Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Serious soba at Kouga in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo



The other day, in Tokyo living a never-ending Travelife, we decided to have soba for lunch as it was a hot summer day.

Hot soba served in broth is the more famous type of soba outside of Japan.

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COLD SOBA ALL THE TIME

But in Japan, if you're a soba purist, you will probably favor the cold soba, which is the only kind of soba most Japanese eat in the summer.

However, purists will have cold soba all year round.

Cold soba enables you to really enjoy the noodles without the conflict of the broth. This also guarantees that the noodles will not become soft or mushy, being immersed in hot liquid after cooking.

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GOOD SOBA ON A WHIM AND A HUNCH

We were supposed to go to a soba place I knew in Shibuya, as I was on my way to Azabudai afterwards.

But suddenly, we didn't feel like going there, so we just drove around in the general direction of Azabudai, hoping to find a soba place along the way.

This is Tokyo, after all. There is probably a soba restaurant every four blocks or so, in the central part of the city.

EUREKA. A SOBA RESTAURANT



Just as suspected, we passed a small soba restaurant in a tiny street in Azabu that connected Aoyama to Azabudai as a shortcut. I went in ahead to get seats and to order while my friend parked the car.

It turned out to be a super serious soba place -- the kind that makes its own noodles, on a cost-ineffective ratio of 90% buckwheat and 10% flour.

You rarely get this kind of noodles in a typical soba restaurant, actually, as it's way too expensive and time-consuming to do.  A 90% buckwheat and 10% flour ratio for soba noodles is as serious as you can get...

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THREE CHEFS AND A MACHINE

This little place had three soba chefs and a soba flour grinding machine of its own that whirred in the background the entire time we were there.

A serious soba place, in other words.

SERIOUS SOBA ISN'T CHEAP

The price, as expected for a serious soba place that uses such little flour, was understandably high.

I ordered the plainest cold soba, topped only with a few strips of seaweed and grated radish, and this cost about 1500 yen for a large-size version.

And the large-size version was still small by regular standards.

Kouga serves all healthy food.
Those who don't like soba can have rice with grated yam and shredded seaweed.
This is actually way more delicious than it sounds.

THE PRICE IN OTHER PLACES

Just to put things in perspective, a plain soba at a regular soba restaurant costs around 500 yen.

If you go to a fastfood soba joint around a train station, you can even get plain soba for 400 or 300 yen.

So 1500 yen is pretty pricey for plain soba, although it's still relatively inexpensive compared to other kinds of Japanese food.

Soba with tomatoes and grilled scallops.

They also had all kinds of interesting flavors for their serious soba noodles, including soba with sea urchin, and soba with scallops and tomatoes.

However, I didn't try these as I like really plain serious noodles.

IT'S ALL THAT BUCKWHEAT

I'm going to try this next time.
Serious soba with Japanese lemons...

A 90% buckwheat soba is tough, for some reason, and this restaurant cooks their noodles very al dente as well.

As for taste, there really isn't much in this department as most flavor is provided by the dipping sauce with chopped onions and wasabi.

THE UPSIDE TO EXPENSIVE SOBA



So why do people eat this expensive soba in the first place? The place was full even with expensive soba in such small volumes.

Purists say that really good soba is such a pleasure to chew and experience. Plus it's really healthy. Other than these, it's just such a simple and unassuming dish.



I was certainly happy, thinking that I'd had 90% buckwheat soba noodles for lunch -- for just another healthy meal in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

I wonder if everyone is trying to have a good meal and their detox too, just like me...

KOUGA SOBA
Nishi Azabu 2-14-5
Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3797-6860



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