It’s easy to come across “Western” or “ethnic” food stores in Japan, but what about those looking for Russian groceries? Many will be surprised to know there’s now a store for that, and it’s located in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza district.
▼ Aka no Hiroba (“Red Square”) is the bricks-and-mortar branch of import food company Victoria Foods Market, which opened in February 2021
Victoria Foods Market specialises in Russian imports, and as soon as you step foot inside the store, you’ll be greeted by shelves upon shelves of exciting, unfamiliar products.
They also have these Putin chocolate bars in stock, which staff say are incredibly popular. At 20 percent off the usual retail price of 324 yen, we immediately added one to our shopping basket.
The store also sells Russian sweets like Shirok, which has become increasingly popular in Japan in recent years. Shirok is a sweet made from cottage cheese, which is coated in chocolate.
▼ These sweets are sold frozen for maximum freshness.
Everything looked enticing, so we asked staff to introduce us to their top five recommended items. We already had one of those items, the Putin chocolate, in our basket, so the friendly staff there added four other products for us, and after paying for it all, we took them home for a taste test.
First up, we have this gorgeous-looking Chocolate Caviar (529 yen). These smooth, glistening pieces of dark chocolate really did resemble Russian caviar, but cost about a tenth of the price. This product is ideal for gift-giving, as anyone who receives this jar of chocolate will be delighted to see these glorious little pieces.
Next up is the Premium Cheese, and the one we bought was the dark chocolate variety (322 yen). These are popular due to the fact that they contain 20-percent milk fat, which is higher than regular cheese on the market, which usually contains around 5-percent milk fat.
▼ Higher fat makes for a creamier product.
This was a real treat for the taste buds, melting on the tongue like a super-rich cheesy ice cream, with the crisp chocolate coating adding just the right amount of sweetness. It was somewhat similar to a thick cheesecake as well, although it was a lot denser and heavier, meaning that you wouldn’t be able to eat a lot of these in one sitting.
Moving on to the next sweet, we have the Prague Chocolate Cake (594 yen). This thick, rich morsel of chocolate contains chocolate butter cream, fruit jam and chocolate sponge within its dark chocolate coating. It was a lot sweeter than we’d anticipated, but incredibly decadent and delicious.
Next up is a gorgeous pink product called Honey-Souffle Wild Strawberry (1,188 yen). This was the most expensive of the lot, but it promised to deliver a very unique flavour, which staff recommended we try on toast.
When we opened the jar, we expected to see pink jam, but the texture was less like jam and more like…souffle! This was due to the fact that it was made with an unheated honey paste, which had been blended with wild strawberries and a small amount of water.
▼ When we spread it on hot toast, we were surprised to see it melted with the heat and became a moist paste.
We were glad staff had recommended the Honey-Souffle to us, as it was something we’d never seen before, and it tasted fantastic on toast, where the tart fruit and sweet honey flavors melded harmoniously with the hot bread. Staff also say you can drop a spoonful into a cup of tea for some added sweetness.
Last but definitely not least, we have President Putin’s Dark Chocolate (259 yen). Inside the box were two small foil-wrapped chocolate bars, and as we ripped into them we hoped we might see Putin’s face on the chocolate as well, but alas, Putin’s visage was only on the box.
▼ Still, a great souvenir or Christmas stocking-stuffer for unsuspecting friends and family, who’ll enjoy the darkly sweet flavor of the President’s chocolate.
So there you have it — five products to introduce you to the sweet taste of Russia, without having to travel all the way there. With travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic, this shop in Ginza really is the next best thing to visiting the real Red Square at the moment.
Aka no Hiroba / 赤の広場
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-20-14
Hours: 11:00 a.m.-7 p.m. (weekdays); 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Saturdays)
Closed: Sundays and public holidays
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