Mitsuwa Marketplace is a chain of nine humongous Japanese shopping centers in three states, most in California. The New York City area has its own branch, right across the Hudson River in Edgewater, New Jersey. It first opened in the late 1980s, when it was known as Yaohan Plaza. The stock of imported groceries is impressive, but the best part is a food court with spectacular views of Morningside Heights and the Riverside Church across the river. Paying a visit to Mitsuwa by car, ferry, bike, or bus (directions below) makes for a great late-summer expedition.
The supermarket itself is worth exploring on its own. There are always clerks in perky uniforms passing out samples that may run from bouncy mochi to fancy canned sardines. One counter flaunts dozens of types of pickles in shades that range from purple to pink to bright yellow. Another displays sashimi-grade raw fish, while a third specializes in meats sliced thin for shabu-shabu and other do-it-yourself dinner delights. Then there are candy, gum, vegetable, shampoo, and sake departments, a bakery division, and shelves of American groceries, too.
But best of all is the food court that wraps around the supermarket, featuring 12 counters and two large seating areas. Here are the four counters we especially like:
Omusubi Gonbei offers freshly-made rice balls. In addition to the usual, there’s a Hawaiian-style example topped with slices of Spam and omelet cinched with a strip of nori. Two could be your breakfast. Perhaps more popular among grazing shoppers is the counter’s take on Japanese fried chicken. Cheap and delicious, it has been marinated in rice wine and soy sauce. The bakery is right next door, but save the sweets for the end of your meal.
On the other side of the big picture windows find Santouka, a formidable ramen chain originating in Hokkaido. As it says on the website, "It was in the 1980s that Santouka took its first steps toward dominating the world and began to draw attention with its shio ramen served with a small, pickled plum in a unique round bowl." Their celebrated shio ramen can be ordered in deconstructed form, with the pork-bone broth and wavy noodles in one bowl, and such drop-ins as braised pork belly, chopped scallions, and cloud-ear ‘shrooms neatly arrayed on the side. If the weather is warm, go for the summer cold ramen which also comes unmixed, with a light sweet broth.
Edomae Chirashi Sushi specializes in scraps of high-quality fish laid across sushi rice in bargain boxed assortments. It ain’t pretty, but it’s cheap and tastes great. And this is one of the only eating establishments in the tri-state area concentrating purely on chirashi — and they don’t stint on the quantity of tuna or uni. There’s no better end to a meal than an assortment of soft-serve ice creams in an edible bowl made of waffled cone material at Matcha Love. The three flavors: black sesame, vanilla, and matcha (high quality powdered green tea).
And there are plenty of other stalls to explore, including one that specializes in Chinese food for Japanese tastes and another that slings donburi — crumbled and fried meats and seafood deposited on a rice bowl, the perfect all-in-one lunch. After dining at the Mitsuwa food court, head outside at the rear of the complex for a walk along Jersey’s Hudson River shoreline. The path is nearly continuous between there and the Port Imperial ferry terminal four miles south, if you’re up for a serious hike.
Mitsuwa Marketplace is easily accessible by bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (NJ Transit #158, Gate 202 Door 1, $4.25 one way). Or you can drive (there’s a large parking lot), ride your bike across the George Washington Bridge, or take your bike on the NY Waterway ferry from the 39th Street terminal to Port Imperial on the Jersey side, and ride north from there. The ferry runs frequently seven days per week.
Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Rd, Edgewater, NJ, (201) 941-9113