Japan’s department stores are massive, multi-level complexes, but if you’re like us, the stuff you really want to see is in the basement, since that’s where you’ll find the food. And if you’re even more like us (constantly hungry and perpetually lazy), you’ll walk right past the grocery section and head to where they have the pre-prepared food, like the delicious bento boxed lunches.
But even then, we sometimes run into a bit of a problem, because of how massive some Japanese department stores’ food floors are, like the one at the branch of Mitsukoshi in Tokyo’s swanky Ginza neighborhood.
So to help you narrow down your choices, we sent our crack reporter Mr Sato over to Mitsukoshi Ginza to find its best bento. Craving something meaty and keeping with the forces that drive us (hunger and laziness, remember), he figured the quickest path to finishing his assignment and filling his belly was to ask for help from the receptionist at Mitsukoshi’s information counter.
“Excuse me,” he started, “can you recommend a bento, one with tasty meat?”
“Thank you very much,” the receptionist replied, treating a question from a potential customer as a kind courtesy to the store itself. “Over here is a bento shop called Kakiyasu Dining,” she explained, pulling out a laminated map of the floor and indicating where the shop could be found. There’s also Asakusa Imahan, which I’m sure you know has been popular for a long time. Oh, and there’s also Niku no Icchoda, which is famous for its wagyu bento.”
As soon as Mr Sato heard the word “wagyu,” his mind was made up. Wagyu, Japanese beef, is beloved by carnivorous gourmands both in the country and around the world, and so Mr Sato thanked the receptionist and headed straight over to Niku no Icchoda’s shop on Mitsukoshi’s food floor.
Though he was extremely tempted by the Steak Bento, he opted instead for the Sushi Bento.
“But wait, I thought Mr. Sato wanted meat.” you might be thinking. “Isn’t sushi fish?” Not necessarily. Although the overwhelming majority of sushi includes a slice of raw seafood, vinegared rice is actually the key ingredient that makes something sushi, and so Niku no Icchoda’s sushi bento is beautifully beefy, with bite-sized morsels of meat sitting atop blocks of rice, and topped with dabs of wasabi.
Grabbing his chopsticks, Mr Sato lifted a piece and popped it in his mouth. He was immediately greeted by the soft, tender texture of the meat on his tongue, tickling his taste buds with its inherent sweetness. As he chewed, that sweetness mixed with the spiciness of the wasabi, forming a delicious harmony that concluded with a mild but refreshing hint of vinegar.
Neither Ginza nor Mitsukoshi are the cheapest places in Tokyo to go shopping, and at 2,700 yen (US$25) Niku no Icchoda’s is a pretty pricy bento. But pretty pricy is definitely worth it when the result is amazingly delicious.
Niku no Icchoda / 肉の壱丁田
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi, Muromachi 1-4-1, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Honten, main building basement level 1
東京都中央区日本橋室町1丁目4−1 日本橋三越本店 本館地下1階
Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
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