各ジャンルに精通する個性豊かなエディターたちが、GINZA SIXをぶらぶらと

Italy, Taiwan, and Tokyo: Memories of Past Travels

佐々木 ケイ 食の記者・編集者


I write about the full range of food, from leading-edge Tokyo restaurants to popular downhome eateries; from fine food to fast food; from bar food to sweets. My love doesn’t discriminate. I eat and drink to enrich my body and soul, then I write about it. All this might suggest the lack of any consistent outlook or preferences. Perhaps. But if you asked me to name just one cuisine, I’d pick Italian. I have several reasons but, above all, it’s my love of wine. Over the past five years, that love has led me to 12 of the country’s provinces. I write a regular column on Italian cooks and cuisine for a magazine. And that concludes my rather wordy preamble.

That’s why I leapt for joy when I heard Eataly had arrived in Ginza this past summer. There’s the MARKET itself, plus three restaurants and a café—it’s one of the largest Eatalys in Japan. I rushed off to visit, of course, and though it had been a little while, I’m now back to making regular trips to GINZA SIX. It’s as simple as that. While I’m at it, today I check out two other places that opened around the same time, SunnyHills and Isesada, for Taiwanese pineapple cake and eel, two of my favorites.

At Eataly (on the sixth floor), my absolute favorite is LA PIAZZETTA. Open all day, from 11:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night, LA PIAZZETTA offers over 30 Italian tapas-style appetizers for around 500 yen per plate—very reasonable. I’m addicted to having a beer in the afternoon on my way home from article research, and in the evening there has to be a glass of prosecco with olives on the side before dinner. Grappa brandy and dessert follows dinner. Can there be a more adult way of enjoying this restaurant? It rates fairly high on the contentment index.

For a freelancer, who, thank goodness, isn’t on a fixed schedule, establishments open all day are especially wonderful. Drinks in the afternoon? Yes. A café at night? Yes. Pizza when you happen to be hungry? Yes. I keep a very open mind. For dry-cured ham and a glass of Lambrusco, head north. For fried fish and white wine, head south. One drink and one dish, with a fantasy Italian vacation as a bonus.

The MARKET’s delights go without saying. There are now more places to buy Italian ingredients, even in smaller neighborhoods, where you can find privately owned grocers and sometimes vendors within actual Italian restaurants. The storeowner’s personality bleeds into the shelves, which is delightful and fascinating in and of itself. But, beyond that, the selection at the MARKET is beyond compare. Here you’ll find dozens of varieties of olive oil alone and a huge assortment of pastas, incomparable to any other store. I love in particular the cheese and dry-cured ham, sold by weight. They’re great as snacks when you have guests over, or when you get home and don’t feel like cooking.

The MARKET offers 360 wines from 20 provinces, many from winegrowers I know well. Holding one of the bottles, immediately I picture the face of the grower, the scenery at the vineyard, the dining table on the terrace, the colorful local cuisine. For a brief moment, I’m enjoying a fantasy holiday in Italy.

Because they’re so easy to access, I tend to go mostly to LA PIAZZETTA and the MARKET. But I also really want to visit LA GRIGLIA, the restaurant and grill. There I’d sit at a terrace table with a view down to Chuo-dori Ave. I’ve researched articles on hundreds of Ginza restaurants, but however high the building rises, very few actually offer a beautiful view of the city. The view here is great. The straightforward grilled meat (particularly the beef) and the red wine are some of my absolute favorites.

Next up is SunnyHills ginza, a pineapple cake shop out of Taiwan on the second belowground floor. As with Italy, I’ve traveled to Taiwan many times over the past several years. From local food from various regions of China to food stalls and sweets, my schedule is always overflowing as I wander about sampling all sorts of things. My go-to souvenir is pineapple cakes.

I’ve eaten these cakes everywhere—whether purchased from a stall up an alley or deluxe upscale establishment. The ones at SunnyHills are dainty and easy to eat, and I’m rather fond of them. The jam inside is the perfect essence of fruity sweetness. The dough is made from Japanese flour, the butter is grass-fed—you can really taste the difference—and the crust has a crunchy, savory, well-baked texture. I adore them.

Up front are cakes packaged with Taiwanese tea, which would make an excellent gift. It occurs to me that pairing Sunny Hills’s pineapple cake with an alcoholic beverage should make for a delightful combination—for example, pineapple cake with barrel-aged rum, or apple cake with Calvados. There’s nothing about these pairs that shouldn’t be pure delight, I find myself thinking. It’s worth a try next time.

Today, I buy a Taiwanese tea and cake set for myself for the first time—the apple cake and Hong Yu tea gift set (5,700 yen; all prices listed after tax). The deep aroma and flavor of fermented tea and slight tart of the jam makes an ideal pairing. Until I’m free to travel abroad once again, I plan to rely on this place in Ginza to satisfy my cravings for culinary experiences from Taiwan.

Last is eel. Founded over 70 years ago in Nihonbashi, Isesada also has a Ginza location, Nihonbashi Unagi Isesada Ren, on the 13th floor of GINZA SIX. “Oh, they have one in Ginza now”—this was about the extent of my reaction. But stepping inside, you immediately get the sense of a wonderful space—a sleek, modern interior befitting GINZA SIX, a spacious counter, large windows. The view is delightful, a Ginza landscape under an expansive sky, at least by Tokyo standards. Feeling especially content, I opt for a glass of champagne.

The fare at eel restaurants typically doesn’t venture farther afield than light appetizers and broiled eel over rice. This restaurant, however, offers full course meals. Take your time as you savor the cuisine and drink. You can also talk to the cook behind the counter. He tells me he delves into old recipe books with the aim of recreating long-forgotten dishes: for example, Soft-Shelled Turtle and Egg (4,180 yen), essentially steamed egg custard with soft-shelled turtle, a dish Isesada Ren is known for.

What makes this version stand out, however, is that the turtle is poached in sake, which then serves as the broth. It’s the same idea as beef cheeks simmered in red wine. The quivering, melt-in-your-mouth texture recalls egg custard, but the flavor is rich and robust as opposed to light and mellow. This luxurious dish receives a further accent in the form of shark’s fin, that’s also been poached in plenty of sake. This dish is quite clearly destined to be paired with a glass of sake; actually, it goes rather too well.

The actual eel, of course, is delicious. As the waitress quite charmingly explains to me, the Ise eel, served only at the GINZA SIX location, is farmed in the mineral-rich waters found at the border between Mie and Aichi prefectures, fed by the Kiso Three Rivers. This famous water, along with the short raising time, is the key to the flavor. This eel is soft and with a unique, non-pungent flavor. The steaming and broiling technique used is superb. The restrained sauce perfectly complements the flavor of the eel.

As I dine on the outstanding Ise broiled eel over rice (8,800 yen with eel liver soup and pickled vegetables), I find myself thinking of certain walks over the past year or two through Nihonbashi, where Isesada has its flagship, and the Asakusa area. During the period we couldn’t travel freely, whether to other parts of Japan or overseas, I would walk these streets lined with old shops and restaurants and take in the atmosphere as a traveler might. Unexpectedly, hearing about Eataly and returning to GINZA SIX after the passage of some time, I find myself reliving fond memories of my own past travels.

Text: Kei Sasaki Photos: Jiro Ohtani Edit: Yuka Okada(81)


佐々木 ケイ

Instagram : @sasaki__kei




SunnyHills ginza


日本橋 鰻 伊勢定 ~蓮~


2021.11.16 UP