Soba-ya Amongst the Love Hotels

fukudaya

Shibuya Fukudaya

Fukudaya is a traditional soba-ya on a narrow pedestrian street in the love hotel area on the Shibuya backstreets. The clientele is smart, ranging from fashionable youth to elderly warmly welcomed as regulars. The soba is light and the serving size is generous. Just minutes from the station on the 2nd floor above a 7-11. The older waitstaff and the traditional interior has the feeling of being in shitamachi, the older part of Tokyo.

Fukudaya 福田や

Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-25-15 渋谷区道玄坂2-25-15

Photo: Tempura seiro soba – I had vegetables substituted for the shrimp. 1,300 JPY.

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Tomiya Soba in Suwa, Nagano

While in Suwa in Nagano we happened upon this local soba-ya near Suwa station. The noren (curtain outside the shop) that said teuchi (handmade) soba caught our eye.

Nagano is famous for growing soba buckwheat so we try and eat as much soba as we can while in Nagano. During our visit in spring there is also a lot of sansai (wild mountain vegetables) in the mountains. The shop owner hand-harvested the slightly bitter sansai that he fries up as tempura, a great partner for the earthy soba noodles.

The shop is very casual. The walls are lined with autographed square cards from famous visitors. Service is friendly. Soba is also usually also a meal that is affordable, even if the noodles are made from scratch.

A kind follower of the blog posted this message on our Masumi brewery blogpost about Tomiya Soba:

“It’s a soba shop just on the south side of the train tracks. Hook a left out of Kami Suwa stn., walk to the end of the building, go left under the underpass and its on your left. Great place! Very friendly owner and tasty food–especially the horse bacon!”

Arigato, Jason-san!

Teuchi Soba Dokoro Tomiya 手打ちそば処とみや

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Kogandori 3-8-10 長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-8-10

English website:

http://sobatomiya.com/menu_english.html

Please confirm the hours of operation with the restaurant.

Asagaya Kakizawa 柿ざわ

Asagaya’s shōtengai is a covered street filled with many small shops for food, confectionaries, and essential items for daily life. It is a great neighborhood to visit if you are looking for an insight to how suburban Tokyoites shop.

Just off the main shopping street is a gem of a soba shop, Kakizawa, named after the owner. Kakizawa-san makes his soba at his shop in a small room at the front of the restaurant. Each day there is a limited number of a set lunch that is a good value and includes his hand-rolled buckwheat noodles.

On a recent visit the 1,200 JPY lunch was deep-fried eggplant in a broth, four types of tempura (including shrimp – I had baby sweet corn instead), salmon and onion rice, pickles, and soba. The 80 percent buckwheat soba has a nice texture. We make salmon rice at home, but have never included onion. This dish is a game-changer and I will be recreating this dish at home.

The waitress spoke some English. She said that not many non-Japanese are coming, but that the shop welcomes them. My only tip for you is that if there are people waiting, be sure to leave when you are done eating.

This is a lovely set lunch in a simple Japanese setting. Asagaya is only a few minutes from Shinjuku on the Chuo line. The shop is apparently busy on weekends, so go early.

Kakizawa interior

Kakizawa 柿ざわ

Suginami-ku, Asagaya-Minami1-47-8 杉並区阿佐ヶ谷南1-47-8

http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131905/13161398/

Toshikoshi Soba – End of Year Soba

IMG_6638

Our last meal of each year in Japan is soba, buckwheat noodles. We call this toshi koshi soba (年越し蕎麦), literally crossing into the new year soba. At first I didn’t get the ritual. Why such a simple meal, either for dinner, or if you are up at midnight, as a small snack late at night? Shouldn’t we be having a big celebration or something more over the top like caviar and Champagne?

But living in a Japanese household, I have seen how hectic and busy the end of December is, especially if you are making osechi ryori (お節料理), an elaborate bento that is to be eaten on January 1st. The simple meal of buckwheat noodles is a quiet respite from end of the year craziness.

