Since I discovered the Park Hotel Tokyo in Shiodome many years ago, I have stayed in this quiet jewel of a hotel whenever I am in town for work. I used to look out the window and see this interesting little restaurant across the corner from the hotel. Finally, one evening on this trip, I got the chance to try it.
Ginza Hinai-ya is a sleek and upscale looking restaurant that caters to those working in the skyscrapers around Shiodome. It's quiet and discreetly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Shimbashi station. The entrance is along a back street and as I walk in, I wonder what all the Japanese characters on the facade actually mean.
Hinai-ya is definitely not a loud and raucous izakaya. It's more like a refined gastrobar -- not a place to get gastroenteritis but a place where you can drink and have food that is better than just the usual bar chow.
There are small tatami rooms with (thankfully!) dropped floors that are separated from each other with half walls of glass and wood -- you can see and hear the buzz of other diners but not so that they distract from your own enjoyment.
However, with the noisy peals of laughter and conversation from our group, I surmise that we were the cause for distraction for the rest of the diners.
If you don't want to take off your shoes for the tatami rooms, there are a few booths with western style seating.
Hinai-ya specializes in yakitori -- zannen desu ne! Their chicken is specially brought in from Hinai (hence the name) in Akita.
The rest of the gang enjoyed their yakitori -- chicken balls, chicken skin, chicken gizzard and liver, chicken wings ... but surprise, surprise -- Hinai-ya's menu had quite a bit of options for vegetarians.
While everyone enjoyed their yakitori, I was busy eating my hiyayakko or cold tofu topped with bonito flakes and seaweed. So smooth, silky and delicious!
Hinai-ya is a modern and quite sophisticated Japanese restaurant for their take on the traditional korokke or croquette was not with the usual minced meat and potato but with an utterly delicious pumpkin filling. I don't like pumpkin at all but this deep fried yet light korokke was so good!
Perhaps there is a vegetarian in Hinai-ya's kitchen?
I also ordered a grilled shiitake mushroom -- lightly salted and seasoned, it was tender and expertly grilled, slightly smoky and with such a pretty design carved on top. The Japanese are masters at food presentation. That stick of chicken skin yakitori is not mine but someone else's -- who needed one more stick to satisfy his craving.
Aside from yakitori -- my friends also ordered fried chicken or chicken karaage. We were all pleasantly surprised to see this order come with a cluster of fried prawn crackers.
A slice of lemon and green chili, lightly fried were the only garnish to this very flavorful dish. A small dish of seasoned sea salt accompanied the karaage.
We ordered the salad shungiku and it came out looking like a salade Lyonnais, complete with the perfectly poached egg on top! Of course, this being Japan, the entire thing was much more delicate than the robust and hearty version from Lyon.
Chrysanthemum and mustard greens with baby tomatoes were lightly tossed with cheese and the familiar taste of Japanese dressing.
Instead of lardons, chopped grilled chicken breast completed the dish. This large salad would have been more than enough for a meal.
The traditional end to a Japanese meal is noodles -- and despite an evening of eating and drinking,
we were somehow persuaded by the very friendly and english speaking waitress to order the house specialty -- cold Inaniwa udon served on a bamboo basket. I was very happy to have followed her suggestion. The cold udon was the fitting end to an evening of good food with good friends!
This is Hinai-ya's well stocked bar -- sake, shochu, single malt whisky, french, Chilean, Italian wines show that they take their drinks seriously.
Next time I come by, I can pop in for a drink.
After all, the hotel is literally just across the street so no one will see if I teeter and totter my way back after an hour or two at the bar!