A district that became the standard of modern civilization after the 1872 fire that destroyed most of the area, Ginza has been once a popular coin-minting area during Edo period. Today, Ginza still exudes wealth, with the air of luxury enveloping it. It is a picture of extravagance even with its the populace, wherein men are power dressed and posh women dressed to the nines strut (and shop) in the streets lined with boutique after boutique of both of local and international luxury brands.
And when you feel that too much shopping or exploring the artisanal and craft shops has drained your energy, don’t worry since Ginza offers specialty cafes and restaurants (some even with Michelin stars) that flock the area. These food stops offer an array of mouthwatering goodness ranging from the simple yet delish treats to the luxuriously tasty.
Here in Ginza food guide, let’s take a peek into the doors and fill our senses with some good food that Ginza has to offer.
Ginza is a home to some iconic luxury brands and various department stores that hosts its own depachika hich was coined from “depato” or department store, and “chika” for basement, hence an apt name for food gems found in the basement of department stores. These food stalls offer limitless choices of food options that showcases Japan’s local food culture and its seasonal ingredients infused in the latest food trends.
Mitsukoshi Ginza’s Hidden Gem
The second-floor basement of Mitsukoshi, also known as Japan’s Harrod’s, is a must-go for food enthusiasts. The section is a bento wonderland and offers carefully prepared sushi in elaborate packaging, various side dishes, alcoholic drinks, dozens of confections for the sweet tooth. After your done shopping for food, you can chow on them at the Japanese garden.
Dominique Ansel’s Bakery. Dominique Ansel’s Bakery graced Mitsukoshi Ginza with its presence and Japanese-inspired array of baked treats. Its menu offers both classic Dominique Ansel treats and Ginza-only offered baked goods such as the Square Watermelon Raspberry Pistachio Mousse—a layer after layer of goodness. This cake took its shape from the square watermelon, which is developed in Japan, and the inside is a splendid layer of watermelon and lime gelee, pistachio mousse and raspberry mousse that will sure to tickle your taste buds. The store also offers baked goodies inspired by traditional Japanese treats such as Mentaiko Focaccia, a Japanese rice ball-shaped focaccia bread stuffed with spicy mentaiko (cod roe). Meanwhile, Mr. Kabuki Lemon Bread, which is a melon bread filled with sweet red bean paste and custard cream that has been artistically painted, is a fitting tribute to Japan’s Kabuki art. Other Japan-inspired bread includes the bakery’s take on Taiyaki, which comes in Nutella, peanut cream and yuzu marmalade. Truly an extravagant twist to traditional Japanese treats.
Hakone Akatsuki-an Soba Shop. Watching the soba master roll and pull soba live from the window display would definitely captivate your imagination. Here, freshly milled buckwheat is turned into soba-licious set meals which usually includes a serving of cold vegetables, tofu, grilled miso paste, and assorted tempura. Perfect for those who’d like to have a kick of carbs after a tiring shopping spree.
Counting (Michelin) Stars
Aside from luxury brand shops, Ginza is also adorned with restaurants that have earned the most coveted Michelin stars.
Michelin-star restaurant maybe synonymous to breaking your bank but not with Ginza Kojyu. This three Michelin star kaiseki restaurant headed by Chef Toro Okuda is famous for serving Japanese haute cuisine using seasonal ingredients, open kitchen style. Some of its food offerings include prawn dumpling floating in dashi stock broth, eel with kabayaki or shirayaki style, or grilled ayu sweetfish, sawara and ozaki beef, and rice with steamed parrot fish among others.
Star-spangled sushi made from the finest and freshest ingredients is what the three-starred Sushi Yoshitake prides itself. Dinners can feast their eyes in a creative sushi show performed by a master sushi chef Yoshitake, which is served in a bar-like dining area, that encourages conversations among patrons. His masterpieces combine artistry with the traditional Edomae style. Some of the bestsellers include abalone served with abalone liver and uni sauce dip, oysters, oyster-oil marinated mackerel, and soft cod roes in sweet rice wine.
Sukibashi Jiro, which boasts not only its three-Michelin stars but the handcrafted beauty of sushi, carefully created by the 89-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, who had his share of limelight through the documentary Jiro Dream of Sushi. Aside from watching him create sushi from scratch, master chef Jiro will also teach you the etiquette of eating sushi. Truly a filling and a worthwhile food culture experience.
A tea-room with two-Michelin stars, Ginza Ichigo offers Japanese stew with fishcakes in dashi broth or oden, which is especially popular during winter. Also, a must-try in the restaurant is goma tofu or sesame tofu grilled to perfection and tamago eggs.
Tempura with stars? Kondo’s tempura boasts of tempura with a wide assortment of vegetables and seafood cooked by skillful tempura fry master. While conventional shrimp tempura is headless, this two-star tempura haven uses shrimp heads and fry them as an appetizer. And unlike the usual tempura, the crust enveloping each piece served in Kondo is paper-thin and leaves a crunch popping in your mouth in each bite.
Water holes and cafes
Lupin Café, which was established in 1928, is a renowned coffee joint flocked by famous Japanese writers, painters, actors, and photographers. Since the place is a known home of artists, its walls are adorned with photographs and is a perfect spot to have intellectual and literary discussions. In the later years, the café has also started serving liquor and cocktails.
Class in a glass? The Bar Orchard bartenders has mastered the art of combining seasonal fresh fruits and the science of using liquid nitrogen to create frozen cocktail concoctions. This bar not only adds a little kick of alcohol in your system, it also provides a wow show for its customers.
Okinawa in Ginza is possible at Washita, which sells all things Okinawan like awamori (distilled alcohol liquor) made from distilled long grain indica rice. Another must visit for sake and sochu lovers is Kimijimaya that offers a wide array of premium sake and sochu. This bar offers tasting sessions or you can be more experimental by indulging in the pre-selected three-part tasting flight.
For those who prefer branded dining and café experience, one can try the desserts and drinks of Gucci Café, the open-air tea experience at Bulgari La Terrazza Lounge which is famous for Bulgari Afternoon Tea Box, composed of a three-layered box of sweet and savory treats and served with your choice of coffee and tea. The Aquarium at Alfred Dunhill, Armani Restorante, Puiforcat Café.
Of course, Japanese brand Shiseido joins the branded-café experience. Its signature dish, the meat croquette that is quickly fried then cooked to a crisp outside finish in the oven. It also serves traditional Japanese dishes such as curry rice, omurice, and classic desserts such as strawberry and chocolate-flavored parfaits and pudding.
Ginza truly exudes sophistication and wealth that may intimidate first-timers. However, this posh district offers you that the classic Japanese can be elevated to a whole new level and could be at par with the West with its array of world-class food choices. Till our next foodventure!
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.