The tradition dates back to the Edo era. It is reported that more than half of all Japanese will eat soba on December 31st. Soba shops around the city are busy and historic shops will have long queues.

In the past, soba was eaten to forget the hardships of the past year. Nowadays we eat it as a wish for longevity. There are no set ways for eating the soba, so each household will do their own version. Some popular styles include:

天ぷら tempura of seafood and vegetables

山菜 sansai mountain vegetables (ferns, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, etc.)

鴨 kamo duck

ざる zaru cold noodles with a dipping sauce

もり mori cold noodles topped with nori with a dipping sauce

Arigato, to our blog followers and clients from our Food Sake Tokyo tours.  We are grateful for your friendship. We wish you all the best for the new year.

Ogikubo Takahashi Soba 高はし

Takahashi is a about a ten-minute walk from Ogikubo station on the Chuo line, but worth the journey through the residential area west of Tokyo. I was meeting a girlfriend for lunch on a Tuesday. For whatever reason, many soba shops are closed on Tuesdays. But my friend had been to Takahashi before and we were in luck as it is open Tuesdays. On a side note, many hair salons are also closed on Tuesday. So frustrating…

The shop is just off of a main street and in a residential area. The menu is only in Japanese, so best to go with a Japanese friend, or have your hotel call ahead and arrange a menu.

Takahashi has a nice selection of sake as well. Dassai from Yamaguchi is on the list. This day we went with Tefu from Kokken in Fukushima. It is made with Miyama-Nishiki rice and is unpasteurized. The junmai sake is soft and food-friendly, a lovely partner to soba.

The shop brings out some deep-fried soba noodles with our sake. We started with goma-dōfu (sesame tofu), which was quite firm. The soba sashimi was cut into long strips and was a nice hint as to what was coming. The tempura included both shrimp and vegetables.

My friend was excited as fresh nori soba was on the menu. It was my first time to have it and it was lovely. A generous amount of soft nori that is reminiscent of the ocean is on top of the handmade soba. The nori soba was the seasonal soba. Can you imagine, nori having a season? It does, and it is just now ending its season, so get it while you can. Our table overlooked the soba processing room, but by lunchtime the master was done rolling and cutting the soba.

Highly recommend Takahashi, but be sure to go with a Japanese speaker or arrange your menu ahead of time. The menu is only in Japanese and don’t expect any English here. I also love that it is a bit of a walk from the station as the other customers there obviously made the trek for Takahashi-san’s soba.

Takahashi 高はし

Suginami-ku, Ogikubo 2-30-7 杉並区荻窪2-30-7

closed Wednesday and the third Tuesday of each month.

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

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba 神楽坂 九頭龍蕎麦

Kagurazaka Kyu Soba

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba

Just minutes from Iidabashi stations (both JR and the Metro) is a lovely spot for handmade soba, Kuzuryu Soba. The lunch set includes both soba and a donburi, rice bowl. The donburi options include curry rice, oyakodon (chicken and soft-scrambled eggs), and their recommendation – sōsu katsu, thin-slices of pork deep-fried and then covered with just the right amount of a sweet and salty sauce. It is such a bold and umami-rich dish that it almost outshines what we came here for, the soba.

Kagurazaka Kyu soba noodles

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba noodles

The buckwheat noodles are made from scratch in the store and if you are lucky you can watch the soba dough being sliced into thin noodles with the large, rectangular soba knife.

Kagurazaka Kyu Soba tableware

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba tableware

The gorgeous dishware is on display. Lovely lacquer and colorful tableware that is a reminder of how dining in Japanese is done first with the eyes.

Did I mention the price of the lunch? Only 890 JPY. Great bargain for handmade soba and donburi.

Kagurazaka Kuzuryu Soba 神楽坂 九頭龍蕎麦

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 3-3

新宿区神楽坂3-3

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