Monday, February 22, 2016

Tokyo Eats - Ginza area Part II (Picture heavy!)

More food in Ginza! In general, this is a very touristy area but there are some great places tucked away here and there (as with everywhere else in Tokyo, but I digress...).  

These particular statues creep the hell out of me, so of course I have to take a photo of them ^.^"

Some buildings had great lights and decors going on over the holidays!

Over the past few months, Ginza Kanoko has become my favorite place for traditional Japanese desserts. I come here for lunch too, because they also serve kishimen, soumen (hubby's favorite), and even zouni! And I'm not the only one who loves the place either, hubby does, and our friend J. I've taken many other friends here, including my family when they visited in December.

From 11:30AM-2:00PM Kanoko has this fantastic special lunch set for 1,200JPY that comes with rice, savories, a cup of dashi broth, and a small portion of anmitsu. I took my friend D. here last November, and at the time this lunch set came with 2 choices of rice: chestnut or red beans. D. and I tried both, and boy oh boy were they delicious! The only problem is that other than the rice option which changes seasonally, the savories and the anmitsu are the same, so it can get kind of boring.

Once when we were in Ginza, D. had some major craving for caffeine. But being on the tea side of things I don't know a good coffee shop (recommendations, anyone?), so we ended up at Hoshino Coffee. It was okay, D. wasn't impressed with the coffee, but she definitely loved the itty bitty little metal mugs they used to serve creamer and syrup. She snuck in a photo of me while I was taking a photo of my mugs ^.^

One time, D. had yet another craving for yakitori, so I consulted Tabelog and found a non-smoking joint Torihan. I totally didn't expect it to be a tiny shop deep in the back of an alley, very much an intimate setting with 10 seats. An old couple run the place, the old man grills and the old lady serves, truly a mom-n-pop shop.

Being Japanese-illiterate, I totally missed that the menu's a set course only and there were things in the course we definitely don't eat, like chicken gizzards, chicken sashimi (eek!!), etc. Luckily for us, the old man realized he got on his hands a pair of pain-in-the-ass foreigners and proceeded to swap out the 4 things we don't eat for veggies. I told him we wouldn't mind skipping them because, holy hell, a 17-items course is a whole lot to eat! But of course he wouldn't have that, and by the end we were so stuffed we could barely walk.

There were some usuals like quail eggs, chicken and negi, etc. I didn't capture the whole 17-items course because, well, I was busy eating and just plain forgot ^.^"

My favorite thing in the whole course, tebasaki! The old man saw how much I loved this and gave us 2 skewers of it. Perfectly grilled to a thin crisp, gawd it was so good! The skewer at bottom right were these beans with very interesting texture. It was chewy like mochi!

The shiitake was a veggie substitute. The other skewer is chicken of course, but there's a great story to go with it. When this skewer was served, D. took the first bite and immediately looked to me with panic tearing in her eyes, "OMG D., this chicken is raw!!!" She showed me her skewer and sure enough, the meat inside was pink and semi-translucent. I thought to myself, "Fack. Sheat. How did we miss this?"
The worst part was that there was no way we could send it back without offending the old man. And we wouldn't have sent it back, because the poor guy had already contorted himself catering to our unadventurous taste-buds. So I downed D.'s glass of beer (yuck, I hate beer!) and took a bite myself. It was my own damn fault for being Japanese-illiterate or I'd have caught this, so the only choice left was to eat the damn thing.
Chew, chew, chew. Hmm, it didn't taste raw, more like chicken and miso. So I took another bite and saw that the semi-translucent pink meat was actually stringing to my bite. Turned out this chicken was cured with miso, so not cooked but not raw either. I convinced D. to give it another try, which she did and was able to eat it fine. Phew!

D. was reluctant to eat this half cooked egg too. She didn't know how, she said. I told her to scoop the whole egg with the spoon, make sure to get some dashi too, and put the whole thing into her mouth. Of course I demonstrated with mine first because, yes, that's how I'd really eat it. She gave me this disgusted look but did it anyway, with the whole oh-god-oh-god-eww-eww-eww going in. Then she teared up again but wouldn't spit it out when I told her to. I said sorry afterwards, but she shook her head, "No, it was so delicious it made me cried." ^.^ And yes, my egg was delicious! The chicken broth was the very last item in the course, and it had this creamy quality to it. Yum!

Did you know Shiseido has an 11-storied building called the Shiseido Parlour in Ginza that houses several restaurants, complete with a snack shop on the ground floor? Yes, Shiseido restaurants, folks! Who would'a thunk it? The building's a red brick color, so it's hard to miss. It's also right across the street from the Shiseido Gallery, with many Shiseido skincare and makeup lines on display and for sale.

I've only been to the Salon de Cafe on the 3rd floor, and I absolutely love it! They serve some really yummy cakes and parfaits here, although I do admit the tea selection needs some improvement. At least there's a new featured cake and parfait every month (I think).

These were the featured parfaits as of November 2015, a La France pear with maple syrup and a strawberry one. As can you can see, both were damn pricey, but it's worth at least a try in my humble opinion.

I took D. and J. here and the first thing we ordered was this dessert sampling set for 2,500JPY. I think this was meant to be shared but I saw some ladies there had it all to themselves anyway, and why the hell not?

Later, we went with the strawberry parfait so I made a mental note to come back and try the La France pear one also.

...which I totally did a couple of weeks later, and my oh my, the La France pear parfait was definitely better than the strawberry one! The pears were perfectly ripened and they melted in my mouth. Sooooo good!

There's also a Bunmeido Cafe that I've have been a few times, once or twice with J. and other times alone.

To be honest, the menu here is just okay. There's nothing special from the drinks to the entrees.

That said, they do make one very tasty item here: the garlic bread, which unfortunately isn't served until 5PM onward. Whereas most of the time I crave it for lunch. Gah!

Even the desserts were meh, although I blame Kanoko for spoiling me when it comes to traditional Japanese sweets.

This building is Kitchoan, a traditional Japanese sweets shop that also houses a traditional Japanese restaurant called Ginza Syotoh (銀座 松濤) on the higher floors (4-6th, I think). On the 3rd floor is Syotoh's tea room Sui (粋), which serves a lunch set that changes seasonally along with traditional Japanese desserts, just like Kanoko above. So I was determined to give it a try.

And yes, the fact that the waitresses serve you in kimono makes it super special.

But I'll have to be honest that Syotoh Sui's traditional Japanese dessert didn't measure up to Kanoko's. Ha! Theirs were sweeter, way too sweet in fact, so I didn't like it as much as I do Kanoko.

More goodies from Ginza West. And no, I still haven't actually gone into their tea room. One of these days, one of these days.

Last discovery is Ginza Bairin, credited with making the katsu-don famous. I looked this place up when there was distant relatives in town (hubby's sister's husband's brother's wife's parents, I kid you not LOL!) who were fans of katsu-anything. We took them here, only to be told they've already been to the branch in Waikiki, Hawaii. They were well-traveled parents, what can I say? Oh well.

The food was good, but the portions were unexpectedly gigantic. WTF? I struggled to finish barely half of my rice!

See my previous Tokyo Eats - Ginza area post.


kuri said...

I knew I shouldn't look at this before a meal! So hungry! Those chewy beans on skewers are gingko nuts - love them! I wanna check out that Torihan!

D. said...

Ah yes! Ginko nuts!!! I've heard of ginko nuts and I've had these chewy beans a few times but never connected the dots that they are one and the same LOL Thanks kuri!


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