Ginza Akomeya

Akomeya Ginza

Ginza Akomeya

For one-stop shopping for food, tableware, kitchenware, and lunch, I highly recommend Ginza Akomeya. The restaurant offers a colorful lunch rich with small dishes. While not vegetarian, it is vegetable-friendly and nourishing.

The retail part of the store is curated offering great products for the pantry. Essentials like mirin, sesame oil, and soy sauce as well as fun condiments like yuzu kosho or ponzu. The tableware and kitchenware selection is also lovely. Pick up a donabe (earthenware pot) for cooking rice on the stovetop.

There is a kome (rice) counter where you can have your rice freshly polished. The selection is impressive, bringing in varietals from all over Japan. Some of our favorites are sold here like Hokkaido Yumepirika, Yamagata Tsuyahime, Toyama Milky Queen and Niigata Uonuma Koshihikari.

Lunch is very popular, so come early or late. The rice is cooked in a donabe. Dinner is also a big affair, and there is a nice selection of saké. In the afternoon the shop offers traditional Japanese sweets. The menu with photos is here:

http://www.akomeya.jp/akomeyakitchen/menu/

Akomeya Tokyo

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-2-6 中央区銀座2-2-6

http://www.akomeya.jp/shop/ginza.php

Ginza Bareburger

One of the best burgers I have had in a while is at Bareburger in the new Tokyu Plaza in Ginza. The organic burger is made from Aussie beef. It’s a meaty and hearty burger. I had the Standard (1,380 JPY) and Shinji had the Buck Wild with a fried egg and fried onions (1,640 JPY). We shared a large serving of onion rings and fries (1,050 JPY), sold as side dishes. The prices seemed fair for organic ingredients and for the great location and ambience. Staff are friendly and genki. I drink a lot of water with my meals and the staff were great to keep my water cup filled. This often goes ignored at other restaurants. Arigato.

The first Bareburger shop is in Jiyugaoka, but that is a neighborhood I just never get to. The Ginza location, just near the Sukiyabashi crossing, close to Ginza and Yurakucho stations, is very convenient. This is on the 10th floor and has lovely window-side seats that overlook Ginza. The shop is also kid-friendly. Bareburger is an import from NYC to Tokyo.

Bareburger Ginza at Tokyu Plaza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-2-1, Tokyu Plaza 10F   中央区銀座5-2-1, Tokyu Plaza 10F

http://bareburger.co.jp/ginza/index.html

Access to Ginza Tokyu Plaza

http://ginza.tokyu-plaza.com/access/

Tokyu Plaza Mall officially opens at 11 a.m., but there are a few coffee shops and bakeries, including The City Bakery in the B2 level that opens at 7:30 a.m.

Gotta Get – Furikake Pen

We have just returned from a trip to Western Japan and one of my favorite things I brought back as an omiyage for myself is this furikake pen that happens to say yukari on it. Yukari is a furikake made from red shiso leaves that are dried and minced with salt. I love it as a topping over rice, but it also makes for quick pickles when massaged into cucumbers or cabbage. It is also can brighten up a salad dressing or be used as a seasoning for popcorn.

The pen was designed by the president of Mishima, a company that is known for yukari furikake. Mishima is based in Hiroshima. Here is a link to the US site for the furikake:

http://www.mishima.com/cgi-bin/mishima/38021.html

The yukari furikake also comes with bits of dried ume (salted apricots), also oishii.

http://www.mishima.com/cgi-bin/mishima/38020.html

On a recent visit to the Hiroshima antenna shop in Ginza, I see that it is also being sold in Tokyo. The pen cap comes off and can be refilled.

Now, I have my own personalized furikake pen.:-)

 

Tau Setouchi Hiroshima Antenna Shop

Ginza 1-6-10 銀座1-6-10

http://www.tau-hiroshima.jp.e.fk.hp.transer.com/

If you do make it to the Hiroshima antenna shop, ask for some brandy-infused momiji Mi. You’ll thank me later.

 

Kyobashi Domenica Soup Curry

IMG_0155

Hokkaido’s soup curry is a great change-up on the regular Japanese curry. I remember the first time a girlfriend served this to me. I thought she had messed up the recipe as the curry was so watery, but she explained to me that this is what soup curry is. Once I got over the mind shift that I should not compare this to the thick Japanese curry we are most familiar with, I could enjoy it for what it is.

