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GINZA SIX EDITORS

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The Inspiring Ginza, The Accessible Ginza: They’re Both Here

日紫喜 康一郎

Ginza Six Editors Vol.20 (Food)

The first company I worked for after college was SHUFUNOTOMO, a medium-size publishing house. I wanted to be an editor. Somehow, I got my foot in the door, but I was assigned at first to Ray, a women’s fashion magazine targeting college students.

It was all new to me. I’m not the world’s fastest learner, so people were constantly upset with me. The editor-in-chief at the time was unable to remain on the sidelines, so I was invited one day to lunch. We went to the Hilltop Hotel, a five-minute walk from the SHUFUNOTOMO offices. The lunch at Yamanoue, the hotel’s tempura restaurant, was revelatory. I was still living like a college student, so, that, perhaps, was my first ever fine-dining experience.

Seventeen years later, I received the following inquiry: I was asked to recommend a few restaurants at GINZA SIX. I immediately thought of Tempura Yamanoue Ginza.

Today, visiting this Yamanoue spin-off at GINZA SIX, I found myself led to a private room with a beautiful, unadorned wood counter. The room fee is 20,000 yen (all prices given are before tax). This isn’t inexpensive, but the space seats six and gives diners exclusive access to a highly skilled tempura chef. It’s worth experiencing at least once.

Today’s tempura is prepared by Chef Teraoka. The anticipation is palpable.

“Today, I ask that you leave everything to me,” says Chef Teraoka. So that’s exactly what I do.

The first dish is a kuruma prawn head. The kuruma prawns have been set aside for several hours in a state of suspended animation, a process that brings out the sweetness. Deep-fried in lightly roasted sesame oil, they’re crisp, pleasingly aromatic, and sweet.

The prawns are paired with a champagne. For me, Chef Teraoka selects the Pascal Doquet Blanc de Blancs.

Apropos of this choice of wine, I visited the Champagne region of France just this year to do some research. I happen to be especially interested in the pairing of champagne with Japanese cuisine. I found the affinity in this case was especially impressive. To repeat, the prawns are sweet, remarkably so. I like chewy prawns as well, but prawns this sweet are a delight.

Once, while doing research for another article, I overheard someone describe tempura as a steamed dish: The food is steamed inside the batter, an interesting concept I feel I’ve come to understand anew today.

Next up is vegetables. The early-harvest Kyoto carrots are long and thin. Carrot flavor varies from tip to end. Here, you experience the entire gamut in a single sitting.

When I first had the carrots at Tempura Kondo, another spin-off from Yamanoue, I was duly impressed. But these Kyoto carrots served here at Ginza, in both taste and appearance, represent a new culinary experience. Sprinkled with irregularly sized grains of salt made by seawater boiled in a wood-burning kiln, they fill your mouth with sweetness.

These are kuromaitake mushroom buds, a rarity available only at the Ginza restaurant obtained painstakingly by Chef Teraoka. The bowl itself is a special-order item designed to concentrate aroma. In much the same way a burgundy glass accentuates a wine’s nose, this vessel ceremoniously presents the distinctive mushroom aroma. A sense of whimsy and the chef’s sure hand—perhaps it’s this that mesmerizes patrons at the counter.

Next is sea urchin. “I want to dive into this sea urchin’s bed,” is what the editor who’s with me says, and I wholeheartedly agree. I can imagine the pitched battles at Tsukiji Market as sushi establishments seek to get a hold of these sea urchins. Sea urchin tempura carefully deep-fried with shiso leaves, paired with rosé wine—ambrosial is the word that comes to mind.

Finally, I go with tencha, my old standby for a closing dish at tempura restaurants. The rice is topped with kakiage and covered with a sencha green tea brewed in dashi soup stock.

I’m full, but not overly so, as if I could have a bit more. That feels just right for a high-end tempura establishment.

I thank Chef Teraoka and exit the restaurant. Perhaps it’s presumptuous to think so, but in this moment, I feel a special connection to Yamanoue.

With each of Tokyo’s districts continuing to evolve daily, I sometimes get the sense that the days of a Ginza at the very pinnacle of things are in the distant past. Beyond this, I can’t help feeling that my own generation—I’m 41—has gradually drifted away from Ginza: Ginza is something for when you get older, or it’s unapproachable, or something.

But do we lose anything if we turn away from the distinctiveness so artfully cultivated at Ginza? Without distinctiveness, the everyday ceases to be everyday.

If Ginza loses its appeal entirely, wouldn’t life in Tokyo lose a significant part of its charm? If one goes looking, is there a Ginza that’s accessible to the younger generation?

Based on the belief that there is, I created the February edition of Tokyo Calendar, published recently with the title “Our Generation’s Ginza.”

I took the cover photo on the escalators at GINZA SIX. The atmosphere itself, I thought, symbolized the Ginza of our generation.

In exploring various Ginza locations, I discovered the restaurant I’m going to tell you about now, Salt grill & tapas bar by Luke Mangan.

The tables facing Chuo-dori offer the best seats in the house, and the bright neon of the Ferragamo store across the way creates a very Ginza vibe.

The restaurant is overseen by Luke Mangan, a star of modern Australian cuisine. Australia is a treasure trove for ingredients. It’s also a nation of immigrants. Various cuisines have fused and created a unique culinary culture, of which this restaurant presents a taste.

The first dish is fresh oysters with lemon wedges. They’re meaty and full of flavor, and they go well with the white wine.

This is the Mushroom Arancini Goddess Dressing, which consists of rice croquettes with avocado sauce.

The oysters and rice croquettes are both 600 yen. The restaurant features many tapas-style dishes like this that go well with casual drinks. On a weekend night, rather than grousing over drinks at a low-end izakaya-style bar, you can have drinks here, inexpensively and in style. There’s a counter near the entrance, so drinking alone works as well. That seems to me very much in the spirit of Our Generation’s Ginza.

For a main dish, I chose the pasture-fed beef rib-eye grill. Potential doubts about quality when you hear Aussie beef is a thing of the past; this is remarkable. Pasture-fed beef represents another stage in the evolution of grass-fed beef; the cattle are raised on an exclusive diet of nutrient-packed grass.

The flavor, in a word, appears to strike a healthful balance. The meat is free of any dry patches. It’s juicy and flavorful, without being heavy.

With a traditional Ginza steak, one thinks of premium, marbled Japanese wagyu. This is the polar opposite, something closer to the preferences of today’s younger generation.

To close, I have a gin and tonic made with MGC (Melbourne Gin Company). The craft gins and craft beers also suggest the mood of our times.

The Ginza of the current generation was created by a preceding generation of individuals in their 30s, at the height of their powers. The effort to build our generation’s Ginza has just started. There’s a Ginza that retains the Ginza distinction but works well for us, and it’s something that will inspire a generation of young people 30 years from now. And we’ll be able to say we helped create it.

My experience at Salt grill & tapas bar by Luke Mangan reinforces this perspective.

Text:Koichiro Hishiki Photo:Kazuhiro Fukumoto Edit:Yuka Okada

editors_hishiki

日紫喜 康一郎

「東京カレンダー」編集長。1976年生まれ。慶應義塾大学を卒業後、主婦の友社「Ray」編集部にて経験を積んだのち、主婦と生活社「LEON」編集部へ。2013年から食を中心としたライフスタイル誌「東京カレンダー」に移籍し、2017年から編集長を務める。
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2017.12.28 UP