Ginza has lots of good places to eat and drink. Below are reviews of a select few of them. These and many more are on my map.
Little Okinawa (Intermediate B+), 8 Chome-7-10 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061, tabelog.com , open noon-1.30pm, 5pm-3am Monday-Friday, noon-1.30pm, 4pm-midnight Saturday and Sunday
This cosy little restaurant was my first experience of Okinawan food and it was really interesting. The sub-tropical archipelago has always held a fascination for me and I’m determined to go and visit one day. Okinawans have a very distinct culture with their own language and cuisine which I’d love to learn more about. Coming here was a chance to do that.
Things started well with some delicious Umibudo (A), a kind of Okinawan seaweed whose name is translated as ‘sea grapes’.
Then some Tempura (B/B+) which included sweet potato, shallot, wormwood (!) and erm… luncheon meat! It wasn’t too bad actually (B).
Also Jimami-dofu, a tofu-like custard made from peanuts (B) and Onigiri where the rice had been cooked in mushroom broth and diced kale, pork, carrots and mushrooms mixed in (B). Sorry the pics didn’t come out.
Unfortunately I wasn’t too impressed by the local draught Orion beer (C+). It’s better out of a can.
On the other hand I quite enjoyed the local shochu called Awamori, described on the menu as Okinawan ‘whisky’. I tried four types; Mizuho (B), Danyu (B) and Zuisen (B+), or at least that’s how I think they’re spelled.
However the best of all was the Snake flavour! (A)
I really enjoyed eating here and would love to go back. The manager was lovely too.
Bulgari Bar (Advanced A), 〒104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Ginza, 2 Chome−7−１２ ブルガリ銀座タワー 10F www.bulgarihotels.com
I expected lunch at Bulgari to be quite formal and staid but actually they were really hospitable and friendly. I had a great experience thanks mainly to the two homesick Italians I met, but more of that later.
I’d come for the famed Bulgari lunch box; miniature snacks immaculately presented in three bento-like boxes stacked on top of each other, a concept that made a big impression on me.
The first ‘Savory’ box displayed a Porchetta and Lettuce Sandwich (B+), an Arancini with White Truffle (A), Polenta Chips with Mantecato (B) and a Japanese Wagyu Beef Mini-Burger (A).
The second level, ‘Pastry’, revealed a Cotechino Potato Quiche (B), an Olive Oil Brioche (A), a Chocolate Tart (B+) and a piece of Salty Cacao (B+).
For the Brioche a waiter wheeled up a trolley with three different fillings to choose from. There were a couple of nice-sounding jams but naturally I went for the chocolate sauce.
The final ‘Sweets’ box (although most of the previous box were also sweets) contained a Coffee and Pistachio Roll Cake, a Citrus Baba and a Pear Jelly (B).
The star however was an Almond Mousse with Caramel Sauce (A+). I really loved this, must learn how to make it.
To finish a cocktail was in order and, as it was an Italian bar, I went with my all-time favourite, a Negroni.
The bar tender, Alessandro, put five bottles on the bar, rather than the usual three, so I trotted over to see what he was up to.
Besides the usual 30mls of Campari, London Gin and Red Vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula at my request) his trick is to add 10mls of Amaro Averna (a bitter from Sicily) and 10mls of Barolo Chinato, an aromatised wine similar to vermouth that I’d not come across before. The result was excellent (A+) and again something I’ll have to try at home.
After I’d finished eating I went to sit at the bar to continue chatting with Alessandro about his and my favourite cocktails and their ingredients. He followed up the Negroni (invented in Florence, his home town) with a Zombie; a tiki cocktail I’d previously avoided due to my dislike of fruit juices. However it tasted very nice (B+) and was lovely to look at.
We were soon joined by his boss Pietro from Puglia and the conversation developed into a more general discussion about Italian food, covering Burrata Mozzarella which costs a fortune in Japan but is cheap as chips in Puglia, and Florentine beef versus Wagyu which they slated for being too fatty despite it just having been served to me! I think I’d made them thoroughly homesick by the end of it.
I just happened to mention that I’d come to Japan as a birthday present to myself and the next thing I knew there was a tray of treats and a candle next to me, along with three tastings of various drinks we had discussed.
I didn’t tell them that my birthday had actually been two months earlier as I think a 50th anniversary is definitely one that’s worth milking.
I would happily have spent the rest of the day with these guys but had to pull myself away. However it was a real pleasure to experience this unexpected Italian hospitality in the heart of Ginza.
Here’s another place for a cocktail…
Bar Lupin (Intermediate B+, 〒104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Ginza, 5 Chome−5, 中央区銀座五丁目５番11号 www.lupin.co.jp
This basement bar is another classic drinking establishment. Lupin is the second oldest bar in Ginza, opened in 1928, (Bordeaux was the first in 1927) and has been patronised by many famous writers, photographers, artists and actors over the years.
It’s a little hard to find, down a back alley, see my Google map. It’s open 5pm till 11.30pm Tuesday to Saturday notwithstanding the opening hours displayed outside.
I went one evening for a couple of drinks and was welcomed by several friendly staff, most of whom seemed to be approaching the age of the bar itself. I had a well-made Martini in a nice glass.
The following Negroni and Mojito were fairly standard (B). Drinks were about Y1,400 each as I recall, and there was a cover charge of about Y800 which makes it quite expensive. It was a pleasant experience though.
Ginza Kagari (Elementary A), 1F Ginza A Building, 4-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, 〒104-0061 Tokyo, 中央区銀座４丁目１−２, NOW CLOSED!
What would one of my posts be without a noodle shop! Sadly this Michelin bib gourmand rated establishment closed in 2017 which is really hard to understand as there was always a very long queue outside.
The signature dish was Tori Paitan Soba; thick, a creamy white soup made from chicken broth, which was a first for me. In the mouth it was very creamy and flavourful and the presentation was immaculate (A).
The basement food floor of the Mitsukoshi department store is an experience in itself. This bakery is particularly famous for Anpan, a Japanese bun filled with red bean paste which is sweet but not too sweet (B+).
The history is quite interesting. The bun was invented during the Meiji period by an unemployed Samurai called Kimura who opened the bakery, hence the name.
Tsukiji fish market next!