For a lazy Saturday lunch, Kevin found this little gem of a soba place, Tamawarai (玉笑) which earned a spot on revered Tabelog’s (#1 foodie review site for restaurants in Japan and totally trustworthy) Top 50 lunch places. After climbing up a slope-y Harajuku backstreet in the blistering summer heat, we were more than happy to park our behinds on a chair in Tamawarai’s cool interior and bury our hands and faces in the cool towel offered (and also say a BIG THANK YOU LAWDY that there was no queue at this intimate and zen little place which says chotto… to reservations).
They’ve a pretty limited menu, which focuses mainly on soba and small bites. Given that we were in the midst of summer, Kevin and I decided to go for cold soba. His choice of Zaru soba – simple cold soba noodles cooked to chewy perfection and served with wasabi + spring onions + a delicious soy dipping sauce – was a nice reminder that sometimes less is more :) They even provided broth at the end of his meal to dilute the dipping sauce so that he can drink it like a soup. Apparently this is pretty common, but it still got me going wowww none of the good stuff’s wasted!
My chilled soba with freshly-made tofu (1,700 JPY) was honestly one of the best sobas I’ve ever had. The noodles, cooked and chilled perfectly, was a melange of cold and delicious tastes and textures. The freshly-made tofu was so fresh it tasted like a slab of Mascarpone cheese made from spring and sweetness. The mix of flavours – fresh sweet tofu, salty soy sauce, savoury bonito flakes, freshly-chopped spring onions – with each mouthful of chewy soba was a pretty amazing experience… and proof that a simple bowl of fresh noodles can indeed bring lots of happiness :)
The portions here are Japanese-sized portions but I was surprisingly full after (buckwheat does fill you up pretty quickly!). For the higher than average prices charged here – soba dishes range between 1,000 to 2,500 JPY – it’s certainly justified by the freshness and quality of the noodles and toppings. Also definitely worthy of the 1-Michelin star bestowed upon it in 2013 :)
This place is a little hard to find, as it’s seriously buried in one of the small streets off Harajuku. Google Maps does a pretty decent job of getting you there, just keep a lookout for a restaurant with a wooden exterior and white curtains billowing above it with 玉笑 written on it. I’m already eyeing their tempura soba, and will be back v.v.soon…
Wherefore art thou?
Tamawarai 玉笑 (map here, ~8-10mins walk from Meiji-Jingumae station)