[Tokyo] It is not uncommon to queue up for food, especially at the famous establishments.
But my experience for a bowl of Michelin-starred Soba at Tamawarai 玉笑 was one which stretched my patience (and perhaps friendship).
Tamawarai is a small 14-seater non-descript one Michelin starred Soba place located in Shibuya-ku of Tokyo.
Using only the freshest ingredients, the restaurant to known for making both hot and cold Japanese Soba in a traditional style using age-old grinding techniques.
This place is a little hard to find, as it is 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.
If you did not see a line outside, you might not have guessed that there is a restaurant within.
As I counted about 10 to 12 patrons waiting outside, I figured that soba would be more-or-less a quick meal, and shouldn’t take that long.
I was entirely wrong of course, and the entire process till I finally landed up inside the dining area (not inclusive of ordering and even more waiting), was no less than 2 hours. (Therefore, if you really intend to come for this, make sure that the people you come with can stand this test of friendship.)
That’s if the food is not sold out yet. Imagine that you are on your way in (after 2 hours), only to be told ”No more left.”
Another note: diners have to queue up on a flight of stairs. What they do not say is there is ANOTHER waiting room after you make it, and it a claustrophobic space with 6 people within. I was so bored I took their Japanese magazines to read, and it is bad manners to make loud conversations.
The sigh of relief when I finally made it in.
The interior is of minimalist design, with traditional Japanese décor and style. The main dining room is quite dim and small – 7 counter seats, a table for 4 and 2 tables for 2.
On the menu includes section of both cold and hot soba, with choices such as Cold Soba with Grated Daikon Radish (¥1300), Cold Soba with Herring and Grated Daikon Radish (¥2200), Cold/Hote Soba with Vegetable Tempura (¥2500, ¥2600), and Hot Soba in an Egg Soup (¥1300).
¥1300 is about SGD15.90 or USD11.70.
I could imagine anyone would be hungry after that wait, so you can get a couple of side dishes such as Tofu (¥700), Omelette (¥800), Baked Prawn (¥1200 for 2), or Boiled Fish Paste with Wasabi (¥900).
I ordered the Soba topped with Natto (fermented soybeans) and raw egg (¥1500), which was unlike any other soba I ever tried.
When I mixed everything up, there was that sticky texture of raw egg and musty taste of natto which was supposedly to complement the plainer flavour of the cold soba.
I could imagine this would be a love-or-hate thing: love for the intricacies and effort need to produce that ‘perfect’ soba with pleasant bite; hate for that acquired taste.
Therefore, the Hot Soba with Egg Soup (¥1300) was a safer choice, and I enjoyed most for the freshness and bite of the soba.
The unfortunately thing was, I remembered this meal more for everything else but the taste of the Soba.
5 Chome-23-3 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001, Japan (8min walk from Meiji-Jingumae station)
東京都 渋谷区 神宮前 5-23-3
Tel: +81 03 5485 0025
Opening Hours: 6:30pm – 9pm (Tues), 11.30pm – 3.30pm, 6:30pm – 9pm (Wed – Fri), 11:30am – 8pm (Sat), 11:30am – 5pm (Sun), Closed Mon
Google Maps – Tamawarai