Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yabu Soba, Awajicho

After the trip to Nakano, Big Bird and I planned to get together again. Due to his irregular schedule and extravagant expat lifestyle, it ended up being lunch today. Due to my silly work schedule, it ended up being postponed by an hour. Due to my frustration, and his flexibility, it ended up being held at two venues (not simultaneously), giving us a rare opportunity to taste different types of soba side-by-side (sort of) while hitting the two famous places in the north of Kanda. With pictures!

We went to Yabu first. In retrospect, this was a mistake, because Yabu is the better of the two and I wish we had had a more complete meal there, but you don't know until you try. Besides, I saw Matsuya recommended in the Japan Times, and we all know what a great source of information that is. In short, the noodles are much better at Yabu, at least to my tastes. Hopefully that's what counts, right?

While being tucked into a street north of Awajicho station that's mostly office buildings, Yabu has a little of that 'ol preserved compound thing going on. 1924, Big Bird says, and it looks it. These guys have been coming every day since the place opened!

Should you arrive at the wrong time, you'll need to wait (as we did) in the covered waiting area, but it turned out that all of the people ahead of us were part of a group of 7, and we were seated posthaste once they were in. Still, as far as places to wait, their courtyard and sheltered bench area are among the better ones.  I bet the line is worse at other times; this was roughly 1 PM on a weekday.

Inside is a bit utilitarian, pleasantly dark and cool (which would be better in summer but was more or less neutral today). I was particularly struck by the lamps, which I swear were iron frames covered with paper.

There are certainly classes of soba restaurant. Perhaps if I were a consultant I would attempt to draw a little 2-by-2 showing 'age' on one axis and 'style' on another. You may have been somewhere like Honmura An in Roppongi (about which Big Bird told me a good story that will have to wait for another day since I just can't muster up the energy to type all those words.), and that would be an outlier on the new-and-stylish quadrant. Sunaba, on the other hand, would be a good example of old but stylish (that reminds me, my boss was saying a few weeks ago 'Yeah, times are really changing. Used to be, after the big personnel announcements, we'd all just leave after lunch and go to drink at Sunaba.' If you know where I work, the fact that our executives would pick it as a dining destination should give you an idea about the perceived quality level.). Torajiro, new but rustic or utilitarian or something. I need more axes, and you don't know these places anyway!

We quickly picked up on the one real oddity which is that the waitresses sing. In harmony. I can't quite explain it, but when they take orders and repeat them to the kitchen, other people pick up on the orders in different pitches. It's uncanny, but they're definitely doing it. They also stand more or less in front of this signage/serving area, in a row, until something gets their attention on the floor, but I couldn't quite get a picture of them. Hence the artistically crooked and blurry shot here.

With all this blather, you're no doubt wondering if there was food. While perusing the menu I was struck by the idea that we should just eat a plate of noodles and try Matsuya (2 blocks away). That's what we did. Thus, here's a strainer with a seiro of soba (Y700), plus the braided plastic noodle attached to my camera, swinging into frame.

And here's my favorite shot at soba, the up-close-and-dirty. These were really good noodles, with a strong flavor and good bite. We weren't sure what the green tinge was; it didn't say anything on the menu about tea in them, etc.  I'd like to think the 'utilitarian' theme played out in the noodles, which were a bit more rustic in color and texture than what I remember from Sunaba.

Should this inspire you to go, you may like to know that they have a complete English menu and are very accommodating of tourists, who they evidently see quite often.  There are lots of other bits and bobs on the menu (soba sushi, vegetables, tempura, duck, all the things you expect), so you could easily make a night out of it.

And party ooooooonnnn!

1 comment:

  1. Big difference is soba between the two places. This soba looks gorgeous. Making me hungry just looking at it.