Tokyo | Tamawarai 玉笑
Tamawarai is a one-Michelin-starred soba place on a minor street in-between Shibuya and Harujuku area. This hidden spot is very famous for its freshly-made soba, which is buckwheat noodles.The owner-chef leases a field in Tochigi to grow his own buckwheat. Tamawarai is even postioned as a No.1 lunch spot on Japan’s largest restaurant review website Tabelog. Besides soba, appetiting side dishes are also available such as grilled miso paste and tamago.
Visited: Sep.15.2015 (Lunch)
Address: 5-23-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 東京都渋谷区神宮前5-23-3
Hours: Tues-Fri 11:30-15:30, 18:00-21:30; Saturday 11:30-20:00, Sunday 11:30-17:00, Closed on Monday
Note: I walked in without any reservation; English menu available
There was no obvious sign from the outside, so it's not easy to tell it is a restaurant unless you follow the map. I could neither confirm this is Tamawarai until i walked closer and see the curtain. Apart from the kitchen side, the main dining room is quite dim and small - 7 counter seats, a table for 4 and 2 tables for 2.
Most of the appetizers on the menu are priced under 1,000 yen, such as Homemade seasame tofu (700yen), Grilled miso paste (600yen), Tamago (800yen), Pickles (600yen) ,etc. For the soba section, both hot and cold soba are served, the price ranged from 1,000 yen (soba only) to 2,500 yen (Tempura soba). If you want a complete soba experience, you need to make a reservation in advance for the Soba Omakase priced at 7,000 yen or 9,000 yen (at least 2 pax).
I went there for a quick lunch before heading to school. It was a pretty hot day and i knew the 'natto soba' is quite good here, which is not available at most of the soba restaurants, so i decided to go with the natto soba only. The nourishing bowl came within 5 minutes: soba topped with homemade natto (fermented soy beans), scallions, bonito flakes, seaweed and an raw egg.
Very 'creamy' and rich texture after mixed eveything up. The real buckwheat content of the soba can be clearly seen. The texture of the noodle itself is more like the best pasta's texture, very 'al dante' and a bit chewy. Compare to another Michelined (Bib Gourmand) soba place i went few days ago, Hirai, i definitely much prefer Tamawarai. My favorite soba place by far.
The hot soba soup served after the soba. Very pleasant ending.
The meal cost me a bit over 1,600 which is really worth-of-value. Last time at Soba Hirai, i found the portion too small, while this won't happen here at Tamawarai. The restaurant was not very busy on my day of visit (Tuesday), only two other tables of Japanese guests. My dinning hall +1 !