One of the best things about travelling is serendipitously finding an undiscovered local restaurant. While, T and I were wandering around the alleys of Takayama in the Gifu prefecture we stumbled across an unassuming chuka soba shop. After an hour of Googling, I finally found out the shop’s name – Menya Shirakawa (麺屋しらかわ).
Slide the wooden door and you’ll be greeted with a narrow walls adorned with signatures from what I presume are Japanese celebrities. As this place is aimed at locals, there are no english menus and the owner/staff have limited English. But don’t fret because there’s only one item on the menu. Yeap, just one.
At Menya Shirakawa, that one item is their trademark Chuka Soba. The only variation you can pick is the size, a regular costs ¥700 while the large is ¥900. The only additional topping on offer is a soft boiled egg (味付け玉子) which comes at a bargain price of ¥100.
T and I were giving seats at the counter and were able to witness the owner at work as he furiously drained the noodles while the other chef grilled thin slices of pork over hot coals.
The final product is a work of culinary art. The noodles are chewy and thin, the soup is rich and the flame licked pork slices melt in your mouth. If you ever visit Takayama, do yourself a favour and find this secret local joint and order a large bowl of chuka soba.
Good: Flame grilled pork slices, chewy noodles, hearty stock
Perfect for: Lunch, dinner, supper
This post was based on an independently paid visit.
TripAdvisor page (English)
Menya Shirakawa (Japanese)
On our 4th, T&I had to leave really early in the morning. Unfortunately, this left us with very limited choices for breakfast, as most restaurants don’t open early.
Best soba in the world?
Kobayashi Soba has been around for over 100 years and is currently ranked as the number one restaurant in Matsumoto on TripAdvisor. Its soba is so famous that even the imperial family have tried it. You could say Kobayashi Soba sells the best soba in Japan.
T & I were the first customers as we arrived a tad too early. Before we ordered, the owner brought some complimentary buckwheat tea to our table. The tea had a delicate flavour with a sweet aroma.
Once you’ve ordered, you’ll be given a small plate with fresh wasabi, spring onion, radish and a grater. Grate the fresh wasabi and add it to your dipping sauce.
The real star of my meal was the wasabi. Most of the wasabi we eat in Australia is actually a mix of horseradish and green food colouring, which is why it tastes so strong and often ends with people in tears if they are not careful.
REAL wasabi is sweet and fragrant. Did I mention Matsumoto has the world’s largest wasabi farm? That’s right I was about to have the best soba and the best wasabi in the world.
My tempura soba set was priced at ¥1,728 and it was worth every cent! The noodles, which are traditionally made by the owner, have an incredible texture to them. The crispy tempura provides a nice contrast to the soba.
To finish the meal, the owner will bring a red pot to your table. The pot is filled with soba-yu, which is the hot water that the soba was cooked in. Add the soba-yu to the remaining dipping sauce and you have a flavourful soup to wash down your meal!
For more information about Kobayashi Soba head to the TripAdvisor listing.
We started our last day in Tokyo with another convenience store breakfast, I went with my usual canned coffee and sandwich from 7-11. The plan for today was to visit the Tokyo National Museum, Edo-Tokyo Museum and the giant Gundam in Odaiba.
If you’ve been following my Japan trip blog posts, you would know that I had an incredible sushi experience at Tsukiji Fish Markets
on my first day. For my last dinner in Tokyo, I decided to go in the opposite direction. We’re talking about cheap, fast sushi trains.
There’s several different sushi train franchises but I chose Genki Sushi because of their unique train system.
There are 3 separate train tracks at Genki Sushi, which means your sushi arrives right in front of you. The system uses a touch screen, once you’ve ordered the sushi is placed on a train which hurtles towards your seat and stops right in front of it. You then take your plate and hit a button (with an angry face) to send the train back to the kitchen!
The cheapest yellow plate starts at ¥129, with more expensive dishes priced at ¥205 and ¥259.
After I filled my free green tea and had a quick swipe through the menu, it was game time.
My first order of the night was tuna. I didn’t expect good quality to be honest. For the low price point of ¥129, it was actually decent!
The squid nigiri was fresh and the shio leaf was a nice touch.
Mentaiko sushi was overflowing with mentaiko! If you’ve never heard of mentaiko, it’s spicy cod roe. You’ll find it a number Japanese food such as rice balls and pasta.
