Just northeast of the station is an area known more for hostess clubs than fine dining. Indeed, while strolling through these backstreets, we found a vibrant scene of men in black suits, VIP-style black Benzes and women in glittering ball gowns. Amid all of this is Ginza Hachi no Go.
As we entered the basement-level restaurant, we were not at all expecting its quiet, refined interior. A smartly dressed maître d’ led us along a stone walkway, the corridor tastefully lined with cerulean and dark brown sake bottles. Ginza Hachi no Go features three seating areas: a counter bar facing the door; a trio of rooms with comfy-looking chairs, wooden tables and karaoke machines; and two semi-private, Japanese-style horigotatsu rooms, with backlit paintings on white washi paper hanging on the beautiful earthen walls. The restaurant was nearly empty on this particular Thursday, so we chose one of the Japanese-style rooms, removed our shoes, and opened the drink menu.
Selecting and pairing Japanese alcohol is, as far as we are concerned, best left to a professional—so we asked for the house sake, which turned out to be Komagura from Fukuoka (¥880), served warm. We next tried a sweet, golden umeshu, on the rocks and with a tart red umeboshi for contrast. Both arrived in mere seconds, before we could even crack the food menu.
Ginza Hachi no Go is part of the Vegetable Dining Group that operates 12 restaurants in Tokyo, all of which prominently feature simple fresh veggies (¥250-¥480). We tried red daikon from Chiba and celery from Shizuoka, each with moro miso (sweet full-bean miso) and mayo for dipping. Continuing with the raw, health-boosting appetizers, we ordered fresh tofu (¥800) served with four topping options: shredded myoga ginger, katsuo bonito flakes, chopped green onions and ginger paste. We appreciated that the tofu was made in-house and had a variety of toppings, but still found it a little bland—until soy sauce enlivened the flavors.
Our first entrée was Australian steak fillet (¥1,950), served on a sizzling iron plate with greens and sweet potatoes. Next up was the tempura: four heaping plates of maitake mushrooms and sansai mountain vegetables (each around ¥700), as well as yuba isobe age (¥1,000). Combining soft yuba, flavorful nori and a thin layer of crispy tempura on the bottom of each delicious morsel, this was the most creative dish we have ever eaten in Japan.
Each tempura dish came with Mongolian rock salt, sea salt, and a mound of daikon and ginger, and it was all perfectly light and flakey—fit for an emperor, or even a dear friend from out of town.