Everybody who goes to Japan seems to come home with a knife. A handcrafted knife of dragon-fire forged steel that costs thousands of dollars. We duly made our way to the kitchen-supply district of Kappabashi, and spent a bit of time at the Kamata knife shop which can be identified by a huge picture of a knife on its facade. Husband got himself a small knife to peel and cut his fruits, as it was made of ordinary steel it wasn't very expensive. I got myself something too, but it's not a knife. More of that in the next post.
When Shigeki read our itinerary and saw that we were going to Asakusa, he recommended that we eat at Namiki Yabu. This is a very well known soba place, and had been featured in the popular "Oishinbo" manga. We reached the place around 11 a.m., well before lunch hour when crowds gather. The address is 2-11-9, Kaminarimon, Tokyo.
There are two seating options- tatami on one side and regular table with chairs on the other side. Not feeling too agile, we sat at a table and were soon joined by a jovial Japanese male customer who striked up a conversation with us. He seemed like a regular customer, judging from his familiarity with the menu and the staff. With his few words of Mandarin and our even scantier Japanese, we managed to converse about soba and Singapore.
The kitchen can be seen from the dining area, each cook concentrating on their task, one of them did nothing but ladle soup continuously between pots and bowls. Two middle-aged ladies look after the dining area efficiently, taking orders, serving food and keeping the place ticking over nicely. During our meal, a young teenage boy in the tatami section accidentally knocked over his bowl of dipping sauce. Upon witnessing this, the two ladies sprang into action with mopping cloths, restoring order without any fuss. We were glad we did not sit in the tatami section.
I ordered tenzaru soba, which is soba served with tempura. Husband ordered the hot soba with spring onions which was lovely but not as good as my cold soba. The cold noodles are dipped into a special soupy sauce made of soy sauce and dashi. It is recommended to try to appreciate the buckwheat in the soba by not leaving the noodles in the soup too long. Honestly the subtlety was quite lost on me, but the noodles were quite springy and slightly nutty, delicious on their own and even better with the soup. The soup was intensely umami, the spring onions and wasabi added to the enjoyment with their bright flavours. I loved the tempura, the prawns were very sweet and the batter light and crisp. It was a quick and yummy meal, but the noodle portions were on the small side so we ordered more. Overall it was not cheap- 700 yen for a portion of plain noodles with sauce and garnish, 1700 for the tenzaru soba. To our surprise, our new neighbour said the very same things too, that it was delicious but expensive for the portion size. After we finished our noodles he showed us how to dilute the sauce with some clear soup so we could drink it all up.
The restaurant serves only soba, no other dishes. Along the way to Kappabashi, we came across a corner stall selling sweet potato snacks. Dessert! Sweet potatoes are in season and one of the best ways of eating it is in the candied form.
Sweet potato pie was buttery and still warm from the oven. It was very good too. So ends our morning out in Asakusa.