Dear Food Diary:
While looking for my Panda Donuts, I discovered Ecute at the JR Ueno Station. Bright lights, spotless displays and the friendly hellos welcomed me along with tons and tons of eats! Sweet & savory goodies.*big smile*.
Found a great rice bento spot, elaborate Japanese whole grape jelly and even picked some side dishes for dinner…
It reminded me of Japan Week and how crazy New Yorkers were about the bentos, only here, it’s just an everyday affair. Since it was raining outside (again), I decided to buy a bento lunch plus dessert, stand around the big flower pot down the hall and eat my lunch standing, like a local commuter. (Monkey see, monkey do).
I once heard Morimoto say, the Japanese think of rice/noodle as the main dish and the rest as side dishes, where we in the U.S, see it the other way around. Which is why they are so serious about their rice here. This shop caught my eyes with their steaming hot variety of rice on a steam table behind the counter. Looked so fresh and it smelled really good.
A rainbow of rice, cooked with all sorts of different ingredients, beans, tiny little fish, fish eggs, ginkgo nuts, plum, etc. Placed in bentos, rolled in tube like shapes and sold by weight.
I got the bento with soy flavored rice with bits and pieces of mushrooms. Topped with chicken, eggplant, bamboo, peppers, shishito and a sprinkle of sesame and seaweed. With a side of pickles. At about $7.
There’s no doubt, the rice is fantastic. It’s plump, chewy and soft at the same time. It almost resembles sticky rice. There’s a nice bite to it and very flavorful. Absorbing all the liquid from the chicken and veggies. I usually don’t eat a lot of rice, but I finished every last grain.
The Japanese practice the art of eating with our eyes first to perfection. Their packaging is always exquisite, down to every little detail.
These grapes caught my attention. A whole grape, seeds and all. I wish I could read what it said!
There’s a thin sugar coating and a jelly/gummy outer layer. It does look like a precious jewel.
An obscenely juicy burst of the most concentrated grape flavors. Think the best concord grape you’ve ever had and then magnify that by 100. Brighter, like a mix between the sweet moscato grape with that a fresh fruty note and concord grapes.There’s a perfect balance of sweetness and a faint tartness. A bit of chewiness from the outter layer and that tender natural juicy and flesh. Amazing. Seriously, this is like a grape on steroids. I’ve never had anything like it. Well, it had to be, it was about $3 a piece! But really worth it.
I grew up eating these “pi pa” aka loquats. They look a bit like an apricot, but totally different in flavor. It has a delicate flesh, plump and juicy. Sweet with a bit of acidity.
White peaches are in season right now, they are really fantastic here, so I didn’t feel like paying close to $10 for a peach jelly, but I’ve heard these are really extraordinary, so maybe one of these days I’ll give it a try.
I walked around before and after my lunch, taking photos of each and every Panda dessert I found, walked around the few shops for shopping and even had a panda iced hot chocolate, before going back home. Once again, the rain put a damper on my plans to walk around Ueno Park.
This is a great stop if you are ever in transit or just around Ueno Park area, would be great to pick some food and have a picnic at the park.
JR Ueno Station, 7-1-1 Ueno