Domenica, a soup curry shop in Sapporo, has a branch in Kyobashi, just between Ginza and Tokyo Station. The Special Vegetable Curry (Tokusen Yasai Curry 特選野菜カレー) comes with a dozen vegetables and half of a boiled egg. The vegetables are about 300 grams, and in Japan it is said that 350 grams is what your body needs daily, so pretty good for one bowl. The vegetables here are deep-fried and then put into the soup curry. It was a colorful selection including kabocha squash, carrot, young corn, and much more. Chicken can be added to the soup curry.

There are four soups to choose from:

original – kombu, Japanese-style dashi, chicken and pork

tonkotsu – thick pork

tomato – tomato

tonyu soup – soymilk

The original was a nice combination of meat and seafood. When picking your spiciness you tell them a number from 1 to 10. I think I did four and it had a nice heat, but not unbearable.

I asked if the soups were vegetarian and was told that it wasn’t. Sadly, this wouldn’t be good for strict vegetarians, but a good place for those craving vegetables.

Domenica

Chuo-ku, Kyobashi 3-4-1, TM Ginza Bldg. 2F

中央区京橋3-4-1TM銀座ビル2F

www.s-curry-dominica.com/

There is also a branch near Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-2-21, Nihonbashi 2-Chome Bldg. B1

中央区日本橋2-2-21日本橋2丁目ビルB1F

Gotta Get – Kokuto Black Sugar 沖縄黒糖

Kokuto

Kokuto

Do you know about kokutō? Black sugar that is harvested on the islands south of Kagoshima in Okinawa. It is a dark sugar that is rich in minerals and is 100% natural sugar cane. We often keep a jar of kokutō on the counter. It makes a nice little snack. Kokutō can be cooked with water to make a syrup for desserts. This with some kinako, roasted soybean powder, over vanilla ice cream, is a combination of flavors that most people love.

A friend of ours is an editor of a famous food magazine in Tokyo. He is a fountain of information and I never share a meal with him without my notebook and pen. At a recent dinner party we were talking about kokutō and he said that each island produces a different flavor of black sugar. Of course, that totally makes sense, but how different could the flavors be?

Shinji picked up five different kokutō at the Washita Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza. Each from a different island. First of all, they all look very different from each other. Who knew? And, drumroll…….they do all taste very different from each other.

Kokuto Packaging

Kokuto Packaging

These small packages are 50 grams each and cost about 200 JPY ($2 USD). Our tasting notes counter-clockwise starting at pink:

  1. Ie-shima 伊江島 (pink) *** Our favorite. Light in color, not too sweet and surprisingly salty. Rich in flavor and very natural. Will go back for this.
  2. Yonaguni-jima 与那国島 (yellow) ** Medium in color. Light in flavor, not as rich as Ieshima. A hint of saltiness. Hard texture and cut into squares.
  3. Iheya-jima 伊平屋島 (blue) * Light in color. For both of us it was too sweet, much like sugar.
  4. Tarama-jima 多良間島 (dark orange) * Dark color and very hard texture. Sweet and rich flavor.
  5. Hateruma-jima 波照間島 (light orange) ** Very dark in color. Blocks are very chewy. Rich mineral flavor.

Overall the Ie-shima was our favorite. We loved that it wasn’t too sweet and the saltiness was a surprise at first, but we came to love it. Most people love kokutō when they try it.

Note on the names. Shima means island in Japanese. Sometimes the pronunciation of shima can change to jima depending on what name comes before it.

Ginza Rose Bakery

Salad Lunch

Salad Lunch

I am a big fan of Rose Bakery. An English bakery that first opened in Paris and is now dotting Tokyo. This casual cafe has a large delicatessen-style refrigerator in each shop that showcases the colorful salads and baked goods. While the cakes and sweets are tempting, I am always come here for the salads.

This Plate of Vegetables is about 1,550 JPY at the Ginza shop and was 100% vegetarian. Six vegetable dishes served with a side of rustic sourdough bread. The Kichijoji branch, which I go to more often, sometimes includes some chicken or anchovies in the Salad Lunch, so be sure to let them know if you prefer all vegetables as I believe they could accommodate your request.

The Kichijoji branch is filled with suburban shoppers and stay-at-home moms, sometimes with their kids in tow. The Ginza shop which is in the fashionable Dover Street Market, was just the opposite. Hip and stylishly dressed diners and shoppers with their shopping bags from high-end designers. I definitely feel more at ease at the Kichijoji shop, which also opens at 8 a.m., while the Ginza branch opens at 11 a.m.

Many times our clients tell us that they are craving vegetables. This is a great spot to get your fill.

