Kyoto Honke Owariya Soba 京都本家尾張屋

Kyoto Owariya Tempura Soba

Kyoto Owariya Vegetable Tempura Soba

Owariya is a Kyoto soba shop with a rich history, that can be traced back hundreds of years. I love the branch in Takashimaya as it is near many popular sites such as Nishiki Market and Gion. As the shop is in a department store, it is also kid-friendly.

The vegetable tempura soba (1620 JPY) included sansai, spring vegetables, and the dark red Kyoto carrot. We ordered a kake soba (756 JPY), soba with hot broth, and topped it with fish cakes.

Kyoto Owariya Kake Soba

Kyoto Owariya Kake Soba

Owariya is on the 7th floor of Takashimaya.

Owariya’s website includes photos and an English menu:

http://honke-owariya.co.jp/en/menu/foods/

If you like shōchū, you should definitely try the soba shochu served with soba-yū, the hot water that the soba is cooked in.

Honke Owariya at Kyoto Takashimaya

Kyoto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Teiammaenocho 52, Kyoto Takashimaya 7th Floor

京都市下京区貞安前之町52

Kyoto Takashimaya Access:

http://www.takashimaya.co.jp/kyoto/store_information/access.html

Nihonbashi Soba Yudetaro 日本橋ゆで太郎

Yudetaro Summer Soba

Yudetaro Summer Soba

For the longest time I avoided the tachigui soba shops and other casual dining soba restaurants. Tachigui are restaurants without chairs. Diners order a bowl of noodles and stand and slurp quickly. Tachigui can be near train stations or even on the platforms. When I first lived in Japan in the late 80s I wouldn’t even part the curtains to go in.

But times have changed and if I need a quick meal I seek out these spots. Especially early in the mornings before I take clients to Tsukiji Market. In Nihonbashi on the back streets behind the Mandarin Oriental is a chain called Yudetaro. Taro is a popular boy’s name and it can also be part of a boy’s name like Kentaro. To boil in Japanese is yuderu, so the name Yudetaro is a fun name. Yudetaro is found throughout Japan, so it is a good spot to look for while traveling.

Seasonality is important in Japanese cuisine, even at fast food restaurants. The summer menu at Yudetaro caught my eye with tempura eggplant. I included some sansai, mountain vegetables like nameko mushrooms and ferns and also topped the bowl off with tenkasu. If you don’t know tenkasu, you are missing out. Tenkasu are the bits of tempura that fall off of the items you are deep-frying. At some tempura restaurants bags of tenkasu are given to diners. I take this home for soba, udon, or even as a crouton substitute for salads.

Yudetaro Entrance

Yudetaro Entrance

Yudetaro has chairs and tables. There is a vending machine so diners need to be able to figure out which buttons to push. If you are in luck there will be some plastic food samples in the front window or a menu with some photos. If not, do Russian Roulette with your meal, which some of our clients tell us they have done. If the staff are not too busy, someone may help you figure out what to order. When in doubt, ask them for their osusume, recommendation.

The breakfast menu is a bargain, starting at around 330 JPY and not going over 400 JPY. Lunch is usually only 500 – 600 JPY. There are plenty of optional toppings if you are hungry. Amazing when you consider this is cheaper than McDonald’s and better for you.

Yudetaro ゆで太郎

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Kabuto-cho 14-10 中央区日本橋兜町14-10

yudetaro.jp/menu.html

Nagano Ohmachi No no Hana Soba 長野大町 手打ちそば 野の花

Nagano No no Hana soba

Nagano No no Hana soba

No no Hana in Ohmachi is a quiet soba shop where the master makes the noodles from scratch. It is far from the station so a taxi would be needed if you don’t have a car. Here is the kamo seiro, soba with a duck and leek dipping sauce.

Nagano No no Hana tempura

Nagano No no Hana tempura

The menu (Japanese only) was quite extensive and had many small dishes like homemade konnyaku with a mustard miso dressing, and vegetable tempura. I love this beautiful presentation of the basket with the tempura on the folded paper. I was hoping to have sansai tempura, mountain vegetables, but it was still quite cold in this part of Nagano and the sansai season had yet to begin. We were told we were a few days away. This speaks to the master, who has a friend who harvests the vegetables from the wild. While the supermarket was selling sansai, it probably came from another part of Japan.

