For a place that evinces such effusive praise ("one of the best soba shops in the world," says at least one connoisseur), Take-yabu has a remarkably undemonstrative presence. In fact it manages to be so self-effacing, few people realize it's there at all.

The only indication that it is a restaurant, rather than, say, a design studio or an exclusive hair salon, is the short brown noren stretched across its door, which is marked off from the street by a striking ironwork railing. That plus the name, spelled out on the door in barely discernible gold hiragana.

But for true aficionados, this is all they need to know. The unusual design, the faded lettering, the lack of self-promotion, the use of the name yabu . . . all this whispers of true craftsmanship and pedigree. The master of the house, one Takao Ame, is of the lineage of Yabu Soba in Kanda, the most reputed noodle restaurant in Tokyo.