3-11-4 Motoazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0046
Dining date: 10/15/12
I first learned about Sarashina Horii from an episode of No Reservations. Masaharu Morimoto took Anthony Bourdain here during the Tokyo episode, raving about the soba here. It looked really good, so I immediately added it to my list of places to visit. Indeed, it seems to be a well-known restaurant as many of the Tokyo locals have heard of the Sarashina name.
Sarashina Horii first opened in 1789 with its claim to fame being its soba. The restaurant serves multiple types, but the most notable is probably the eponymous Sarashina soba. This soba uses only the white inner part of buckwheat, resulting in its bleached-white color.
As with many Japanese restaurants, some legit plastic food art make ordering a breeze.
The complete soba lineup has four varieties; three staples and one that changes seasonally.
MORI-SOBA hand-made brown-colored buckwheat noodle
SARASHINA-SOBA white soba made from only the center of buckwheat
FUTOUTI-SOBA thick soba made from 100% buckwheat powder
KAWARI-SOBA soba colored with natural seasoning
Given it was my first time and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to return, I ordered two dishes to try as much as I could.
The first dish I had was a classic zaru soba with the Sarashina variety of soba. A great chewy texture was complemented by the cool soy/dashi-based dipping sauce. So simple yet so satisfying. I can’t say I noticed a ton of difference between this soba and the “normal” kind, but I thought the earthy flavor was more subtle here.
TENPURA-SOBA soba with one prawn tempura
For my second dish, I wanted to try something on the opposite end of the spectrum – hot soba, this time with the traditional variety. I enjoyed the soup, but found the soba to be far too soft (a commonality with other bowls of hot soba I’ve had here). Others in our party attributed it to me waiting too long (I did eat much of the cold soba first), but I didn’t think this was the case. The noodles weren’t anywhere close texturally to the cold variety. The accompanying shrimp tempura was giant and quite tasty.
KAKIAGE-SOBA mixture of 6-shrimps and mitsuba fried in batter
I also tried a bite of the seasonal soba, flavored with chrysanthemum. I really didn’t notice too much of a difference between this one and the Sarashina variety, though I do think I got a hint of the floral flavor…but I might just have been imagining it.
I’m by no means a soba expert (I think we have very few soba specialty restaurants in California), but I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. The cold soba was excellent in texture and balance of flavors, though I have yet to have a cold soba I haven’t enjoyed here. The hot soba was a different story, and I found this one as disappointing as others I’ve had here – maybe that’s just the style? In terms of the “extras,” the tempura was excellent. I hope to make another trip during my stay in Japan.