Japanese food is not all about expensive sushi and kaiseki restaurants. One of the greatest pleasure in Japan is to have soba, tempura or unagi. I find that out of those, soba restaurants have remained the least expensive. There are 10,000 soba restaurants in Japan according to Tabelog. The best soba restaurants are dispersed throughout Japan and are not concentrated in Tokyo.
Tamawarai is a memorable restaurant for its quality, good taste and humility. I have a lot of respect for this restaurant. The tableware is very tasteful and the dishes are delicious. This is the where I fell in love with natto. Definitely try the cold soba with natto. The meal is calm and contemplative. It is one of my favorite restaurant in Tokyo for lunch. Expect to pay around 3,000円 for soba with 1 side dish, which is good value for lunch. Although you can walk-in without a reservation, they are almost always full so I highly suggest making a reservation.
Kyourakutei is a soba restaurant in Tokyo with a different atmosphere. The restaurant has more energy. You can go there and relax, be yourself, order what you want from the chef making the tempura in front of you. They have two kinds of cold soba (darker and lighter), make sure to order both. This is the fun of soba, it is not pretentious. There are many more great soba restaurants, but if you are unsure where to go, I think you will enjoy these two.
Tamawarai ranks third in all of Japan among restaurants that only make soba. Despite the Michelin star and the stellar reputation, there is no blog or website anywhere on the internet that mentions the chef’s name, which speaks to the modesty of the restaurant, and in my opinion, that people underestimate soba.
I sought to understand more about it and I went to a soba-making class. If you don’t have the opportunity to do it yourself, you can watch it on video. It was a great experience that I highly recommend. Perhaps the reason why soba is not hyped like unagi or tempura is that the differences between extraordinary soba and good soba is subtle and difficult to explain. However, if you start to learn more, you will see the magic.
The name of the chef at Tamawarai is Urukawa Masahiro.
The only true voyage of discovery would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.
Matsukawa (revisited), Learning Japanese, Advanced Japanese Manners, Hakone, home cooking.
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