Food Fair 2.0 (ex a diversus terra)

Italian Restaurant in Hikarie Shibuya

Please note that all posts are officially now from Canada (ex a divers us terra= from another country…sadly we’re not in Kansas anymore). Though I still have lots to say 😉

Back to the land of the rising sun (which is actually what the characters mean 日本…”the origin of the sun” or “the place where the sun rises and sets”) where you can find amazing restaurants in department stores. This goes way beyond the diner-like restaurants we used to see in Zellers and is more reminiscent of a cafe you’d find in Saks; however, you can usually find 1-2 floors of restaurants (example 6F and 7F in Hikarie Shibuya) plus 1-2 floors of food items in the basement (example B3F and B2F in Hikarie Shibuya) in most Japanese department stores.

The restaurant offerings are varied and range in price from fairly moderate ($10 pp for a set menu dinner) to really expensive ($80+ pp for dinner). There are usually up to three different Japanese restaurants specializing in various types of Japanese cuisine such as sushi, tempura, noodles, tonkatsu (pork cutlets in a variety of dishes), kaiseki (haute cuisine based on seasonal offerings), barbecue or grilled items, bowls of noodles with a whole egg sitting on top (not my fave), Japanese sweets, plus various places with regional specialities (Okinawa, Kyoto, Kyushu). In terms of other types of cuisine, curries from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are also popular in addition to basic Indian food from India. Italian food is also popular with the Japanese and most department stores have at LEAST one restaurant specializing in Italian food but you will often find restaurants with regional specialities (Milanese, Tuscan or Southern Italian), pasta, or pizza and casual fare. Chinese food is quite common and again, offers a few different types like dim-sum, noodle dishes, or very-high end Cantonese cuisine. Irish pubs abound. I’ve seen quite a few Spanish tapas bars as well.

In the basement you’ll find at least one, but often two floors selling groceries (dry goods), fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, deli items, ready-made meals (worldwide cuisine, not just Japanese food), bakeries, patisseries, wine, beer, spirits, chocolate, candies, boxed gifts of food, custom-order dinners that are made while you wait, vitamins, shakes, specialty coffee and tea…as well as smaller take-out restaurants lining the perimeter of the area selling meals that are much more reminiscent of what we would see in a food fair in the mall.

Our culinary experiences were positive for the most part. We did have department store dinner in Hikarie Shibuya at Capricci which was quite good. We had the set menu and our total bill which included the bread bar, an appetizer and a pasta. Including a ginger ale and a prosecco and the total bill was just under $60 (no tipping). The food was good but you can find a few quirks or questionable attempts at Japanese-Italian fusion…sweet potato buns and spinach buns in the bread bar; sweet butter (caramel flavoured?); and weird fish paste on top of Karis’s pasta. Overall it was very good and a pretty decent price. That being said, I bought some Italian deli items one day for dinner and they were less than fantastic (in terms of preparation, quality of ingredients and odd substations) despite costing close to $50. In my experience, it seems to be best to enjoy the cuisine of the country you are in, especially a place like Japan that offers a variety of delicious options that are usually the most affordable as the ingredients are common. Our favourite was sushi at the places with the conveyor belts (usually cheap and cheerful for people in a hurry on their lunch break or on their way home from work). The food was fresh and delicious and Karis and I could eat our fill for less than $15.

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