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Restaurant Review: Ginza – Japanese Gem in Chinatown

I finally found a solution to the interminably long lunchtime lines for sushi at Spangler. Taking advantage of the first long weekend of the year, we decided to finally get away from the HBS campus and explore downtown Boston. Exploring with a specific destination in mind was perhaps a bit ambitious given my general confusion over Boston’s maze of streets. Nevertheless, we managed at long last to locate Ginza tucked away in a nondescript corner beyond the Chinatown arch.

The atmosphere inside the comfortably furnished restaurant was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. Serene lighting and kimono-clad waitresses contributed to a friendly dining environment. We were warmly greeted as we entered and given a choice of seating options. Surveying the room, the private tatami rooms (shoes must be removed) seemed most popular but were unfortunately already reserved for the night. We decided to forego the closely spaced tables for a seat at the sushi bar where we could watch four different sushi chefs in action.

Having overdosed on beer over the past month, we were delighted to find an entire page of the two-page drinks list dedicated to sakes. We opted for a very reasonably priced carafe of Ozeki Dry ($12), served cold. Medium bodied with a pleasant dry finish, the sake was perfectly chilled and presented to us in tiny cute glasses. Other available beverages included several domestic and imported beers and a token selection of wines.

Deciding on what to eat proved to be a much greater challenge. Beyond sushi and sashimi, Ginza has over 25 appetizers, many soups and salads and various teriyaki rice and traditional noodle dishes from which to choose. However, we stuck to satisfying our original craving for sushi and settled on a deluxe set for two ($45). As we were giving the waitress our order, a tantalizing smell wafted by our table. Craning our necks to follow the scent, we realized it was a fantastic looking order of tempura. Easily caving to the temptation of deep-fried foods, tempura was quickly added to our order as well.

First up was the miso soup and green salad that accompanied our deluxe set. Fairly standard fare but elevated by fresh crunchy vegetables in the salad and a soup broth base more intense than your normal watered down miso. The impromptu tempura decision proved to be excellent judgment on our part. Three large shrimp and various vegetables were lightly coated in batter and arrived at our table smoking hot, with just the right amount of grease from the deep fryer. Served with a bowl of sweet and salty dipping sauce, this dish also quickly disappeared.

Finally, the main event was placed ceremoniously in front of us. All night long, we had watched with fascination as large wooden sushi boats topped with artful arrangements had floated by us. Our “boat” certainly did not disappoint us. It consisted of an impressive array of twelve sashimi slices, six California rolls, six tuna rolls and seven pieces of nigiri sushi. All were impeccably fresh but the one standout was a piece of buttery o-toro sushi which lived up to its reputation as only the most expensive and most prized cut of fatty tuna belly can.

Desserts are often not a forte of Japanese restaurants. Personally, I find this to be a problem as dessert is my favorite course. Luckily, Ginza’s dessert offering was surprisingly fabulous. Going one step beyond the ubiquitous green tea ice-cream, Ginza offers mochi ice-cream balls. These are adorable dollops of ice-cream (available flavors are green tea, red bean and lychee) delicately encased in a thin rice dough. The end effect is a slightly chewy beginning which provides an interesting textural contrast to the soft ice-cream center. Given this description, I was definitely apprehensive as I ordered the first one but by the third one, I was hooked.

So the next time the sushi lines at Spangler are causing you to despair, plan a trip to Ginza in Chinatown for a satisfying and complete Japanese meal. And for all of my confusion in trying to find the restaurant originally, turns out there is a T stop two blocks from the restaurant…

Details:
Dinner for two: ~ $80
(including a bottle of sake)
16 Hudson Street
(at Kneeland Street; take the T Orange Line to Chinatown)
617-338-2261

October 11, 2005
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