Teuchi Soba No no Hana 手打ちそば 野の花

Nagano-ken, Ohmachi-shi, Taira 8000-501

長野県大町市平8000-501

0261-23-3684

closed Wednesday

Nearby:

Azumino Okina Soba

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Soba at Honmura An

Honmura An

Fresh Yuba on Chilled Soba

My first introduction to Honmura An was in New York City back about 15 years ago. A friend who loved soba wanted to share with me his favorite soba shop in the city. I was mesmerized with the stone grinder for crushing the dried buckwheat and impressed that the noodles were being made fresh daily. Sadly the Manhattan shop has since closed. Honmura An has since relocated to Tokyo, in Roppongi, just across the street and around a corner from the massive Tokyo Midtown complex. It is a short walk from Roppongi Hills or any of the Roppongi stations.

The interior is modern and sparsely decorated with simple washi, Japanese paper, that hangs from above. In the back of the restaurant there is a large window overlooking the soba prep room. Sadly when we arrived the rolling and cutting of the noodles were done for the first seating of lunch.

A few tables had solo diners, in their 20s, plugged into their own music or engrossed into their phones and the outer world. Most of the diners were area businessmen and ladies who lunch. The restaurant has a big menu of small bites that can be had before finishing off with soba. At lunchtime most people were not having the side dishes but all going straight for the buckwheat noodles. This day it was quite hot outside and as one would expect, most diners were ordering the cold noodles.

Honmura An

Ikura and Grated Daikon on Chilled Soba

I had asked if they had yakimiso, a classic dish of a sweet miso, often studded with buckwheat, that is grilled. I was disappointed when I was told it wasn’t served so we ordered two types of soba. One topped with a creamy, fresh yuba (soy milk skin) and the other a grated daikon and ikura (marinated salmon roe).

The noodles are fine and very delicate and this would be a great light lunch during the hot summers that Tokyo is known for.

Honmura An has a nice selection of saké and wine. I was so happy to see Urakasumi Junmaishu on the list that I didn’t even bother looking at the wine list. The saké is easy on the palate and a nice partner to the soba.

Honmura An

Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-14-18

03-5772-6657

English menu available.

Closed Monday and 1st & 3rd Tuesday

Marunouchi Raku Soba

Image

The guy sitting next to me said to his friend regarding the soba at Raku, “you’ll love it or hate it”. I had already started slurping away and I knew what he meant. It’s not your typical bowl of buckwheat noodles. These handmade noodles are thick cut and the densest soba I’ve ever had. The first bite I was caught off guard by the heartiness of the noodles. You wouldn’t take to bring your grandmother here. But I got into these chewy noodles as they are so different to the soba I am used to.

Early lunch diners are given the option of extra noodles at no charge. At first I said yes. Come on, who says “no” to free food, right? But then I looked one of the diner’s bowls and realized it might be too much for me to chew. I asked the cashier if the “oomori” was an extra large portion and maybe too much to finish and he said that it was. I asked for a regular bowl and even that I could not finish.

This is the tempura soba. Kabocha squash, eggplant, squid, and chikuwa tempura served on a bowl of noodles. Chikuwa is a fish cake that has been shaped into a log with a hole in it that has been grilled, not deep-fried, like many fish cakes. Chikuwa tempura is a classic topping for noodles in Japan, not only for soba but also for udon.

When placing your order you have to specify hot or cold. I almost always order cold noodles with a dipping sauce as it is a great way to enjoy the texture, aroma, and flavor of the buckwheat noodles. At Raku the dipping sauce and noodles are served in the same bowl. The waitress behind the counter generously tops each bowl of soba with two spoons of toasted sesame seeds and a nest of julienned nori. She has a rhythm down to topping each bowl and its done with speed in mind. On the counter are bowls of tenkasu, tempura bits that can also be used for topping the soba, highly recommended.

Raku has two long counters facing each other with staff in between the two counters. The frosted thermos is filled with cold soba tea that is slightly nutty and very refreshing. If you order the cold soba noodles a server will bring you a black thermos with sobayū, the hot water that has been boiling the soba noodles. Pour a bit of this into the bowl and you can drink the concentrated sauce.

My fellow diners were mostly salarymen eating a quick and affordable meal. No surprise as this is the Marunouchi business district. Most bowls are under 1,000 JPY ($10). The music was a surprisingly hip and upbeat salsa music. Not at all what one would expect to find at a soba shop, but this is not just any soba shop, what they are doing is definitely different. The shop was packed and I was there before the noon rush peak. I was impressed at the number of diners the restaurant squeezes into each counter. This would never pass in America, they would have taken at least two, if not three, seats away.

I would love to come back at night some time. The shop has a small selection of saké, umeshū, and shōchū and some small bites like lotus root stuffed with ground meat and deep-fried chicken cartilage. And, I would love to try the nikusoba, a generous serving of thin-sliced meat over the noodles. My only advice, avoid the peak lunch time, there is always a long line in front of this shop.

