Mitsuwa Madness: An Illustrated Adventure

mitsuwa_items

On Friday afternoon, Kristen and I met at gate 51 of the Port Authority Bus Station on 42nd Street. Our destination–the sole stop on the minibus departing from gate 51–was Mitsuwa, a huge Japanese supermarket in Edgewater, New Jersey, perched on the banks of the Hudson River directly across from Harlem.

I had read about Mitsuwa on Serious Eats, while searching out taiyaki, the fish-shaped, golden griddle cakes I was hooked on in Singapore, where I got my daily fix from an elderly couple who, all day long, cranked out red bean paste and custard filled Taiyaki from their stand in Meidi-Ya, the Japanese supermarket downstairs.

The bus ride to NJ was $3.00 each way, and took about 20 minutes. We were dropped off right by the river. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we dodged a few joggers to take in the view. We turned around and saw the entrance to Mitsuwa just a few paces away from the peaceful riverwalk where we stood.

Once inside, we were swept up into an entirely different scene. A large, sunny food court, with the same impressive river views, was ablaze with activity. People crossed in front of us, shuttling food to their tables. Others rushed from one display to the next, in search of the perfect lunch. Two toddlers scuttled by, possibly on a sugar high, with mom in hot pursuit.

Just like in Japan, each restaurant displayed super-realistic plastic versions of their menu items for easy perusal.

Decisions, decisions. More than an eyeful at Tokyo Hanten.

Decisions, decisions. More than an eyeful at Tokyo Hanten.

It was a good thing we arrived hungry. To start, we found the taiyaki stand and ordered one, plus a “creamyaki,” or round, custard filled version, to share.

Creamyaki on the Griddle

Creamyaki on the griddle.

Warm custard oozes from the creamyaki, while red bean taiyaki looks on, helpless.

Warm custard oozes from the creamyaki, while red bean taiyaki looks on, helpless.

The taiyaki was not as good as the ones I had in Singapore. It was slightly overcooked and hard on the outside, mushy on the inside, and not-so-fresh tasting. But the creamyaki had just come off the griddle. Its silky custard tasted of real vanilla and fresh egg. The cake was flaky on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and melt-in-your-mouth light.

kids-with-japanese-food

Tots aren't the only ones drooling at Kayaba.

After that, we joined the roving packs looking at the restaurants window displays. After making the rounds, I decided on a non-committal, omnivorous approach. Instead of the standard lunch set, I would get a bunch of small things.

Mini soba with shrimp tempura and scallions, $3.50.

Mini soba with shrimp tempura and scallions, $3.50.

Kristen and I both started off with a small bowl of soba noodles in fish broth with a piece of shrimp tempura from Kayaba. The tempura was good, but the noodles were only exciting for the first two bites.

Slimy, fermented soybeans. Friend or foe?

Slimy, fermented soybeans. Friend or foe?

Next, we shared a $2.00 bowl of natto from Santoka. In Singapore this was my favorite breakfast, with some rice, miso, scallions and nori. So I was prepared for the sliminess. But this natto was super slimy. Anyone but Kristen would have puked watching me eat it. With each bite, we left threads of natto slime hanging from our mouths, the bowl, the table, and anything else our chopsticks touched. The flavor was also different. It was a cross between chocolate and burned pintos. We each only took about 3 bites.

The view from our booth.

The view from our booth.

We took turns making our second run around the food court. I came back with a bowl of cold udon noodles topped with sesame paste, scallions and nori from Sanuki. An added potato vegetable korokke was just an excuse to eat my favorite condiment; tonkatsu sauce. The noodles were great–thick and chewy just the way I like, and satisfying to slurp up. Here is where I entered the splattering stage of my meal. For being cute and mini, it sure was messy.

Cold udon with sesame sauce was my favorite for the day, at $5.00.

Cold udon with sesame paste was my favorite for the day, at $5.00.

