Date of Visit: December 20 2013
Japanese drinks vending machines are awesome, they sell both hot and cold drinks (colour-coded in case you don’t read Japanese – red for hot drinks and blue for cold drinks). In Japan one must try Calpis! A sweet yoghurt-y soda drink. And when you travel in Japan, you should also get yourself a Suica or Pasmo from JR Stations or from the many convenience stores around, this is stored-money card akin to Octopus in Hong Kong. BTW, Octopus is an Australian invention that failed miserably in Australia. In fact the company went burst – one of my earlier lemons! 😭
For the first night in Tokyo, I did not bother to make any dinner reservations since I did not want to tire us out by dashing off to find the restaurant as soon as we arrived. It turned out to be a mistake – all the restaurants (the ones that we are interested in) were FULL! After wandering around Ginza, we were still undecided which restaurants to eat in and whether there is an English menu available. A quick think on our feet, led us to the Ginza Mitsukoshi Department Store.
There are 2 levels of restaurants serving International cuisines -Japanese, Japanese-European,European and Chinese (on Levels 11 and 12) inside the department store . We finally decided on a Japanese restaurant on Level 12 serving called 石桶花.
We were served by 2 very courteous and efficient waitresses. We were given an English menu with 3 courses to choose from – Banquet Cuisine Meal ¥4,800; Sumire Kaiseki Cuisine at ¥5,500 or Shakunage Kaiseki ¥8400. We settled on top-end Shakunage Kaiseki. We were very appreciative that the waitresses made a conscious effort to communicate with us and also to explain in English what is being served at each course.
To drink: We ordered a bottle of Japanese white from Chateau Mercian Katsumnuma Koshu ¥4,300 (the only Japanese white available on the menu). Clean and crisp on the palate, it has a pleasant astringent taste, and with an aromatic grapefruit and green apple finish and another note that I could not put my finger on – it turned out to be banana when I read the tasting notes (here). The pleasant scent of the white-flowers reminded me of sake too. A very enjoyable white from Suntory Brewery! KAMPAI!!
Chateau Mercian Katsumnuma Koshu
Time for me to polish up on my chopsticks skills as the first of our courses arrives…
Appetiser #1 was 5 Gingko Nuts on a bed of sweet miso. Gingko nuts has a gummy texture, their rich, nutty flavour has a quick bitterness to it. (An important note is that children should not eat more than five ginkgo nuts per day, and adults should not eat more than eight per day. Going over these limits can result in ginkgo poisoning!! 😱).
Appetiser #2 consisted of crab meat, a deep-fried yam coated with sticky rice, a deep-fried sweet potato coated with sticky rice and some jellied pickles. I enjoyed the sticky yet crunchy-puffy-fried-rice a lot which provided a different layer of texture to both the yam and potato.
Crabmeat and deep-fried sticky rice balls of yam and sweet potato
The Sashimi was very fresh – although not the top quality, but still standing head-and-shoulders above the sashimi served in top-hatted Australian restaurants. Understandably, the Japanese keep all the premium stuffs for their own local consumptions whereas other countries (e.g. Australia and especially China tend to export their top produces to overseas markets.) Here, we were served with yieldingly firm Yellow-tail, Kingfish and a very fatty Tuna that literally melts away in our mouths. The dish was beautifully presented with edible flowers, shiso and shredded radishes.
Since this is Winter, we were served White miso soup with Mochi. The soup leans towards to the sweet side. I thoroughly enjoyed the chewy and glutinous texture of the mochi that has been slightly chargrilled before it went into the soup.
White Miso Soup
White Miso Soup with Mochi
Delicacies of the Season are winter root vegetables – mushrooms, pumpkin, fresh tiny shrimps, burdock and yam. Each very delicious and has natural sweetness to them.
Delicacies of the Season
Delicacies of the Season
Next to follow is the Soup. The star of this course is definitely the Sea-urchin on Tofu. Ilove the sweet briny taste of the sea-urchin very much, the tofu has an unusual texture that I was not accustomed to due to its stickiness, perhaps sticky rice was added to its list of ingredients. The salty soup was very gelatine-y, and worked well to cleanse the palate of the briny sea-urchin.
Sea urchin on tofu
The Grilled Japanese Beef course literally melts in my mouth! This is Kagoshima beef was simply seared and served with Japanese green peppers (not hot) and enoki mushroom.
Grilled Japanese Beef
Grilled Japanese Beef
For the Boiled Dish, we were served 2 minced pork balls as light and fluffy as soufflé, they were joined by Japanese leeks, onions, fungus and shreds of yuzu peels for a citrusy kick. We were also given a hot black tea (Ocha).
The boiled dish forms part of the last course of our kaiseki dinner, with pickles, rice and a side of salmon roe (ikura). We were asked to eat the rice with the ikura.
Boiled Dish, Pickles, Rice, Ikura
Ikura Rice and grated radishes
The food served at the restaurant all tend to be on the sweeter side, due to sugar content of miring sauces used.
Finally dessert and matcha (green tea) were served. Our Dessert was ice-cream and poached apple drenched with flower honey – delicious, but too sweet for me. 😀
During dinner, a Japanese business man had a heart attack, but still we had seamless service, everybody remained calm and helped the man to wait for ambulance.
Check out the interior of the restaurant.
Very clean and simple Interior
Watching the chefs at work at the bar
Outdoor seating in Summer – a fantastic place to watch Ginza night view too!
So when you are at a lost, unsure of where to eat in the Japan, do check out the dining floors in the department stores where English menus are provided. The basement level is usually food outlets where you can buy bread for tomorrow’s breakfast and traditional sweets and delicacies or something for mid-night snacks! 😋😋😋
Our late night snack – mochi with red bean (azuki) paste inside