restaurant review

Jewels & pancakes: bills Ginza combines elegance with familiar taste

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By Alexandra Hongo

When Bill Granger said a while ago that his newest restaurant in Japan would be "a place that makes you feel like you're spending time in a jewelry box," he wasn't even close to joking. The latest and seventh store in the franchise's bold adventures in Japan is a stylish restaurant in the center of Tokyo's high-end area Ginza, which makes you feel exactly as if you were right into the bling of it all — while still munching on those familiar ricotta pancakes for breakfast.

Only over a month into its grand opening on Oct 1, the restaurant is already becoming a stylish hub for Ginza visitors, from breakfast to dinner. Upon our recent visit, the restaurant was fully booked: on an early weekday evening, there were women dining solo, groups of ladies chatting over posh cocktails, "salarymen" sipping whiskey at the bar (yes, there's a huge one here) and most of all, couples on romantic dates. It's that kind of bling.

Located on the 12th floor of the new Okura Building in Ginza 2-chome, one of the best features of bills Ginza is its brilliant view of the entire posh region, from Bulgari, Cartier and Shiseido to Mikimoto to everything in between. Designed with terrazzo tile floors and soft, leather sofas, plushly lined chairs, collection of romantic lights and dark fabrics, the spacious interior is stylishly decorated with dry flowers and colorful paintings on the wall, hinting luxury from every corner, yet skillfully preserving the typical bills' down-to-earth values — namely, being a "sunny, easy-going and generous" place. Because, as Bill says, luxury is relaxation. Everyone visiting the restaurant should feel in their skin — and that's exactly why all waiters there wear sneakers, not intimidated by the classiness of the area.

While bills is naturally famous for their ricotta pancakes — which you can still enjoy at the Ginza store — the restaurant offers a wide variety of special bits and bites, perfectly fit to the elegant diner. The rose, sake and cucumber martini (¥1,200), and the hibiscus and cherry rum daiquiri (¥1,200) are two stylish cocktails unique to the Ginza store that make it stand out from the rest. The dinner is unique, too, including a long list of pasta and BBQ dishes, savoring appetizers and side dishes that are only available at the Ginza store. Our favorites for the night were truffled arancini (1,300), tiny rice croquettes with a delicious dip sauce; raw tuna pizzette, topped with cucumber and crispy shallots (¥1,200), and the warm taleggio sandwich, the perfect combination of melted cheese topped with pear and hazelnuts. The dinner menu includes top quality meat such as Porcini-rubbed prime fillet steak (¥4,000), several slices of refined Australian beef topped with onion rings and watercress and Wagyu Fillet steak (¥7,000) — a pricey, yet exquisite surprise to any carnivore admirers.

But the biggest surprise, perfect for the high-end Ginza store, is the bills afternoon tea. Served for ¥7,000 for two, this gorgeous set includes four kinds of sandwiches, brown sugar pavlova, passionfruit and rosewater cream, fresh raspberry cheesecake, double chocolate brownie, pistachio choux bun, jasmine tea panna cotta and black sesame mini scones, served with cream and strawberry jam mini ricotta hotcake and banana and honeycomb butter. And each part of it tastes just heavenly.

So if you're looking for a place to experience the luxury of Ginza, but still grab a few of the familiar bites that bills has popularized in Japan since its first opening, head to the Ginza store. It's not cheap, we won't lie, but it's a different level of experience — even if just for the sake of imagining yourself entering a jewelry box with a pancake in your plate.

bills Ginza Address: Okura House 12F, 2-6-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Business hours: Mon-Sun: 8.30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

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