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Sobakiri Karani: The noodle shop you wouldn’t suspect

by J.J. O'Donoghue

The only clue that this is a soba shop is from the inscription on the noren curtain, but even that I didn’t notice until leaving. That’s not to say while passing by you don’t slow down and look inside in wonder. I had pegged it as a hipster joint; there was an expensive fixed-wheel bicycle chained up outside. The big shop windows reveal a collection of Japanese art and crafts, a few huge bereft tables. It looks like it might be a gallery, but is undecided. It’s a curious sight, but not particularly inviting. Don’t be put off. Go in. This is a place to write home about.

The master likes to enforce a Zen-like austerity. Business card-size signs on the tables tell you to take your phone conversations and your cigarettes outside. Bravo on both counts. There’s also no music.

So what is there? Incredible handmade soba. I had kamojiru soba, a bowl of sautéed duck served with noodles thin enough to thread through the eye of a needle, and topped with sanshō peppers; this is food approaching edible art. Another first for me was tōfu no moromi-dzuke, a tofu dish with a feta-like crumbliness. The drinks menu is all about sake and constantly changes, as the master selects from local breweries the length and breadth of the country.

This is a one-man operation, so dishes take time, but witness the transformation of a couple of eggs into dashimaki-tamago and you won’t particularly care. The atmosphere might be lacking, but the food is magnificent.

2-11-26 Sagisu, Fukushima-ku, Osaka; 06-4796-2286; open lunch and dinner, closed Thurs. and fourth Fri. of every month; nearest station Fukushima; no smoking; Soba dishes around ¥1,000; Japanese menu; no English spoken.