Sunday, 28 July 2013

Oodles of Noodles in Tokyo - featuring udon at Muginbou

Waste not, want not
One of the great things I love about Japan are the restaurants that specialise in cooking one thing. There is a superb place, barely a hole in the wall, in the Kappabashi district that cooks just yaki soba. It looks like a mother and son venture, with the noodles stir fried on a hot plate in the window overlooking the street by the son which are then ferried to the tables by the mother along with cups of hot tea. I have no idea what the name of this joint is since there's no English signage, but it's right by the Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza line and is a terrific pit stop after shopping in the wholesale cookware district. Just follow your nose and you'll find it. Oh, and a large plate costs about 3 pounds. But I'm not here to talk of yaki soba but udon. I love a big bowl of udon and in Tokyo I got my fix at Muginbou. It's definitely not on the tourist trail, but it's certainly worth the effort to find it.

Actually, I'm not even certain if the name of the place is Muginbou (which is the website address), or Muguinbo (which is how it is written on some pictures on the website). Whatever the real name, we visited this terrific udon specialist on a quiet Sunday night and were the only westerners in there.
Yaki soba in Kappabashi district
Yaki soba sauce in Kappabashi district
The restaurant itself is traditionally furnished in bamboo and wood, with a small tatami section with floor seating for good measure. We were baffled by the Japanese menu, but the kind staff eventually offered an English version although I think we were warned that the pricing may have been out of date.
Shop front of the yaki soba restaurant in Kappabashi district
Like at Sarashina Horii, I was impressed by the variety and quality of the side dishes on offer. We ordered some Kyoto-style pickles (Kyotsukemono) to munch on, and Torino, which is a simmered chicken dish. The slightly sweet broth (I assume from mirin) held some wonderfully tender and juicy chicken pieces along with some chopped spring onions.
Various "Kyoto style" pickles at Muginbou
We also ordered the Satsumage, a delicious fried fish cake served with a ginger and soy dipping sauce.
Torino - simmered chicken dish at Muginbou
We came for the udon though, and it was magnificent. I ordered the kakiage udon, which was a huge bowl of plain udon served with a side of burdock tempura. This mound of fried burdock root also had a few sweet prawns mixed in. The broth was lovely and rich and the slurpable noodles were thick with a good bite to them. I dipped the burdock, which was very lightly battered, into my udon broth to flavour it every now and then. Mr B just ordered the kake, or plain udon.
Satsumage - fried fish cake - at Muginbou
There were some condiments on the table to flavour the plain udon including some sansho pepper, regular pepper and a dried seaweed, which looked a lot like pond slime when it rehydrated in the broth.
Kakiage udon - plain udon with burdock tempura at Muginbou
It's about 6 pounds for a big bowl of plain udon, or 7 pounds for the udon with the tempura. The simmered chicken dish was about 5 pounds, while the pickles and fish cake were roughly three pounds each. That should blow the myth that Tokyo is an expensive place to eat in. Oh, and the size of the udon portions were just about double what you get at Koya, which is hand's down London's best udon, so we are talking serious value for money.
Kake udon at Muginbou
Like I said, Muginbou isn't really on the tourist trail, but you'll spot it by the massive lantern hanging outside. We sought it out because of recommendations on Twitter, plus it was relatively close to our hotel near Shibuya station - about a 20 minute walk away. The stroll, while not the prettiest stretch of freeway, gave us ample opportunity to search the Family Mart's and 7-11's for elusive Kit Kat flavours. If you track down the rum and raisin, you're in for quite a flavour trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment