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Our favourite thing about soba is its versatility. Perfect on a hot day, perfect on a cold day; perfect as an accompaniment, perfect as the star attraction. It's the latter that you'll find at Yoshibo Rin, an ever so slightly touristy establishment that delivers a refined version of the world 'Yanesen' purports to be clinging on to. Seating no more than 16 people at any one time, it's an attractive little place with heavily varnished pine tables, sun-teased fusuma and (a touch incongruously) a light jazz soundtrack. The corner of the dining area houses a glass-walled preparation room where, every morning and evening, the chefs prepare the noodles according to tradition – by hand.
The food itself is, well... wow. Allowing the waitress to select for us, we ordered the 'ten seiro' set – a shallow basket of seiro noodles with accompanying soba tsuyu (dipping sauce), complimenting a varied selection of tempura pieces. That the chef was something of a perfectionist could be assumed by the wait (it took some 20 minutes for the food to reach our table), but his skilled artistry was obvious in the food itself. The tempura selection, barely oily at all, included battered pockets of sweetcorn, thin fillets of whitefish, a shrimp big enough to be mistaken for a baby lobster and – crowning it all off – a battered ginger shoot that provided the ultimate double crunch (first through the light batter, then through the crisp vegetable itself). All of this was perfectly offset by the bitterness of the tsuyu and the dry heft of the soba, washed down with a warm jar of wheat tea to finish with. A hearty feast indeed.
Naturally, a place of this nature has a worthy reputation, and, even on a weekday, getting seated can involve a wait at the mercy of the elements. However, restaurants of this quality are easily outnumbered by lesser establishments, and – as far as we're concerned – give us an umbrella and we'll sit in line again and again.
2-36-1 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku
|Transport:||Nezu Station (Chiyoda line)|
|Opening hours:||11am-3pm, 5.30pm-9pm / closed Tue, for dinner Sun|