The Bonito Sushi was interesting as it was the first time I had tried bonito. It’s an oily fish that is similar to tuna.
I ended up eating 12 plates which meant by total bill was only ¥1548! What a bargain, when most sushi train restaurants in Australia charge around $3.
If you plan on visiting a cheap, no frills sushi train restaurant in Tokyo, I’d recommend Genki Sushi.
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Day 2 started with a can of hot coffee and a salmon onigiri from Family Mart! After our quick breakfast, T and I headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Why you might be wondering? Because it has some spectacular views that are free to visitors! The 243 meter tall building has 2 observatories that offer a panoramic view of Tokyo.
Out of all the restaurants I visited in Japan, Rokurinsha had the longest line. Why? Because it was the most famous tsukemen store. Tsukemen is a type of ramen that serves the noodles separately from the broth. The ramen is dipped into the soup and then eaten.
The hour long wait was making me starving, so I decided to order the the large serving for ¥100 more. Rokurinsha uses the typical ticket vending machine, so pop in your Yen and click the button with the ramen you want.
|Large Tsukemen ¥1,050
From my counter seat, I can see the chef masterfully heating the stock and draining the ramen noodles. While I watched the waitress deliver the ramen to other customers, I realised just how big the normal size serving was. When my large was placed in front of me, I was in shock.
The soup was served in an average sized bowl but the noodles was contained in a massive white bowl the size of my head. I knew finishing this ramen would be a challenge.
The soup was full of umami, perfect for dipping the chewy and fresh ramen noodles into.
About devouring half of the noodles, I hit the food wall. For those of you unfamiliar with the food wall, you should watch an episode of Man vs Food.
After a quick breather, I ploughed through the remaining noodles by using a continuous dipping and sipping routine.
Will I Return?
Yes. I’m now a convert to tsukemen, there’s such a satisfying feeling from dipping and sipping noodles!
What is your favourite type of ramen? Let me know in the comments below!
Although crepes originated in France, it’s a popular dessert in Japan, especially in Harajuku. In fact there’s 2 famous crepe stores that face each other in the middle of busy Takeshita Street. One is Angels Heart and the other is Marion Crepes, T & I lined up at the later.
Marion Crepes has a big shelf filled with plastic models of the most popular crepes, perfect for tourists with like myself! During our wait in the line, my eyes darted around the display until I decided to stick to the OG No.1 Crepe. What’s in the No.1 Crepe? Custard, whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. That’s right basically cream in 3 different forms!
Ordering is very simple and easy: say the number of your crepe, pay, take your receipt and wait for your order to be called.
|No. 1 Crepe ¥470
The first thing I noticed when I received my crepe was the size. This thing is massive! Luckily you are provided with a spoon to help you tackle the toppings that are balanced precariously. The actual crepe is cooked just right. Toppings somehow work harmoniously and is surprisingly not too sweet.
Will I Return?
Yes! If I visit Harajuku again, I’ll wait in line and get myself a crepe.
Have you tried Japanese crepes? Let me know in the comments below!
Funabashiya Honten is a famous tempura restaurant in Tokyo that has been around for over 100 years. That’s right 100 years. T had come across the restaurant while researching for things to eat. Getting to Funabashiya Honten is not easy but luckily we had directions from a food blog called Picrumb!
As with any popular restaurant a line of customers had formed before the restaurant was even open.
After a 15 minute wait, we were seated at the counter with a clear view of the tempura master who was preparing to cook our meal. T and I opted for a set menu (¥1,875) that came with rice, miso, two kinds of fish, sweet potato, capsicum, eggplant, a prawn and a ball of shrimps. There’s also complimentary unlimited green tea.
The chefs masterfully prepare each item individually with great care – serving each item one at a time.
Each item in the set menu is coated in golden, crisp batter. The skilful cooking of the chefs has allowed the inside to remain soft. There’s not a single trace of oiliness.
One of the more unique items is this ball of shrimps and vegetables coated in batter.
We finish our meals, full and satisfied. The service is impeccable, the food carefully executed and the price reasonable.
Will I Return?
No. Once is enough for me.
QOTD: What’s your favourite type of tempura? Let me know in the comments below!
On the 22nd of December 2014, T and I arrived in Japan to begin our 2 week adventure across the land of the rising sun.