Kamakura has no shortage of good soba restaurants. Like Matsubara-an, many occupy freestanding traditional buildings. Here are three more worth tracking down on a visit to the ancient capital.
It’s not hard to find Issa-an. Located close to the entrance to Kamakura’s main shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, this is a favorite lunch spot for visitors. And with good reason too: It’s an attractive, old-style restaurant, recently refurbished but still boasting low tables, tatami floors and large windows giving views onto a narrow garden.
Besides the excellent noodles themselves, all freshly chopped, there is a small selection of side dishes, donburi rice bowls and desserts. In the peak tourist seasons (especially New Year’s), it may be hard to get a look-in at meal times. But for a light afternoon snack, it’s recommended.
If you don’t want to leave Tokyo, Issa-an has a branch in the Marunouchi Building, in front of Tokyo JR Station.
Because the noodles at Sobadokoro Goto aren’t rolled and chopped by hand, hard-core soba aficionados tend to ignore it. All the better for the rest of us, as it boasts a classic traditional setting.
An ancient wooden gate and a narrow path lined with bamboo lead the way to a beautifully preserved old house set in a wooded compound well away from the street. You leave your shoes at the door and sit on tatami floors in the spacious dining room.
This architectural gem is hidden away a block north of the Kinokuniya store on the west side of Kamakura Station, off one of the backstreets leading up to Zeni-Arai Benten, the atmospheric “money-washing” shrine in the western hills.
Takenoya is a small family-run restaurant tucked away on the eastern fringe of the city. It’s an area little visited by tourists, though there are some beautiful temples up in the hills. But this diminutive place is well on the map for committed soba enthusiasts.
There’s just one table with chairs, plus a raised tatami area that gives a glimpse of a tidy little garden. If those places are taken, you sit on squat wooden stools around the large irori grill by the door.
The soba is righteous, hand-chopped by the master and served by his wife. There are usually three kinds to choose from: regular noodles; dark, coarse, country-style inaka-soba; and finer, lighter noodles with a seasonal flavoring, such as yuzu (citron) or powdered green tea. To sample each of these, ask for the sanshoku (three-colored) soba, which is served in three-level lacquered-wood trays.
Issa-an, 1-8-24 Yukinoshita, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken; (0467) 22-3556; open daily 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; soba from ¥985. www.issaan.net
Sobadokoro Goto,1-1-3 Ogigayatsu, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken; (0467) 24-4855; open 11 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Thurs., soba from ¥630 hw001.gate01.com/eric/goto.htm
Takenoya, 4-3-2 Omachi, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa-ken; (0467) 25-3872; open 11 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Mon.; soba from ¥1,000. gourmet.yahoo.co.jp/0001456823/P001858