Rose Bakery Ginza

Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F

中央区銀座6-9-5ギンザコマツ西館7F

rosebakery.jp

Ginza Kagari Ramen 銀座篝中華そば

Kagari Echika Ramen

Kagari Echika Ramen

My favorite ramen at the moment is Kagari in Ginza. The shop does a tori paitan, creamy chicken ramen. This is perfect for those of you who don’t eat pork.:-) I come here mostly for the thick, rich soup made with lots of chicken fat. The noodles are thin, which I prefer.

Recently Kagari has opened a second shop in the Ginza subway station in an area called Echika. It is close to the Marunouchi entrance to the Ginza station. The hours for this shop is 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, the staff said that best to come by 10 p.m. or you will be turned away.

The Echika branch has only 8 seats at a long, straight blonde counter. This shop only serves the tori paitan, either a bowl of hot noodles with the soup, or as tsuke-men, where the noodles and soup are served in two different bowls. For optional toppings I included Kyoto bamboo shoots, aji tama seasoned egg, and garlic butter. The garlic butter in this shop was (I think) garlic powder mixed into butter.

I also had a lovely bowl of seasonal vegetables as a side dish. Over a dozen types of seasonal vegetables, some raw some steamed, simple presented together in a bowl. It takes away a bit of the guilt of the hearty ramen when balanced with some vegetables. The vegetables could have been used as a garnish to the ramen, but it was a treat to try each vegetable and enjoy them for their own flavors.

I came for an early lunch and was seated right away. In front of the shop is a waiting area. I would prefer to wait here in the hot summer as it is underground and not nearly as hot as waiting at the main shop.

Kagari Honten Main Shop

Kagari Honten Main Shop

The main shop, honten, in Ginza is very popular. There is usually a long line at this shop. The sign outside of the store says “SOBA”, as the restaurant refers to their ramen as chūka soba, or Chinese noodles. One day while standing in line here a couple thought it was a soba shop and only once they were handed a menu did they realize that it was ramen. The poor woman said she was allergic to gluten but was advised that the ramen of course was made with gluten. They had stood in line so long that they came in anyways and all she could eat with rice with different toppings usually put over the ramen.

The main shop also has only eight seats. The seasoned egg here was cut in half before being placed in the bowl, which makes more sense than serving it whole as they did in the Echika branch. Also, here the garlic is fried before it is added to the butter.

The main shop also serves a niboshi shoyu, dried sardines and soy sauce, ramen. But come here for the tori paitan chicken ramen as this is their specialty.

If you go to the main shop and the line is super long, I suggest heading over to the Echika branch. Also, the Echika branch is open without closing between lunch and dinner but the main shop does close for a few hours.

Kagari Honten (Main Shop)

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-4-1, Ginza A Building 1F    中央区銀座4-4-1銀座Aビル1F

Kagari Echika

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-1-2, Echika Fit     中央区銀座4-1-2, Echika Fit

www.tokyometro.jp/echika/echikafit_ginza/shop/08/

Ginza Lunch – Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛

 

Hachidaime lunch

Hachidaime lunch

At home we cook our rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). It is much faster to cook the rice in the donabe than it is in a rice cooker. Better yet, if you can cook it properly, the donabe will give you a nice okoge, charred crust. A Kyoto restaurant that specializes in rice that has a small restaurant in Ginza, which is a lovely spot for lunch. Here is a standard set lunch (about 2,500 JPY) that includes sashimi, tempura, yuba, and teriyaki Spanish mackerel as some of the dishes.

Hachidaime vegetarian

Hachidaime vegetarian

The vegetarian lunch (about 1,500 JPY) is a delight which included nama fu (wheat gluten), tempura, and tofu. Both lunches included roasted nori, salted kombu, pickles, miso soup (which is made with katsuo so not vegetarian). Both also included chirimen sansho (sardines with sansho berries), so also not vegetarian. But, if you are vegetarian you would be satisfied with the rest of the meal.

Hachidaime okoge

Hachidaime okoge

The rice has a lovely texture, and is all-you-can-eat. Here is the lovely okoge crust that is so treasured in Japan.

Hachidaime exterior

Hachidaime exterior

The Ginza restaurant is small. Just a handful of tables and it is a popular shop. We saw many diners turned away.

On our way out the staff called out the traditional Kyoto thank-you, okini.

 

Ginza Kome Ryotei Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-4-15

中央区銀座5-4-15

03-6280-6383

Closed Wednesday

http://www.hachidaime.co.jp/ginza/

You can see the lunch and dinner photos with prices here:

http://www.hachidaime.co.jp/ginza/menu/

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Sukiyabashi Jiro and Masuhiro Yamamoto

Jiro Ono, master chef and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro recently celebrated his 89th birthday. Yesterday it was announced that the Japanese government is awarding him with a special honor for his contributions and hard work as a sushi craftsman. Today there was a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and here are just some of the juicy bits. In attendance was food writer Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and his eldest son, Yoshikazu Ono.

