Shoku-Ishinho is an impressive, weighty name for a restaurant, especially one that at first glance looks little more than a simple, modern Ginza teishoku (set meal) lunch counter. Translating literally as “Food Healing,” it is more than just a moniker: It’s a manifesto, a declaration of intent.
It is also a way of telling you before you even arrive that Shoku-Ishinho serves yakuzen cuisine, a traditional approach to cooking that incorporates elements of kanpō, the ancient Chinese system of herbal medicine. It also draws on the principles of yin yang and the Theory of Five Elements, which are explained (although only in Japanese) on a slip of paper you receive along with the menu.
That said, the aesthetic of the dining room is entirely contemporary, from the casual counter seating and light-wood interior to the style in which the food is presented. Few of those coming here to eat will be concerned with the arcane philosophy of the past. What is likely to be of uppermost importance is that the food is light, presented with care and — most pertinent in the current moment — intended to promote health, develop strength and prime the immune system.
At lunchtime, two different menus are offered, one based around genmai-gayu (brown rice porridge), the other featuring a Chinese style of hot pot dubbed yakuzen dashi. Each offers a number of choices, according to the ingredients and desired effect on your metabolism. These range from simple plant-based dishes to relax and clear your mind — though none are listed as vegetarian — to the more energy-boosting properties of chicken and suppon turtle.
After all the holiday overindulgences, the spicy chicken genmai-gayu “detox lunch” (¥1,300) is understandably a popular option. Served in a simple ceramic nabe hot pot, the thick rice porridge is warming, nourishing, substantial and neither too spicy nor too filling.
Besides the aforementioned (lightly) spiced chicken, the medicinal elements in the porridge include black mushrooms, lotus seed, hatomugi (coix seed) and jujubes, plus chili, ginger, sanshō pepper and other spices to add that extra tingle on the tongue. And on the side there will be lightly cooked vegetables, miso soup and pickles.
You will also find a small cruet of chili-miso, to impart a modest increment of heat and savor. This condiment is produced by the retail shop that shares part of the restaurant space here. It’s a branch of Sano Miso, a venerable specialist store in the Kameido district of Koto Ward, in eastern Tokyo — which is also home to Shoku-Ishinho’s parent restaurant, the 100-year-plus Masumoto.
For the duration of the current state of emergency, Shoku-Ishinho will close at 8 p.m., and customers will have to arrive no later than 6 p.m. However, that still gives enough time to start exploring some yakuzen cocktails or the herbal liqueurs that you see arrayed in jars behind the counter. Just because it’s healthy, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.
Daiwa Roynet Hotel 1F, Ginza 1-13-15, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061; 03-5579-9935; bit.ly/ginza-shokuishinho; open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (L.O.), 5-7:30 p.m. (L.O.); closed Wed.; lunch from ¥1,200, dinner set menu from ¥3,600; bento lunchbox takeout available from 10 a.m.; nearest station Ginza-Itchome; nonsmoking; major cards accepted; Japanese menu; little English spoken
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