Favorites, Tokyo, Tokyo Featured, Travel
Comments 15

A Tokyo Food Winter Guide: Sushi Zanmai, Ginza Maru 銀座圓 and more!

Tokyo, ただいま!

People say the best time to visit Japan is in the Spring for hanami, the cherry blossom viewing festival; or in the Fall, to see the country’s beautiful Autumn foliage. But a true foodie knows Winter in Japan means two things:

  1. Ramen tastes even more amazing than usual (cold weather, hot bowl of noodle, go figure).
  2. Tsukiji Fish Market in the Winter time is a FIESTA! (Fish fatten up in the winter time so it’s one of the best time of the year to get sushi and sashimi). Plus, with the traditional marketplace moving sometime in 2016, another reason to go visit now.

While I adore my previous summers in Japan, which were filled with cold soba noodles and sweet kakigori in the sweltering summer heat, I love wintery Japan. It is the perfect season for warm comfort food. I’m looking at you ramen, oden, and fried-everything. Plus, this time around, winter fashion was in full swing and Japanese girls really rock the furry coats and beanie look–some great food fashion for thought!

Below, you’ll find a round-up of the foods I chomped on and places I visited during my recent January 2016 trip. I’ll be introducing some of my favorite eats around Tokyo, as well as particularly delicious cold-weather-eats!  Thank you to all that ate with me and showed me amazing restaurants, ありがとうございます.

This is Part I of my Tokyo Eats Winter Guide–I’ll have Part II coming soon!

 

Omotesando/Harajuku

 

IMG_0424

Omotesando just a couple days after New Years, which coincides with Hatsumode, the first Shinto shrine visit of the year in Japan.

IMG_0423

Omotesando Hills–the large indoor shopping center designed by famous architect Tadao Ando.

IMG_0427

Walk down Omotesando and you’ll see the Tokyu Plaza Omohara building–a giant futuristic building designed by Hiroshi Nakamura.

IMG_0428

Above the Omohara is a little oasis–great place for coffee with a view in the winter time.

IMG_0429

Don’t be fooled, this gorgeous and serene rooftop is a beer garden in the summer time!

Bills — Australian Breakfast Whiz Bill Granger’s Tokyo Spot

Bill Granger whips up phenomenal honey ricotta hotcakes. Pair it with an Australian Breakfast platter, you have yourself a breakfast some celebrities call ‘the best in the world.’ The line for Bills can be ridiculously long, so go early (or late! I’ve had breakfast for dinner before).

IMG_0435

Top of the Tokyu Omohara is the home of Bill Granger’s breakfast powerhouse, Bills.

IMG_6587

For example, Bills’ silky and creamy scrambled eggs are not to be missed.

IMG_6584

And here’s the wildly popular honey ricotta pancakes that get Tokyo pancake lovers waiting in line for HOURS!

My To-Do List in Harajuku/Omotesando:

  1. Take the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku station–do some shopping down the insanely packed Takeshita Dori. This is where the colorful fashion of Harajuku really displays itself!
  2. Walk further up Harajuku for around 5 minutes (0.3 miles), you’ll be right next to Meiji-jingu Shrine. Worth a visit, and if you go in the New Years time, hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the year) is not to be missed. Yoyogi Park is right next door–great for runs and general gatherings. If you’re lucky, you might even spot famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami here!
  3. Now go past Meiji-jingu mae and head up Omotesando–the glitzy equivalent of NYC’s 5th Avenue. Do you appreciate gorgeous brand-name stores? Not only is this Tokyo’s hub for high fashion, brand-name architects have created masterpieces here. Read about New York Times’ great feature on it here.
  4. Tokyu Omohara Plaza, the futuristic building you see at the beginning of Omotesando is worth a visit! Head up to the top where there’s an outdoor patio with great views. Bill Granger has his Tokyo outpost here–his restaurant Bills is known to have insanely long lines! But honestly, the scrambled eggs and honey ricotta pancakes are worth the wait!
  5. When you’re done with shopping, check out the Aoyama area which is further down Omotesando. There are a bunch of cafes and small boutique shops to browse through as well! Check out Tamawarai if you’re hungry, a great one Michelin soba restaurant around this area.

 

Tsukiji Fish Market

 

IMG_0509

Tsukiji Outer Market–even if you don’t venture inside the fish maket for the tuna auction, the outer marketplace has plenty of stalls and vendors. A fantastic way to savor the market without waking up at 3am.

IMG_0539

Onigiri–handmade riceballs wrapped with different fillings. For under 2 dollars, you can grab a quick snack on the go.