Jiro started working in a kitchen at the age of eight, so he has been in this craft for 81 years. Yamamoto said that Jiro is still far from retiring.

Jiro was awarded a distinction, similar to a Living National Treasure, when he was 80-years old. This new award is not usually given to individuals but to groups, so this new award is very unique.

During the introductions the interpreter said Sukiyaki Jiro (instead of Sukiyabashi Jiro) to which Yamamoto politely corrected her and mentioned that there is in fact a person who is called Sukiyaki Jiro.:-)

Yamamoto-san said that he believes that Sukiyabashi Jiro is the cleanest restaurant in the world. He went on to say that Jiro says 50% cooking and 50% cleaning.

At Sukiyabashi Jiro Yoshikazu will cut the seafood and Jiro will form the sushi in his hands. This is how it is done now.

Regarding standing all day for work, Jiro said that since he started working in a kitchen from the age of 8 he was too busy to do his homework so at school he was constantly being made to stand in the hallway, so he’s used to standing all day.

The movie, Dreams of Sushi, had a big influence for Jiro. That before the movie he was famous in Japan, but since the movie he moved into a cult-like status.

About 70% of the diners at Sukiyabashi Jiro are foreigners, so for some Japanese dining there they say that it doesn’t feel like they are in Japan.

Sukiyabashi Jiro

Masuhiro Yamamoto, Jiro Ono, and Yoshikazu Ono

Jiro believes that part of truly enjoying sushi comes from eating it properly. For this reason, he teamed up with Yamamoto to write a book, Jiro Gastronomy. There is a section in the book that describes how to properly eat sushi.

Jiro is an innovator. For example, Yamamoto said that in the past shrimp was boiled in the morning and then served to the customer later in the day, but that Jiro will wait until the customer has arrived until boiling it. Yamamoto also used the example that 30 years ago sushi courses usually started off with tuna, but that Jiro started serving white fish like flounder or sole before moving onto tuna.

Very interesting fact-checking on President Obama dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro.

The restaurant opened for Obama and Abe only after the regular customers finished their meals, so no customers were told they had to give up their reservations.

The left-handed Obama is very good at using chopsticks.

Obama ate all of the omakase sushi course. Some rumors were saying that Obama had only eaten a few pieces, but this is not true.

Jiro Gastronomy

Masuhiro Yamamoto contributed to Foodie Top 100 and to Jiro Gastronomy

These are two books that were given out to journalists at the press conference. I will include these in a blogpost so stay tuned.

Chicken and Waffles in Ginza – CLOSED

Image

So sad to report that this sweet little spot in Ginza is closed now. I hope they open up in a different part of town like Harajuku or Shibuya. Updated September 30, 2014. (Thanks to a twitter follower for letting me know about this.)

The stark contrast of the high-end fashion stores in Ginza to the hip interior of Soul Snacks is welcoming. The second floor café at Soul Snacks has one of my favorite interiors in this part of town. Comfortable couches, vintage artwork on the walls, and Ebony magazines from the 70’s immediately bring me back to America. Young Michael Jackson in the background also helps. I already want to go back to just chill out in the cool environment. The owner, Ralph Rolle, opened Soul Snacks Cookie Company in NYC in 1996. Rolle, formerly a drummer, hence the great soundtrack.

Soul Snacks was put on my radar by Kamasami Kong and a YouTube video of this new shop on Ginza’s Chocolate Street. The first floor is a cookie shop, but I came for the chicken and waffles (1,200 JPY). Place your order and pay on the first floor and wait for it on the second floor café. The fried chicken is unlike anything we find in Tokyo. It had a nice kick to it, perhaps a celery salt? Whatever it is, it is good. Too bad the chicken are drumettes and not true drumsticks, as they are small and go down quickly. The waffle is nice and comes with an American-sized portions of butter and maple syrup.

It makes sense that the cookie shop is on Ginza’s famed Chocolate Street as many shoppers in this district are looking for sweets. I will be curious to see how many people are ordering the chicken and waffles as it is a dish more suited to the young crowd in Harajuku or Shibuya. I will go back someday for the cookies, but this was such a lovely meal that ended on a sweet note I wasn’t tempted by the variety of cookies. I will, without a doubt, be back to take in the cool space and music in the cafe.

Soul Snacks (opened May 2014)

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-5-9, OZIO Building

03-6264-1527