Suju Masayuki Raku 酢重正之 楽

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-5-1, Shin-Marunouchi Bldg. B1 千代田区丸の内1-5-1新丸ビルB1

Tokyo Soba Restaurants and Soba Menu

Here are some of my favorite Tokyo soba restaurants. This first appeared in Metropolis magazine.

Soba is in the midst of a renaissance. The humble buckwheat noodle has been receiving an increasing amount of attention from local TV shows and lifestyle magazines, and a further boost has come from the Slow Food movement, which emphasizes locally procured ingredients and terroir. Here are seven Tokyo restaurants that should be on the itinerary of any noodle fan.

Kanda Yabu Soba – UPDATE Kanda suffered extensive damage from a fire on 2/19/2013 and is temporarily closed.
Soba aficionados from around the country trek to this fifth-generation shop, which first opened in 1880 (above). Entering through the compact garden is like stepping back into old Tokyo. If you’re hungry for more than noodles, the diverse menu includes dishes like sashimi yuba (¥900), tempura (¥1,400) and grilled nori (¥600). There is also a full range of seiro soba (cold noodles on a tray, ¥700).

2-10 Kanda-Awajicho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3251-0287. Open daily 11:30am-8pm. Nearest stn: Ochanomizu.www.yabusoba.net

www.norenkai.net/english/shop/yabusoba/index.html (English)

Matsugen Soba
Contrast the vintage Kanda Yabu Soba with this modern shop in Ebisu. The communal tables are set in a dimly lit room—if you’re lucky, you can watch the noodles being rolled out and cut. Matsugen’s full menu includes an unusual bukkake soba that has a full dozen toppings (¥1,200), and an aromatic, toasty shirogoma-dare (sesame dipping sauce) that offers a nice contrast to the flavor of the noodles.

1-3-1 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3444-8666. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-3am, Sun & hols 11:30am-midnight. Nearest stn: Ebisu. www.pewters.co.jp

Nagasaka Sarashina
This ninth-generation soba shop has over 200 years of history behind it, and is famous for its pure, white sarashina noodles. Unlike the usual brown inaka soba, sarashina are made from buckwheat that’s polished to the core, resulting in a silky sheen. The basic mori soba (cold noodles) is served with two dipping sauces, amakuchi (sweet) and karakuchi (spicy), garnished with wasabi and julienned green onions (¥860). Diners can blend the sauces as they like.

1-8-7 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3585-1676. Open daily 11am-9pm. Nearest stn: Azabu-Juban, exit 5.www.nagasakasarasina.co.jp

Hanabusa
Off the beaten path in the shitamachi neighborhood of Monzen-Nakacho, this simple shop was recommended to me by a soba expert. While many restaurants on this list have a long history, the care and attention to the art of soba is particularly evident at Hanabusa. The shop offers three types of noodles: hearty inaka, classic Edo and the refined sarashina (all ¥700). For dessert, there’s soba ice cream (¥420) or dorayaki with sobako (soba flour), azuki and whipped cream (¥350).

2-2-15 Botan, Koto-ku. Tel: 03-3630-4337. Open Mon-Sat 11am-3:30pm and 5-11pm, closed Sun. Nearest stn: Monzen-Nakacho. http://homepage2.nifty.com/hanabusa

Narutomi Soba
Narutomi was brought to my attention by local food writers. Situated in the far reaches of Ginza, this little gem has white walls and dark wooden tables that set the stage for the handmade noodles. Start with the signature earthy gobo tempura (¥630), thin slices fried to a crisp garnished with salt, and the soba-gaki, a dense cake made from soba flour (¥1,050). The tsuyu dipping sauce is on the sweet side, a nice match for the rustic seiro noodles (¥840).

8-18-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-5565-0055. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm and 6-8:45pm, Sat 11:30am-3pm, closed Sun, hols & every third Sat. Nearest stn: Shimbashi or Higashi-Ginza. http://narutomi-soba.net

Toranomon Sunaba
This two-story wooden building commands a corner on a Toranomon back street where it feels like time has stopped. Inside, the brightly lit interior gives the restaurant a more modern feel—standard tables and chairs are on the first floor and tatami seating on the second. The menu is classic soba, with a dipping sauce that leans toward the sweet side without being cloying. The mori soba noodles are served with wasabi and julienned negi (¥700).

1-10-6 Toranomon, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3501-9661. Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-3pm, closed Sun & hols. Nearest stn: Toranomon, exit 1. http://tinyurl.com/sunaba

Tomoecho Sunaba
Operating in the same location for five generations, Tomoecho Sunaba dates back to the Edo period. Unlike many traditional soba shops, this restaurant is in a modern building with an interior that’s heavy on black granite. The osusume (recommended) dish is the tororo soba made from grated naga-imo, egg yolk and a medium-sweet tsuyu (¥1,470). The slippery, mousse-like sauce provides a nice contrast to the earthy noodles, and staff will serve a bowl of rice to finish any that’s left.

