Saturday, April 4, 2015

Honke Owariya 本家尾張屋 : Oldest Soba House in Kyoto (since 1465)



I was sad that they didn't sell my favourite plain soba with sesame dip. But there is something more interesting to eat--the Horai Soba.

This 550-year old establishment (since 1465) is the oldest soba restaurant in Kyoto. But it didn't started as a soba house right from the start. It began selling soba rice cakes as a traditional confectionery shop after moving from Owariya to Kyoto.

It only became a full fledged soba restaurant around the Meiji period, under the hands of 14th generation owner who created the signature item the Horai Soba. It is a magnificent 5-storey high soba served with a lacquerware of 5 sets of condiments; prawns, shredded egg and Sweet braised mushrooms, seaweed, sesame and wasabi; last but not least, the simple daikon oroshi (grated radish)
The outlet that we went was ironically located right below the noisiest and most commercialized street in Kyoto. As we took the stairs down to the basement, we could see the wooden scribblings "Est. in 1465" on the ceiling. To be honest, the years of establishment no longer seemed to be a main drawing factor given that there are countless number of companies above 100 years old in Japan (not including food but also manufacturing, crafts, etc.) Still, the number 1465 (Kansei 6) holds me in awe and respect of this humble soba-ya. 
As you may have guessed from the word "宝来", this is created as an auspicious dish because soba is believed to bring fortune. Back then in the Muromachi period, buckwheat flour was scattered on the floor to collect gold which was then sieved from the flour mixture. I truly enjoyed the simple taste of this Horai Soba with the dashi sauce, so much that I ended up eating the soba and toppings separately. 
As much as I love cold soba, I thought their Nishin Soba was even better. Many people might associate Kyoto with tofu cuisine or Kaiseki but few know that this hot soba with sweet herring is also another Kyoto delicacy. The broth was so clear yet robust that we finished every drip, without feeling thirsty. 
 
The dish that comes closest to the cold soba with sesame dip was this Oroshi Goma Wae Soba (¥1040), in which one can choose to noodles to be either warm or cold. There is also the Tempura Soba and even rice bowls.
One of the unique side dishes was this Zushi SobaInstead of vinegared rice, soba is wrapped together with braised shiitake and Mitsuba leaves to form a roll that looked exactly like sushi. The dominant taste comes from the dashi sauce, which doesn't stand out as much as the normal soba and perhaps more suitable as a light meal itself. 
 
Don't be disappointed to know that the soba, even of those from the main outlet, are produced from the central kitchen (says the official website). That said, the noodles tasted fresh with a nostalgic fragrance that lingers in the mind. They are still made according to the golden ingredients; kyoto water of hardness degree 50 and buckwheat flour from Otoineppu Hokkaido. 
The only place that makes the soba fresh by hand is their Nishiki-Tominokoji branch, where there is a ready source of water from the natural well at the store entrance. Guests can even takeaway the delicious Kyoto mineral water there! 
But there is one more reason why I should have avoided this and head to the other outlets. It is the only outlet that permits designated smoking areas and yes, we were not lucky enough to avoid second-hand smoke that day. 
 
 本家尾張屋 Honke Owariya 
Shijo Outlet
624, Teiammaenocho, Shimogyo-ku
Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 600-8031, Japan
京都市四条河原町西御旅町 四条センター地下
Daily 11.30am-9pm
http://honke-owariya.co.jp/

1 comment:

  1. Did you manage to try their warabimochi? It is coated with buckwheat powder. Really yummy!

    ReplyDelete

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