Friday, November 6, 2015

Tokyo Eats - Ginza area (Picture heavy!)

Another place I hang out a lot is Ginza, not to shop but to eat ^.^ In fact, I would never go shopping in Ginza, because all of Asia and their sisters and brothers are there, thanks to several major department stores and the couture houses with their own buildings. On Saturdays and Sundays, the main street is closed from traffic and becomes a pedestrian street, which means it gets even more crowded. Took my friend J. here once because she's a fan of Zara, etc., and I think I might have scarred her for life ^.^"!

Wako Store is housed in a building dated to 1894, with the Ginza Mitsukoshi across the street. 

There's some kind of construction going on for a major building at this main intersection, on the corner opposite the Wako Store. That wall is covered up with these historical photos showing changes to the spot over the years.

Pedestrian street on a random weekend. I know it doesn't look very crowded, but I actually stood there for quite a while to wait for foot traffic to wain a bit before taking photos, because I wanted to see the street and not just people ^.^

There's a scramble crossing outside Ginza Station exits C2 and C4, although nowhere as big and crowded as the famous one outside Shibuya's Hachiko exit.  

My friend H. took me to one Ginza Coffee outside exit C6, on the 2-3rd floor in one of the corner buildings at this intersection (can't quite remember the building name). To my luck, they happened to be serving Taiwanese shaved ice (雪花冰) at the time, a seasonal item! It tasted pretty authentic too, being frozen milk and then shaved into smooth, creamy, and sweet shaved ice. I ordered matcha and H. ordered berries.

Continuing on Sotobori Dori outside exits C2 and C4, you will come upon Confectionery West and their Ginza Parlor. I haven't actually been inside the tea room, but I've bought cakes from their ground floor storefront multiple times and still haven't had enough. Here's a selection of mocha cake (center top), what looks like a Mille-feuille only with a cheesecake center (bottom left), and butter cream cake (bottom right).

Keep going west and I hit Yurakucho Station, with a random used-book fair one weekend afternoon.

Anyways, back to Ginza Station with a Suzuran Dori right outside exit A1. This street is probably my favorite place in Ginza. Why? Because there are 2 small heavens on that street: Ginza Kanoko, and Mariage Freres Tea Salon Ginza (word of caution: MF's official website is as shitty as they come...).

Right at the mouth of Suzuran Dori, on the left hand side, is Ginza Kanoko, a Japanese tea room serving lunch and traditional Japanese sweets, i.e. lots of sweet beans, jelly cubes, dango, and chestnuts. I don't like the sweet beans so much because they're too damn sweet, but I love just about everything else they serve there, much so I'm scared to death I might get diabetes if I keep going often enough. The store front on the ground floor sells take-outs and the actual tea room is on the second floor, so dine-in guests are encouraged to just head on up.

Being a corner shop, naturally guests would be dining at Kanoko and looking out at Harumi Dori, where the many couture shops are.

Here's the Japanese menu, but they'll give you an English menu too if you looked clueless enough :P I actually took photos of the English menu, which I'll post next time since this is already too long.

Both the food and service here are top notch, and you sure pay for it. There's a special lunch set that's very reasonable at 1,200yen, and it comes with a choice of red beans rice or the current seasonal chestnut rice, a portion of nimono, and dessert. The problem is there's no variety and you get the same thing every time. To change things up, you can get a savory and sweet set for 1,800-2,000yen. I've read their shaved ice is top-notch but is gigantic, and it's also pretty pricey at 1,200yen ($10 shaved ice, anyone?)! So I haven't ordered the shaved ice yet because I was tempted to try something else every time.

Here I ordered a tamago zouni, basically zouni with an egg in it, in a set with kuzumochi, kuromitsu, and kinako powder. Damn tasty!

Took my friend J. back a different time for a late afternoon snack. We ended up pigging out, with me ordering the mitsumame (anmitsu without the anko) and J. ordered a shiruko with toasted mochi and chestnut. And then we also ordered a serving of green tea ice cream to share. I added green tea ice cream to my mitsumame but made the mistake of pouring in some of the kuromitsu also, which made it killer sweet and pretty much ruined the dish for me :( Lesson learned. Will not do that again, ever.

Mariage Freres is another spot I stalk. If I haven't made it explicit yet on this blog, it's that I'm also a tea-nut (not tea-snob or tea-purist--there's a difference!). I constantly seek out new brands, new teas, new flavors. I definitely have my favorites, but I'll give everything a try at least once.

The Tea Salon is on the 2-3rd floors of the building, although too bad they don't offer any afternoon tea services. You have to order a la carte, and it gets pretty pricey too.

Across the street from the Ginza Printemps, there are more shopping buildings, with basements connected to the underground mall of the Ginza Station. There's a great Thai food place in there where everyone goes to lunch. I forgot to snap a photo of the menu though. 

Below I kept following Harumi Dori to the southeast. For an earthquake-prone country, I sure found some pretty interesting architecture, like this twisty high-rise with one corner on stilt (left). If I were to see a building like this in the US, and I have seen many with all four bases on stilts, I would never want to be anywhere near it in the event of an earthquake. But Japan has a much stricter construction code than the US, so for this building to satisfy such construction codes and still have a corner on stilt, respect. This Millenium Mitsui Garden Hotel (right) has a neat surface texture--note that basket-weave pattern is not flat!

I love stores like this one, selling chopsticks, lacquered wood bowls, bento boxes, etc. Some handsomely made bowls cost up in the hundreds. Can't afford them, nope, but still love them ^.^ Also, I keep seeing these interesting trees with barks that look like synthetic military camouflage (although it's really the other way around, the military camouflage was made to blend in with the trees, but we won't go there...). Any idea what tree this is?

Staying on the same road I came upon Higashi Ginza Station and the picturesque Kabuki-za, with its own little shrine.  

Walk a bit further past the Kabuki-za, there's a mini park built on a highway overpass. Too bad it turned into a smokers' haven and I gagged just walking past it :(

Further east, I first realized I was in Tsukiji district when I started noticing sushi restaurants at every turn ^.^ Hubby and I haven't been to the Tsukiji fish market. We're deliberately staying away because the sight of the butchering and auctioning would probably turn me vegetarian (I think I might be closeted...).

One time, I somehow stumbled upon this Tsukiji Honganji (also spelled Hongwanji) and wandered in to take some photos. They were doing some repairs at the time, as you can tell from the scaffold at top.

Then going south towards Shinbashi, there's a Bifun Azuma on the 2nd floor of the Shinbashi Ekimae Building. Hubby and I saw this place on TV one night, on a show where the host goes around and discover little gems hidden away in unexpected places. So we went in for a quick lunch as it looked good on TV.

The place is a tiny hole-in-the-wall mom-n-pop joint that serves up rice vermicelli noodles with various stir-fry toppings. Their menu has few choices, which makes things rather straight forward. Hubby ordered their house special, which was pork stir fried with veggies (left), and I ordered the crab-meat omelet (right). It was a simple dish but was good, nothing toe-curling delicious but pretty flavorful still.


Anonymous said...

I love how there's so much food in your posts! Really enjoyed the read and looking forward to reading more posts from you soon!

D. said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for reading and commenting ^.^

The biggest draw for me to any destination is food first, sights second LOL! And I know I'm not alone. Glad you enjoyed this post.


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