Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hiyoshiya, Morishita (日吉屋)

This place has always been on my radar to some extent, and after 5 years I finally made it in. Great experience, decent food.

Hiyoshiya looks like it's been doing the same thing forever. In fact it's since Showa 5 (1931), although you could easily be mistaken and think it was Taisho 5. Somehow I had always missed the fact that it's a soba specialist - I know, I know, despite the fact that it says 'Soba' big as life on the curtain, and despite the dead-giveaway presence of a soba mill in the window. Oopsie.

Anyway, the paper down the front advertises their special 'Fukagawa don'. I won't launch into an extended discourse on Fukagawa, but suffice to say that's the general area where I live and Hiyoshiya is located, and in the past people used to harvest little clams from the canals that run all through the area, which is why the local-specialty 'Fukagawa bowl' features lots of little clamz. The canals are concrete and gross now, so I hope the clams aren't local any more. Although the clams here weren't very good, so maybe...

This was quite possibly the height of sophistication in Showa 5. I love the high ceilings and stacks of lacquered trays and cheerful clutter, but even more I love the mix of old elements with 'modern' Showa touches like the wiry light fixtures and formica tables. The small, enclosed room straight ahead is where they grind the soba - the posters on the windows advertise not only what sake they recommend you drink, but also where they got the grain that's currently being ground for noodling (Nagano, surprise surprise).

And I really love the raised seating area (actually at least 3 feet off the floor) with a tokunoma and various oddities like a collection of good-luck waving cats and a Mickey Mouse figure.

Here's the damage, then - a small bowl of their house-made country-style soba, bowl of rice, and big hot iron pot full of Fukagawa don fixins. The idea is to put some rice in the bowl and then make your own donburi by ladling the mix on top. I liked the soba, which was indeed country-style in its thickness and brown-ness, if a little soft. The soup seemed to be more about health than any other attribute; I found that the clams tasted too strongly of liver for my tastes.  Should you be smarter than me and just get soba (or tempura, or whatnot), you'll find that the big plates of noodles come with grate-your-own salt and wasabi, which is a cool touch.

Still, worth going once if only for the atmosphere.

In other news, I just noticed this 2009's Best Ramen special feature on Tabelog. Do you think it's significant that #1, 3 and 16 are all within walking distance of my apartment? For the record, I pledge allegiance to #3, much better than #1, and have been thinking of going to #16. And I also recognize that Tabelog doesn't know from ramen.

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