3-11-3 Toranomon, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3431-1220. Open Sun-Fri 11am-3pm and 5-10pm, closed Sun & hols. Nearest stn: Kamiyacho, exit 3. http://tinyurl.com/tomoecho

What’s on the menu?

Serious soba aficionados refer to themselves as “sobaliers”—that is, sommeliers specializing in the art of soba

Sobaliers recommend enjoying your noodles unadulterated, as in the dish known as mori soba: cold with a dipping sauce. Eating it this way one can enjoy the aroma and texture of the noodles

The tsuyu (dipping sauce) is made from a dashi combined with a concentrated broth called kaeshi—a blend of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin

One sobalier suggests that you should dip only the bottom third of the noodles in the tsuyu, then carefully slurp up the noodles

Look for signs that say “teuchi soba” (手打ちそば), or handmade soba.

Yakumi (toppings) include negi, wasabi, grated daikon, and a sprinkling of spicy shichimi togarashi.

After finishing your noodles, the staff will bring out soba yu, some of the hot water that the soba was cooked in. This liquid is poured into the remaining tsuyu dipping broth to make a savory, creamy hot soup to finish your meal.

Inaka soba “rustic” noodles, dark in color
Kake soba soba noodles topped with a hot broth
Kamo Namban soba­ duck, negi, and hot broth
Kawari soba featuring different flavors incorporated into the dough, such as yuzu, shiso and matcha
Kitsune soba sweet abura-age (deep-fried tofu) with a hot broth
Mori soba cold noodles with a dipping broth
Sansai soba with young mountain vegetables harvested in the spring
Sarashina most of the shell of the buckwheat is milled away, creating delicate beige noodles
Seiro soba (aka Zaru soba) cold soba noodles on a bamboo zaru (tray) with a dipping broth
Sobagaki a dense mochi-like cake made from soba flour
Sobagaki zenzai sobagaki cake served with red bean paste
Tanuki soba tenkasu (tempura bits) with a hot broth
Teuchi soba handmade noodles
Tororo soba served with grated yama-imo and often a raw quail egg

Kanda Matsuya Soba 神田まつや

Kanda Matsuya

Kanda Matsuya

Kanda Matsuya Mori Soba

Kanda Matsuya Mori Soba

Kanda Matsuya Tempura Soba

Kanda Matsuya Tempura Soba

Kanda Matsuya 神田まつや

Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Jimbocho 1-13 千代田区神田神保町1-13

Phone: 03-3251-1556

11:00 – 20:00 Monday – Friday

11:00 – 19:00 Saturday and holidays

closed Sundays

http://www.kanda-matsuya.jp/p01.htm

Kanda Matsuya opened their doors in 1884. The soba is made from 5 parts buckwheat flour to 1 part flour. The dipping sauce is “karame” or on the dry side (versus being sweet). A popular dish here is the goma soba which is served with a a sesame dipping sauce. Other recommended dishes are the mori soba, tempura soba (both pictured here), and kake soba (hot noodles).

Tokyo Cheap Eats – Kanda Yabu Soba

Yabu Soba

Yabu Soba

UPDATE: Kanda Yabu Soba caught on fire on February 19, 2013. 40 customers and employees were in the restaurant during dinner service when the fire was noticed. Everyone was safely evacuated. A spokesperson for Kanda Yabu Soba has said on NHK news the following day that the restaurant hopes to reopen in six months.

If you are to visit only one soba shop in Tokyo, then it should be Yabu Soba in Kanda. Soba aficionados from around the country trek to this fifth generation shop that opened in 1880. Enter through a compact garden and step back in time in this old building. The room is traditional Japanese with dark colored wood and paper-covered lights. Listen carefully and you can hear the girl behind the cash register sing out each order to the kitchen. This is the only place in Japan that I have seen this done. The elderly kimono clad waitresses efficiently manage the busy dining room. If you are hungry the diverse menu allows you to order a few dishes prior to closing the meal with noodles, like sashimi yuba, tempura, and grilled nori. There is also a full menu of soba, both hot and cold.

Seiro Soba

Seiro Soba

Kanda Yabu Soba かんだやぶそば

Chiyoda-ku, Awajicho 2-10 千代田区淡路町2-10

Tel. 03-3251-0287

11:30 – 19:30

some holidays in January and August

www.yabusoba.net (Japanese)

www.norenkai.net/english/shop/yabusoba/index.html (English)