The food halls in Japan are really in a league of their own. I always make it a point to visit them when I am in any of the big cities and to me the best Tokyo food halls are Isetan (Shinjuku), Mitsukoshi (Ginza) and Takashimaya. This trip, I only managed to find time to go to the first two. Most of us may just go for the typical tourist brands like Yoku Moku which is great and wonderful for their wafer biscuits, but there are so much more wonderful gems you can get. Here’s a quick low down on the must tries.
4−6−16 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
There’s a whole section that serves traditional Japanese sweets made of red bean, which is almost like one of their national foods. This counter here below is one of the famous ones.
Toraya, is another counter nearby that is famous for ‘Yokan’ – sweet bean jelly made from azuki beans, kanten (agar agar jelly) and sugar. Their most popular flavours are the Yoru-no-ume, which is the classic azuki bean, and they have other interesting flavours such as brown sugar, and even honey! Grandpapa (Y’s dad) loves these traditional red bean jelly cakes, so we bought one large one for him, it was real solid, as heavy as a brick, so I had to hand carry it back for him!
Cadeau de Chaimon, originally established in Kyoto, this brand specializes in sweets & treats made from Satsuma-Imo, Japanese sweet potato. The counter in Mitsukoshi had various kinds of Satsuma-Imo, and each kind is chosen for a specific recipe in which it tastes the best. We had to buy one to try, and verdict – DELICIOUS!!
Satie – this brand introduced to us by LY who discovered it earlier when she went to Tokyo, is now one of my top favourite chocolate brands alongside Jean Paul Hevin, La Maison Du Chocolat and Mast Brothers. Why? Other than it tastes sinfully good, it’s totally not sinful at all, and is quite healthy, made from the finest cocoa beans, and can you believe it – no butter or milk is used at all. How amazing is that?
The top selling chocolate is the Chapeau which means ‘hat’ in French, and yes when you look up close, they do resemble little hats. It has a melt-in-your-mouth feel similar to Royce chocolates but with definitely much less guilt. At least I can be popping lots of these and not feel guilty about my tum tum getting even bigger than it already is. They come in Milk and Dark Chocolate versions. Y bought the Dark Chocolate for me and her to eat and Milk for R as he isn’t as into Dark Chocolate like us girls.
We spotted this cute little scones and clotted cream counter – Rodda’s Clotted Cream, which is a brand from UK that’s been established since 1890 – famous for their classic Cornish Cream. It was cute how they had the clotted cream and jams packaged in small tubs enough for 1, plus scones to go along with it. Obviously we were so excited we had to buy a set of plain scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam to try for breakfast the next day.
Verdict: As you can see from the top of this blog, I was a happy girl. The scones was just alright, wasn’t fabulous, but that clotted cream did all the wonders for me. The clotted cream is thick and creamy and really satisfied my scones and clotted cream fix, since I didn’t manage to go to London this year to have my fix at Claridges Hotel and The Wolseley.
Another wonderful chance discovery next is Grand Marble, that originated from Kyoto and is known for their marbled brioche loaf breads done in the most amazing concocted flavours such as Maple & Caramel, Apple & Walnut, Fig and so many more! It was a hard choice deciding what to buy, as I told myself I could only buy back 1 box. In the end, I bought the Strawberry, after going through a tasting session of the samples. This is a MUST-BUY to bring home. They last for around around 10 days from the packaged date so wasn’t too bad, it’s easy to finish within a few days.
3−14−1 Shinjuku, Tokyo
Typically, I always come here with Y on our last day in Tokyo. The grand plan is always to bring our large cooler bag and head straight to the beef store first to order our beef, and give them time to pack with the ice packs while we walk around and buy other stuff.
What’s great is the chief chef here can speak English and he always recommends the best beef, even sometimes telling us not to buy certain cuts. His name is Harumi Iwata, and has a distinct look with a moustache and smily face. My last trip here, he told me don’t buy Kobe as it wasn’t very good, but this trip, we bought back some Kobe as he told us the marbling was fantastic! Make sure you talk to him to get the best beef.
We ordered a mixture of beef this time – around 1 kg of Sukiyaki Beef (for us to continue part 2 in Singapore with LY), 500g of Yakiniku beef which Chef recommended and 320g of Kobe Beef steak.
Y and I were initially skeptic about the Yakiniku which Chef Iwata recommended as it seemed rather fatty, but he wanted us to try it so we were convinced, so he started cooking some 2 large slices for us to try. It was seasoned simply with just oil and salt and served to us – and we were totally SOLD, the meat was just DIVINE!
Don’t forgot to make a trip to the fresh fruits and vegetables section. Other than buying back Kyoho grapes, I decided to buy a tray of Matsutake mushrooms which was in season, wasn’t really that cheap costed me around I think 15,000 yen but so much nicer and still cheaper than what we get in Singapore, but was so delicious when I had it with my Kobe steak and Yakiniku beef in Singapore with R and Y.
Japanese tea is a must buy in the supermarkets and there’s a wonderful tea counter here which I buy my teas every trip. It’s the only one in the basement food hall. I love getting Gyokuro tea from here.
Granny Smith Apple Pie & Coffee‘s name says it all what it sells. They have a few flavours such as Dutch Crumble, Rum & Raisin, French D’mandes and England Custard. I decided to buy the first 2 flavours to try, something to enjoy for breakfast when I arrive in Singapore the next day. They just opened a proper sit down cafe in Aoyama area, which can be a nice plan to hang out at next time I am in Tokyo.
Flavour by Yuji‘s Favourite Recipes is a company that specialises in American homestyle cakes and pastries. Their star cake is the Chiffon Cake which comes in this towering high form, in flavours such as Maple and Lemon which is their best selling flavours. Interestingly, I was warned by LY not to buy the smaller version as it doesn’t have that loose sponginess texture that the larger one has. So you’ve been warned! We bought one for ourselves to eat and one for Grandmama (Y’s mum) to enjoy with her afternoon coffee.
There’s many more eats I can think of in the food hall such as the cooked food and oh yes all the Japanese fresh strawberry cream cakes, but did not have much time and chance to cover those in these food halls this trip. Oh well there’s always next year 🙂
Lovey’s Travel Tip: Remember to bring a cooler bag if you wish to buy beef, it’s better and they can pack it very well for it to stay fresh throughout your plane ride. If you are in Japan in the last week of December to early January, I would advise to preorder your beef a few days in advance, as that’s the peak period in the supermarkets given 1 January is the Japanese people’s New Year, and the beef can get sold out quickly. Tokyu Hands (few locations in Tokyo like Shinjuku and Shibuya) sells fantastic cooler bags that can be flat packed and quickly fattened up for immediate use.
And that’s me eating the apple tart purchased from Isetan back in Singapore, less than 24 hours later! It was divine especially after heating it up in the toaster. The pastry was flaky and the filling was not too sweet which was perfect. Here’s looking forward to more visits to Tokyo soon.
And that’s fatty me posing with the Sukiyaki Beef at home!