In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, Gwen Robinson mentions a newly opened restaurant in Ginza that serves traditional Japanese lunches for only $10. She doesn’t mention the name of the restaurant in the article, but does talk about the chef, Keiji Mori, so with some research, in both English and Japanese, I found Ginza Maru. It is just off the main street of Ginza. It is a few shops down from the popular Kyushu Jangara ramen and close to a revolving sushi shop. The shop is easy to miss as it is on the second floor. Be on the lookout for the name of the shop in Japanese 圓 on a sign on the building.
The shop is a respite from the busy streets of Ginza. My girlfriend and I arrived early and were waiting outside of the shop and they kindly invited us in a bit before their opening time. There is a long counter overlooking the open kitchen and several tables. A good spot to dine solo or with a friend at the counter or come in with a group and dine at a table. We were directed to sit at a table but I asked if it would be possible to sit at the counter and were seated there.
The starters for all of the lunch sets was a creamy sesame tofu made with kuzu and a tart sunomono salad made from lotus root, young leeks, and deep-fried tofu in a karashi su miso, a classic dressing of Japanese mustard, vinegar, and sweet miso.
Sitting at the counter allows diners to watch the chefs in action. Today the chefs were pushing cooked yurine (lily bulb) through a fine sieve and grating mountain potatoes. There is a charcoal grill with a strong exhaust vent over it where fish was skewered and grilled. Being at the counter it is also easy to interact with the chefs about ingredient provenance and cooking techniques.
The tori-suki-nabe is a chicken dish that resembles sukiyaki which is traditionally made with thin-sliced beef. It is a generous portioned dish and included the gizzard of the chicken as well as a soft-cooked egg. It was a very dramatic presentation as the nabe is a large and flat ceramic pot and was covered when it was presented.
The buta-kaku-ni is a pork belly that is cooked until tender and served with simmered daikon and greens in a sweet, soy kuzu sauce. The other option today at lunch was a salt-grilled Pacific mackerel.The chefs were very easy to talk to. I believe the chef on the right spoke some English as I overheard him trying to explain the menu to a foreign couple. As we finished the meal I asked the two chefs if they had seen the article in the New York Times. They had not seen it yet. I gave them the newspaper and did a quick translation of the mention of the shop in the piece. He laughed and pointed around the room and said it explained why there were so many new, foreign customers to the restaurant that day. We were there the day after the Op-Ed piece came out. When we left there were three pairs of non-Japanese dining at the restaurant. He also said that he would have to start studying more English.
Ginza Maru is a great bargain for lunch. The restaurant does not take reservations at lunch. Dinner starts at a very reasonable 6,000 JPY for a course menu. It is in the heart of Ginza and easy to find by following the map on the restaurant’s website. Definitely will be back for lunch, and look forward to trying dinner.
Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-12-15