Mitsuwa Marketplace is a very large Japanese grocery, with five locations across the USA, and so well stocked that my mother-in-law’s friends in New York City know of the place. This grocery is pretty close to where Cupertino and San Jose meet, so much so that when I asked where it was, my brother-in-law said Cupertino. We stopped, in part because my brother-in-law was lusting to shop there, in part to just check the place out.

There are two restaurants, one bakery and a small shop that sells Japanese pickles inside the store. Compared to the setup of a Korean superstore, the produce and meat sections are relatively small. What the meat section does focus on is highly graded beef. The overwhelming majority of the meat offered is prime or Wagyu beef ( Wagyu most often in the form of American Kobe). The lowest grade I could find offered was “certified Angus“, which minimally is better choice or prime. A considerable portion of the meat was already cut for use as shabu-shabu.

Certified Angus or better, Mitsuwa largely sells very high grade beef.

The restaurants were Ramen shops. As is almost universal in the Bay area, the prices were much cheaper than anything Japanese in Atlanta and they all had display cases to advertise their food. From reading various newspaper articles posted in Mitsuwa bulletin boards, the food was pretty well received in the area.

They had alcohols the like of which I had never seen before, some distilled from fermented buckwheat, others from other grains. A couple minutes in Mitsuwa will dispell any notion that Japanese alcohols begin with beer and end with sake.  There are prepared foods, whole bento for those on the go and the bakery, nice as it was, was stripped during the Thanksgiving holidays.

In terms of size, as large as this store was, it could have fit entirely in the produce section of one of the larger Korean marts in Atlanta. The use of space in this store is very efficient, not wasted. The majority of space is reserved for items not requiring refrigeration.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
675 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA 95129-2052
(408) 255-6699

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Don’t let the outside of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market fool you. I have avoided this place for the longest time because it’s a little tricky to get into and the parking lot, on weekends, always looks like a crazy mess. The building is older and I was just shy of the place. But a coworker of mine, Veronica, told me she does all her meat shopping there, and that it was inexpensive. I had nothing to lose, so I stopped by there today.

It was surprisingly neat and clean. The classic farmer’s market in town is a little cramped, with produce fighting for space with other produce, with boxes stacked here and there. Not here. Except for the older floors, the cleanliness approached a suburban supermarket. Produce was cheap and cleanly labeled. Aisles were not cramped, they were spacious and wide.

In the produce section, I bought some garlic, some beautiful red cherry peppers (triangular shaped though), a couple peppers called a long hot pepper, some green onions, and some tomatillos, so perhaps we can try Innocent Primate’s salsa verde sometime.

Tomatillos, cheery peppers, long hot peppers and other produce from Buford Highway.

Tomatillos, cherry peppers, long hot peppers and other produce from Buford Highway.

In the back there was a bakery (with freshly wrapped stacks of tortillas) and a butcher shop. Prices were lower than the equivalent supermarket items. There were a lot more organ meats than you would find in a typical store – beef hearts and pork hearts, pigs feet and other organ meats. There were fish swimming in tanks, ready to be sold (or filleted). Fish already packaged was clearly labeled with the place it came from. But I wasn’t here for fish, for the most part. I was looking at legumes and grains.

This is an international market, and in this instance, the origin of the groceries was divided on an aisle by aisle basis and clearly labeled. I’ll note that you can get red lentils in the Hispanic aisle, along with various sizes of green lentils. In the American aisle, there were at least four different brands of beans. And unlike Publix, the N. K. Hurst products here (we have spoken of N. K. Hurst before) are competitively priced with all the other vendors.

Most interesting to me was the Indian foods aisle. This is the closest place I’ve found for bulk Indian dals and bulk Indian spices (most supplied by a Houston company, Spicy World of USA, Inc). In this section they have standard green lentils, brown lentils (masoor dal whole), and black lentils (urad or urid dals). Others dals include moong dals (mung bean based), chana dals (chick peas), kala chana (black chickpeas), and mahdi toor dals. They have garam masala in bulk, along with a variety of other spices. They have a version of sambar powder, which if I recall correctly was prized back in my school days for cooking vegetables.

Buford Highway Farmer's Market on Urbanspoon

After shopping here, I headed north up the street to a placed called the White Windmill Bakery and Cafe. I had been wanting to stop there because the place just looks fantastic from the outside. So I managed to pull over this time and took a peek inside. It’s a Korean bakery, by Koreans and largely for Koreans.  The store has a counter with sweets, rows of breads, and several tables to sit. In terms of foods, I saw fancy coffee and tea,  quality chocolates, exquisite tarts (but around $5.00 each), beautiful small cakes. My wife likes bean curd sweets, so I found a red bean curd bun for my wife and then got a cream bun for my daughter. I’ll have to tell you later what they thought of them.

White Windmill Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

I was working the day of my wife’s birthday and I had no idea how long I would be working. But when we finished  and finished early, I really didn’t want to come home empty handed. I had left my wife a card and flowers and a gift, but still, it’s a birthday. So once I found some candies I went down Scenic Highway (124) just past 78 and turned left soon after.

My wife’s favorite cake is carrot cake and I didn’t see any. I had no time to call and ask, this was all last minute. I looked at the fudge bars and the caramel bars and thought they were delectable, so I got a few of those. When I mentioned I didn’t see any carrot cake, the lady behind the counter said, “I think I have one in the back.” She looked and yes, there was one. She offered to ice “Happy Birthday” in blue for me, at no extra change. The cake, if I recall right, cost about $20.00.

My wife was a bit shocked and also quite pleased. If I had told her I was going to buy a cake from Bill Rhodes Bakery, she would have told me no and suggested (strongly) that I go to Publix. But I had worked the day of her birthday and yes, I was trying to make it up to her. I’m glad she understood.

The cake, once we cut into it, was light, carroty, and smelled and tasted of spices that aren’t found in the supermarket carrot cakes. Yep. Worth every penny.

Bill Rhodes Bakery on Urbanspoon

It’s on the corner of Oak Road and 124, next to the Pizza Hut Express. It’s easy to miss the Golden Krust bakery, and the name doesn’t give you much of a hint of what is inside. But once inside, you can smell the food and spices and it leaves me, at least, hungry.

There isn’t much space in this small restaurant and bakery and I’ve never really eaten on site. I wouldn’t recommend it; it gets too crowded, to be honest. This is a take out place. You can get chicken, jerked chicken and curried chicken, but the star of the menu really are their golden fried patties. The patty is a pastry shaped like an empanada, and filled with hot meat. They can be had for less than 2.00 each and depending on the size of your appetite, 1 or 2 is usually enough.

They also have some other exotic treats.  Golden Krusts’ peas and rice are a bit like the red beans and rice you find in Louisiana. Fried plantains are part of their menu, and that alone would have me going there. But my family has grown fond of the jerked chicken patties, so it’s usually a run to Golden Krust, pick up six patties and a fried plantain side, and then on with the rest of the day’s business.

Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery on Urbanspoon