Of the many noodles that hail from Japan, somen and soba are my favourite. Honmura An specialises in the latter – springy chewy buckwheat strands served either hot or cold, with a variety of toppings. The extensive à la carte menu handily includes detailed English translations (owner Koichi Kobari started a hugely successful Honmura An in New York before returning home to set up shop in Roppongi) and not only features numerous soba offerings (uni, ikura, duck and tempura are popular picks) but also an extensive selection of izakaya-style dishes.
The six of us decided to order a soba each and a bunch of small plates to share. I did glance at the seasonal tasting menu as well, and the amuse bouche of Fresh Yuba with Uni, Ikura and Okura looked too good to pass up so a few of us ordered the one-bite dish to start. I didn’t care for the slimy okra, but the combination of cold milky yuba (tofu skin) sheets, briny bursts of roe and sweet creamy uni offset by a gentle wasabi kick was spot-on.
Baby Aji Mackerel from Suruga Bay, butterflied and fried till crisp were tasty and very moreish (shame we only ordered enough for one each).
Baby Wakasaga Smelt, also deep-fried but left whole and served on a bed of lightly dressed spring salad was equally addictive.
Tako Shiso Satsumaage, a lightly fried fish cake with chopped octopus served with shredded shiso leaves and grilled shishito pepper was sweet and pleasingly springy.
I love fresh tofu and seized every chance to order it while in Tokyo. Honmura An’s Hiya Yakko was lovely – yielding blocks of cold bonito-crowned tofu accented with refreshing slivers of myoga and a smidgen of grated ginger.
Tori Dango, highlighted in the menu as a signature item, were a real let-down. The deep-fried chicken meatballs not only looked unappealing but tasted greasy, with the texture of processed meat.
Agedashi Tofu was a crowd-pleaser – soft wobbly tofu encased in light golden batter and dunked in a clear dashi-based soup strewn with nameko mushrooms and chopped mitsuba.
Tender stems of Nanohana (spring mustard greens) needed no embellishment except for a trickle of mustard soy and scant sprinkling of bonito flakes.
Braised Pork Belly with Bamboo Shoots was deeply savoury and surprisingly light, the slow-cooked meat practically fell apart in the mouth.
Finally, it was time for the main event – the soba. I had the famous Uni Soba (opening pic), which when tossed together became a heavenly mass of toothsome noodles coated with luscious sea urchin and laced with toasted nori and mild raw onion. Others on the table also enjoyed their soba choices which included one topped with grated Mountain Yam, Uni and Okura, and another paired with Japanese Wild Vegetables.
Once the noodles have been slurped up we were given a small teapot of hot sobayu (the water in which the handmade soba was cooked) to mix with the remaining sauce in our bowls and drink as a warming end to the meal. The soba-yu is thought to be highly nutritious as buckwheat flour is rich in vitamins and dietary fibre.
Writing about Honmura An makes me terribly sad that we don’t have a soba-dedicated eatery here. However with the snaking queues at Koya and the sudden influx of ramen vendors, I’m hoping that it won’t be long before a soba-ya hits London.
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