To finish, I got a vanilla soy sundae with black sesame paste and cornflakes. In Japan, the only time anyone eats cornflakes is with ice cream. With chocolate sauce, it is GENIUS. This one had stale cornflakes in it, but the sweet, richly flavored sesame paste more than made up for it.

This time, with vanilla soy ice cream and cornflakes.

Sesame paste, take II: This time, with vanilla soy ice cream and cornflakes.

We finished with complimentary genmaicha tea from Kayaba and went to explore the supermarket.

blemish-free and buxom at $6 per pound.

Dutch eggplants: buxom and blemish-free at $6 per pound.

Don't these mushrooms look like they could make you trip?

Don't these mushrooms look like they could make you trip?

$7.00 per bunch!

Look at these gorgeous Japanese leeks. They're $7.00 per bunch!

Kristen gets lost in pickled plum paradise.

Kristen gets lost in pickled plum paradise.

Handy gadget used to recycle cooking oil at home.

Handy gadget used to recycle cooking oil at home.

Kristen and I were having so much fun that we lost track of time…and each other.

As I cruised my way to the (much-anticipated) cookie aisle, I looked at my phone and noticed that it was 4:10pm. The last afternoon bus left at 4:15! I made a sharp left at the next aisle and picked up as much cheap sake as I could along the way. Then I dashed outside to ask the driver to wait. (He tapped his clock and said “4:15. I leave.” Guess he wasn’t into my idea.) Back at the checkout I called Kristen.

Me: “Hiwhereareyou?”

K: I’m in the meat section. The sliced meat section.

Sneaking peeks of the Manhattan skyline between sips of sake on the bus ride home.

Sneaking peeks of the Manhattan skyline between sips of sake on the bus ride home.

I felt bad bursting her/our bacchanalian bubble, but I feared what would happen to my waistline if we were marooned here for two more hours. So, while I paid, she ran outside to catch the bus. As soon as the cashier had slapped change into my palm, I was out the door. We climbed aboard and found two seats in the rear where we could sit back, crack open a can of sake, and enjoy the view.

Here is what I took home (see illustration above):

1. Hana Awaka sparkling sake (Valentine present for friends)- two for $11
2. Yaegaki dry sake- $7 per magnum!
3. Zarusoba dipping sauce (for cold noodles)- $5 and preservative-free
4. can of sake for the bus trip- $3, and 19% alcohol! Dayum.
5. Sahara Slim thermos (for my Valentine!)- $20
6. Uchibori brown rice vinegar- $6
7. Nama sake- $2.50, and perfect for a bag lunch picnic
8. cast iron takoyaki (pancake puff) mold- $24
9. organic beech mushrooms- $4
10. pickled burdock root- $2
11. chrysanthemum greens- $2 per bunch
12. black grapes- $2.75…seedless, but not that sweet
13. yuzu- $3 each! (#2 most expensive produce I’ve ever bought)
14. shiso leaves- for making sake mojitos- $1.50 per bunch
15. cute little Japanese cucumbers (good for pickling)- two for $2.50
16. Mainichi rose scented incense + ceramic holder (more Valentine presents)- $2
17. fruit patterned cupcake liners in various sizes- $2.50…adorable
18. forest-animal-themed multicolor toothpicks- $2.50…double adorable
19. mizuna- $3 per salad-ready bag. Eat your heart out Whole Foods.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
595 River Road
Edgewater, New Jersey

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4 responses to “Mitsuwa Madness: An Illustrated Adventure

  1. it sounds so fun and delicious!! And sounds like a new experience to me; I don’t know 2/3 of the japanese names you mentioned.
    xxx

  2. Wow…looks like your trip was worth of every penny you spent. Your pictures reminded me of food court in Taiwan’s (where I grew up) department store. You’d see similar style of cooking and ordering in every shopping mall. I’d have to visit Mitsuwa now after reading your entry. Thanks for the post!

  3. Ooooo! The picture came out nicely darling.

  4. Pingback: My Favorite Snacks: A Menupages Searchathon « A Cheapskate’s Guide to Sublime Snacking

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