Soba noodles are Japanese buckwheat noodles served hot or cold with a variety of toppings.
Edo Soba, Chiba
We came as guests of RWB, Rough World’s Akira Nakai, the world famous Porsche tuner. That in itself is quite the experience. A late night visit to his shop in Chiba, resulted in an invitation to dinner with him and his friend. We assembled into his van and he drove us to his favourite late night cafeteria. Many lone and long nights working resulted in many dinners here, he said.
Despite his celebrity status in the car world, Nakai is an extremely down to earth man. He offered us drinks and took the time to make small talk with us during our intrusion. He reflected on his life, how he does what he loves for a living, and is able to travel the world and build Porsches because of it. When it was time to break for dinner, Nakai invited us along, even going so far as to drive us there in his van, and then offerred to pay for our meal. The van was necessary as we were a group of four, plus I don’t think his Porsches are for daily driving. Though he did have ten of them on site.
He raved about his favourite late night dining spot in Ciba, and its close proximity to his garage. He stressed the value in its “cheap” prices. The restaurant was large compared to the smaller shops in town. Its billboard, roadside flags, and bright lights were visible from the road. Though its parking lot was fairly empty at 9pm. Nakai pointed out that there weren’t too many people visiting at this time, and those who did were often single men. He pointed to himself.
As a native to Japan and being pretty skilled in English, he lead us on this dining excision. I was delighted at how supportive he was when he heard I was a food blogger. He gave me notes for this post, suggested how to eat our meal most effectively, and even explained the significance of a photo on the wall. He was an amazing guide for our tour of soba. Soba noodles are light soya sauced noodles, the use of buckwheat makes them on the healthier side, he explained.
He continued, that the word “edo” in the restaurant’s name referred to the old Tokyo style. In this case, the origins of soba, noodles that were born from an area near by. Back then they were delivered door to door by one man on his bicycle. A story Nakai reflected on as he pointed to the black and white mural sized photo on the wall.
Upon entry Nakai proceeded to the two machines used for ordering, both located in the centre of the foyer. At this point this was our first encounter with them. The first time we had seen them and our first need to use them. He taught us the process and walked us through our options. By now my partner was infamous for not eating seafood, so our choices were either between fried tempura or stewed pork. Each dish would come with a bowl of soba noodles. Either cold or hot in broth. After Nakai translated and we made our selection, he paid. Tickets then printed out. They will be used to claim our meal once ready. A call from the counter announced this and we walked up to receive our meal.
I had the pork with egg over rice, and a side of soba noodles in soup. Apparently this is “old mother’s style” of cooking, according to Nakai. The lightly breaded pork and the scrambled egg did taste homey, something that could be prepared in anyone’s kitchen. The soba noodles were flavoured with the broth and used the seaweed and tempura flakes to add a different texture. It was as light as Nakai promised. I could have had more.
My partner had the teriyaki pork over rice with the same side of soba noodles in soup. Pretty standard, tender pork, sticky sauce, and moist rice.
Nakai had curry with rice and an extra helping of beans. This also included a side of soba noodles in soup. Seeing my interest he offered me a taste. I wanted to, but didn’t want to impose. Plus I don’t really know what the Japanese thought is on sharing food. The curry looked runny, and more like a stew. It submerged all and any of the vegetable included. The red pickles that topped the plate helped to add visual appeal. Which was then lost when he added more lumpy brown on top, in the form of baked beans mixed with egg.
His friend had his soba noodles cold. Served plain to be dipped in to a clear broth topped with dried tofu and leeks.
For more heat, dried chilli flakes are available at the front counter. You help yourself to as much as you need, to add as much spice as you want to your meal.
Nakai brought over cups of regular water and ones filled with soba water. He suggested adding regular water to the soba if we found it too strong. The soba water tasted like rice. It was murky and thicker, and definitely a surprise if you took a sip expecting water. According to Nakai, who chugged his portion before dining, soba water is used to help clean the digestive system, and it also decreases blood pressure.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Try as we might, we were never again able to find a similar style of budget cafeteria, in any of the other areas of Tokyo that we visited. Here everything was about $5 Canadian. The food was good, it came quick, and minutes later you could eat more of it again. Great food to fill up on and continue working on cars parts after. Don’t deny your cravings.