Kyoto, where the soba is usually served in a soup that is lighter in color than in the Kanto area, has many outstanding soba restaurants. Here are five select soba restaurants in Kyoto.
1. Ryuhei Soba
This is a soba shop on Katsura River near Katsura Imperial Villa, considered to be the final result of the history of creating beautiful Japanese gardens. It uses organic ingredients from the Kyoto area as much as possible. In a testament to the owner's dedication to quality, the water the food is cooked in is from a well of underground water that comes from Mt. Atago. For lunch, there is a Mini Set (2,950 JPY (incl. tax) and up). They are generous sets of small portions of coarsely ground soba and sashimi served in cute bamboo baskets, as well as soba noodles and dessert. For those who want their fill of soba, there is the "Osoba Jyujitsu Course (5,900 JPY (incl. tax))". A variety of soba buckwheat dishes, including sobagaki buckwheat dumplings and the restaurant's specialty bubu-ten (pike eel surimi and Japanese yam coated in bubu rice cracker balls and deep fried), are served as a part of a course, so even the soba connoisseur will be satisfied. In the evening, you can enjoy Sobaya-zake (having sake at soba shop), where these carefully prepared dishes are served together with choice sake from the Kansai area.
This restaurant has been open since 1940. The soba noodles made with buckwheat from the foot of Mt. Haku in Ishikawa is outstanding. Only natural Rishiri kombu seaweed is used for the stock. It also offers thin udon noodles chosen specifically for their balance with the stock. The restaurant is in a renovated machiya-style townhouse from the early Showa period and is decorated in a manner that incorporates traditional and contemporary styles with karakami paper with patterns of fall flowers printed on printing blocks used since the Edo period (1603 - 1867) and handcrafted wood chairs. When you visit, take the time to enjoy the restaurant's atmosphere together with the food.
The soba noodles at this shop, which is located slightly to the west of Kitayama-dori Horikawa, is handmade with buckwheat flour that is mortar ground on the premises. Its flavors have won the restaurant a Michelin star for four consecutive years from 2012 and attracted many soba lovers from around the country. The soba has a greenish tint and is characterized by chewiness, a smooth texture, and a pleasing aroma. The popular menu item "Kamo Seiro" (1,750 JPY (incl. tax)) is three thick slices of duck loin served in a soup with plenty of finely chopped white negi scallions. Be sure to taste the thick milky white sobayu water that the soba was cooked in that is added to the sauce at the end of the meal.
4. Sobaya Nikora
This is a restaurant in a renovated old machiya-style townhouse in the area of Nishijin, famous for textiles. The interior, with a counter and tables made from Japanese oak wood and yakisugi charred cedar planks on the walls, is in the wa-modern Japanese contemporary style. Just enough buckwheat for the day is mortar ground and prepared by hand with no additional binders so that the true aroma of the buckwheat is retained. Although most items are meant to be ordered a la carte, there are some courses such as the "Shunsai Select" (2,260 JPY (incl. tax)), which comes with three dishes and seasonal tempura and is available at lunch on weekdays, and the "Set Menu" (2,160 JPY (incl. tax) and up) available in the evenings and at the weekend. In addition to soba noodles, there are dishes made with Kyoyasai vegetables and a variety of creative dishes inspired by Italian cuisine, reflecting the owner's desire that the restaurant be enjoyed as a place for food and drink.
This is a restaurant that has been open for more than 100 years, and now has three locations in Kyoto - at Shijo, Okazaki, and near Kinkakuji. Skilled chefs take a full three hours from early morning to make the stock from carefully selected ingredients including Rausu kombu seaweed, sometimes referred to as the "king of dashi." The dashi soup with its clear, golden color that whets the appetite is superb. The restaurant has a full menu, including the popular "Tenzaru Soba Gozen" (2,100 JPY (incl. tax)), a meal of fully satisfying soba with plump and crisp shrimp tempura. It also has seasonal menu items, so look them up in advance.
Soba can taste quite different from restaurant to restaurant. When visiting Kyoto, be sure to refer to this article to find the soba restaurant that is right for you!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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