IMG_0538

Bright yellow and delicious tamagoyaki–sweet slices of Japanese omelet. I love eating these as I wander around the market!

IMG_0511

I was SO tempted to have a bite of this. This warmly dressed cook wedged small pieces of butter onto the fresh scallops and then proceeded to torch them until all the scallops were sizzling in oil. Seriously, this was unreal!

Sushizanmai — High Quality (no-line!) Sushi in Tsukiji

Sushizanmai is one of my favorite go-to’s in Tsukiji Fish Market. You don’t have to wait for hours to eat sushi (I’m looking at you Sushi Dai ) but it is arguably one of the best sushi-ya around. Its quality of fish and service is consistently fantastic, making it a definite must-go.

IMG_0537

Sushizanmai–while it is a chain, its quality of fish and service is consistently fantastic.

IMG_0514

At 9am, the sushi restaurant is already hustling and bustling with people and shouts of Japanese between the chefs.

IMG_0536

I find it absolutely brilliant that Japanese salaryman come to Tsukiji for some breakfast sushi… and pints of beer. I think that’s a GREAT way to start the day.

IMG_0534

Special omakase set–look at those gorgeous pieces of uni and ikura!

IMG_0531

My favorite part of sushizanmai? Their fresh miso soup (generous serving size as well!); unlimited of course. DRINK UP.

IMG_0530

My friend Daniel ordered the tuna omakase–gorgeous shades of pink and red everywhere. Can you tell which is the ootoro?

IMG_0525

The anago nigiri (salt water eel) on the far right was delicious.

中華そば 井上 Inoue — Shoyu Ramen Stand in Tsukiji Outer Market

Okay, so even after a whole sushi omakase, my friend Daniel and I still had our eyes set on the other prize: 中華そば 井上 Inoue, possibly the best soy-based ramen stand in Tokyo. It’s on the outer perimeter of the market; once you find a line of people waiting to eat ramen standing up you’ve got the right one.

IMG_0541

Inoue–yes, the line was ridiculously long. And yes, we waited in it.

IMG_0550

Whipping up bowls of ramen in sets of 8–the five minutes you get as you stand up there watching the bowls of ramen noodles being served are just amazing.

IMG_0549

Slices of delicious braised pork being distributed…

IMG_0544

How to eat? Standing of course. There are a couple tables next to the ramen shop–if you can’t slurp while others stare you down in hopes of getting your spot afterwards, then you might run into some trouble at Inoue. But trust me, this is well worth the hassle.

IMG_0558

TA-DAA. The final masterpiece. Beautiful.

My To-Do List in Tsukiji Market Place:

  1. GO GET SUSHI. Sushi Dai, Sushi Daiwa, Sushizanmai (where I went this time), etc. Anywhere, and I promise you, always fresh. Get the omakase, which is the chef’s choice, and prepare for a sushi feast.
  2. Share a piping hot bowl of shoyu-ramen at the amazing 中華そば 井上 Inoue. You won’t regret it–the salty and flavorful soup is wonderfully warm and filling. The perfect winter breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  3. Wander around the market and grab some snacks to go. Tamagoyaki, fried oysters, rice balls, pickles, you name it they have it!
  4. Want traditional chopsticks or bowls? Go kitchenware shopping. Tsukiji might not be Kappabashi, the Kitchen Town of Tokyo, but it is still a popular place for some kitchenware shopping, especially if you’re on the hunt for some good deals. Simple chopsticks, bowls, and sushi-making essentials can all be found here if you look hard enough!

 

Ginza

IMG_0458

The iconic Ginza Wako department store at the beginning of Ginza’s main shopping avenue. The clock tower on top was designed by Seiko, renowned Japanese watch and clock maker.

photo 1 (37)

Ginza’s main street turns into a pedestrian-only avenue on weekends–I took this photo last summer when I was in Tokyo.

Kimuraya Bakery — The Original Anpan (sweet red azuki bean stuffed bread) Bakery!

Right by the Ginza station is Kimuraya Bakery, the birthplace of Anpan. This beloved Japanese bread stuffed with sweet red azuki bean paste can be found in all convenient stores and pan-ya (bakeries). But don’t miss the ones at Kimuraya because the heritage of their Anpan is unrivaled!

photo 4 (28)

Walking down Ginza’s main shopping district you might smell something delicious. Kimuraya Bakery is a must-visit if you’re in the area–where else can you find original Anpan?

photo 3 (35)

Sakura Anpan–with salted cherry blossoms in them, this was made in honor Emperor Meiji.

