The other day, my husband was complaining that I did not take him with me to (Japanese mainland-style) soba restaurants. This was a bit of a surprise, as I assumed he mostly just tolerated my soba-eating habit and did not care for it as much… perhaps after eating it several times he has grown to enjoy it as I do. So I told him of a new Japanese soba restaurant I had heard of here in Okinawa, located in the old foreign housing neighborhood of Minatogawa 港川 in Urasoe, an area known for trendy little restaurants; he immediately says he is going there for lunch, if I want to meet him there… and off I go.
As a reminder, Okinawa soba (noodles made from regular flour, always served in hot pork broth) is quite different than mainland Japanese soba, made from buckwheat (buckwheat is actually called soba 蕎麦 in Japanese). Okinawa soba always feels like a misnomer to me since it is not made from buckwheat, and many foreigners here do not know what mainland soba is!
Anyway, I drove over to the neighborhood and checked the map on the sign at the entrance, but it was not labeled, so I followed GoogleMaps. I found the building that looked just like the picture online, but again, no signs or labels! I went to the entrance and sure enough this was it; my husband showed up a minute later. We chose one of the tables and started perusing the menu. What I did not realize was this was a special type of mainland soba 日本蕎麦– Izumo soba 出雲蕎麦! Izumo soba is darker and more aromatic than other mainland soba because the buckwheat hull is left on and ground up when making the soba flour. It also makes it a little chewier I think.
We ended up both choosing 2-tier 二段 warigo 割子 soba; this is considered the smaller size, 3-tier 三段 is the medium size, and 4 or 5 tiers for big appetites. We also split a 2-person size tempura, because what better to accompany soba than crispy tempura!
Warigo 割子 is round lacquered boxes stacked in tiers to serve the soba. It is particularly unique because unlike dipping soba, this soba you pour toppings and tsuyu (sauce for soba) into the first tier of noodles, mix and eat! When you finish, you take the leftover sauce and add it to the next tier of noodles, refresh the toppings and tsuyu, and continue this pattern until you finish. This was our first time eating soba in this way.
After we finished our noodles, the soba-yu 蕎麦湯 came out; it was thicker and more flavorful than others I have had. We poured our leftover broth into it and drank up to finish the meal.
address for 手打ち日本蕎麦 松平 Matsudaira: 2 Chome-19-3 Minatogawa, Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture 901-2134 https://goo.gl/maps/qDYWCE9B6jn