una’s reimen (just ¥1,100 as part of a lunch set) comes with kimchi, beef, hard-boiled egg, cucumbers and watermelon, with a broth made from both beef and chicken. If you’ve never had this dish before, this is a fantastic place to try it, especially in the heat of summer. The menu includes other popular Korean dishes, like the spicy tofu soup known as chige (¥800) and the popular hot-stone rice bowl bibimbap (¥1,000); Iwate beef is the base for hearty meat dishes like gyumeishi and bulgogi. In the evening, Ginza Una offers reasonably priced set menus with an all-you-can-drink option.
Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-2-15, Ginza Glasse 11F 中央区銀座3-2-15 Ginza Glasse 11F
Open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun & hols 11am-10pm