Angelina —  A Little Slice of Paris in Tokyo (Mont-Blanc Since 1903!)

Apart from phenomenal Japanese cuisine, Tokyo boasts just about all my favorite world-class restaurants and patisseries as well. For example, Angelina is a Paris-based tearoom that has a Tokyo location in Ginza. If you are a sweet tooth, you’ll adore Angelina’s trademark Mont-Blanc.

photo 2 (38)

Mont-Blanc — meringue, cream, and chestnut paste, what’s not to love?

photo 1 (36)

A trio of ice cream and sorbet.

Maru 銀座圓 — No-Frills Kaiseki Restaurant in Ginza

Maru is a restaurant find I’m super excited about! Courtesy of my friend Mizuha, I was able to have a multi-course meal here. Simple, affordable, but 100% delicious kaiseki cuisine, Maru is a small tucked-away restaurant in Ginza. The staff is great with English and give you a nice little menu for reference (trust me, super helpful when you’re confused about what you’re eating in a kaiseki meal!)

IMG_0470

English menu for the January five-course dinner. Moreover, because it was New Years, they served special porridges and mochi in celebration of it!

IMG_0466

Special New Years dish–with a savory chunk of mochi in there for good luck.

IMG_0489

Bamboo shoots and stuffed tofu in a light kelp broth.

IMG_0480

A trio of seasonal specials–up front is the sweet egg custard with gold-dusted black beans.

IMG_0485

Fried crab croquette–piping hot and absolutely fresh out of the frier. My favorite type of winter food!

IMG_0475

Sashimi–look at that piece of gorgeous tuna!

IMG_0497

Ikura over a bed of hot rice, served with pickled plums and miso soup.

IMG_0502

Japanese-style custard with strawberries.

IMG_0499

The hot-stone rice that we couldn’t finish was packed up at the end of the meal for us, and wrapped into cute little onigiri rice balls! A thoughtful touch.

My To-Do List in Ginza:

  1. Take a walk down Ginza’s main shopping avenue, and visit one of the large department stores (Wako, Mitsukoshi, etc.). If high-end fashion is not your cup of tea, head downstairs to the basement where you’ll find just about the best depa-chika (literally means basement of department stores). They have amazing food selections that put food courts in all other countries to shame!
  2. Take an afternoon tea/dessert break. Whether it’s Kimuraya Bakery’s original Anpan, or Angelina’s Mont-Blanc, spare an hour or two for some tea-drinking and people-watching in Ginza.
  3. Heard of Jiro Dreams of Sushi? Go take a picture in front of the storefront, or better yet, dine there! The subject of the famous documentary, Sukiyabashi Jiro is located in the Ginza station. You can seek out its humble storefront and take a quick picture. Or, if you make a reservation three months in advance, have a three Michelin Stars dining experience!
  4. Treat yourself to a traditional Japanese dinner in Ginza, where world-class fashion and dining merge into one. Maru, the restaurant I introduced above, is a great place to try affordable kaiseki if you want. Otherwise, I adore Kakiyasu, a great sukiyaki restaurant that serves phenomenal A5 beef.

Visiting Tokyo? Have a question? Send them my way! Thanks for reading Part I of my recent Tokyo food adventure. I’ll be back with Part II soon!

love,
eatprayjade x.

 

15 Comments

  1. Wow!! Thanks so much for sharing all these wonderful experiences! I have just got to Japan and cannot wait to get started on all the adventures that await! All of the above are on my list of things to do and your post has been so helpful and enticing that I will most certainly be ticking them off, one by one 🙂
    piccionetakesflight.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello! First of all, I adore the name piccione–very apt name for a traveller. And second, thank you for reading 🙂 Best of luck on your new adventures in Japan–it’s really a country where adventure is in every little corner. Let me know if you ever need food recommendations! I’ll be following your adventure, so keep up the good work. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much!! I have always wanted to use my surname somewhere and thought it the perfect opportunity with a travel blog! My second name is Jade 😉 I will definitely be in touch about food recommendations, would love to hear more xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • I heard Tsukiji market isn’t moving til end of the year so try to catch it before it moves! Check out all my posts under my Tokyo tab, and if you have any questions or area-specific things to see you want recommendations of, let me know! 🙂

        Like

      • That’s great. Love that old world charm you won’t get at the new market. Will certainly hit you with questions!

        Like

  2. Pingback: In Ginza for Lunch? Devour Amazing Chirashi at Ginza Sushi Marui |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s