A soba restaurant tucked away in the mountains of Saga Prefecture is known for every one of its menu items making use of the soba (buckwheat) plant.
You may know our Japanese reporter Seiji from his series of fashion-minded escapades in which he attempts to coordinate outfits at different retailers armed with only a single 10,000 yen (US$85.28) bill, often with hilarious results. These exploits don’t take up all of his time, however–he’s also on an ongoing quest to find some of the best soba noodles in all of Japan.
While he’s mostly stuck around eateries in the Tokyo area up until now, he and fellow reporter Yoshio recently trekked all the way to Saga Prefecture on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu as part of their quest. Today, the dynamic duo would like to show you a hidden gem of a soba restaurant nestled deep in the mountains of Saga called Komorebi, an intrinsically Japanese word which refers to sunlight filtering through tree leaves. Apart from the superb ambiance and high-quality food at this establishment, one more thing that sets Komorebi apart from other soba restaurants is that it offers three full-course meals, with every dish utilizing either soba noodles or soba sprouts.
Let’s join Seiji and Yoshio on their journey now, shall we?
The journey to Komorebi consisted of a long drive into the mountains from Saga Airport. After about an hour of traveling on the highway, our two reporters finally arrived at the entrance to a narrower mountain road. The GPS predicted that they would arrive at a small village tucked away in a ravine after another 30 minutes on the road.
▼ Just after leaving the airport
▼ Driving on the highway. Doesn’t look like they hit much traffic.
▼ The narrower mountainous road, which often ran alongside fields of crops
At last Seiji and Yoshio pulled into an expansive parking lot in front of an old but well-maintained building. A wooden sign near the entrance was carved with the characters for Komorebi, announcing that they had successfully reached their destination. The lot was about three times as big as the building itself, and as far as their eyes could see there were either mountains or fields extending into the distance. All of these observations increased their excitement that they had indeed arrived at a legitimately impressive local soba restaurant.
▼ Komorebi’s elegant exterior
Upon walking inside, they were surprised to see soba sprouts growing in the entryway!
The spacious interior consisted of both high and low tables as well as a tatami room located farther inside. Seiji and Yoshio decided that the tatami room seating would be a more appropriate choice for this occasion, so they headed over to sit down in that area. Along the way, they couldn’t help admiring the beautiful woodwork and the way that soft light from the outdoors filtered in through the windows to illuminate the surface of the wooden tables, true to the restaurant’s name.
▼ Some glimpses of Komorebi’s welcoming atmosphere
Now it was time for the most exciting part–choosing which dishes to order. The menu was broken down into three separate full-course meals, each named after a type of tree, as well as a variety of soba noodle and side dishes. Seiji decided to order the katsura (cercidiphyllum japonicum) course” while Yoshio went for the hinoki (Japanese cypress) course.
▼ By the way, even the tea was soba tea!
▼ These complimentary fried soba noodles were crunchy and sweet.
When the food arrived, they made sure to document each of the dishes for your viewing pleasure. Let’s take a look at what each of the course meals had to offer:
Katsura course meal–1,950 yen ($16.65)
▼ Soba sprout juice
▼ Dressed soba sprouts
▼ Soba sprout salad
▼ Soba tofu
▼ Chilled soba noodles
▼ Soba zosui (rice porridge/mixed rice)
▼ Soba sprout jelly
Hinoki course meal–2,450 yen ($20.92)
▼ Everything in the katsura course meal plus a galette
So what was their verdict? For Seiji, this meal was the first time he realized that soba sprouts even existed, and he was impressed with the refreshing aftertaste that they left on his palate. He was bewildered as to why he had never encountered another restaurant offering dishes containing soba sprouts before. In particular, the soba sprout juice tasted completely natural and he felt like he could down a glass every day, despite its thick texture.
After talking with the staff, our reporters learned that all of the soba used in Komorebi’s meals is cultivated locally by the owners. Perhaps that was the secret to its incredible flavor! In addition, the staff also encouraged them to try sprinkling some salt on top of the soba before eating, like this:
The resulting flavor was spectacular. The salt drew out the noodles’ sweetness and elevated it to new levels of deliciousness. Both our reporters preferred the salt topping over the usual dipping sauce that accompanies soba. The residents of Saga are definitely on to something.
Despite Komorebi’s remote location in the middle of the mountains, Seiji and Yoshio were relieved to see that it was packed with customers by the time they got up to leave. Yoshio was so impressed with this gastronomic experience that he purchased a soba sprout growing kit at the restaurant’s small shop on his way out.
It seems that truly good food is sure to attract people, no matter how far they have to travel to enjoy it!
Komorebi / 木漏れ日
Address: 453-1 Kamiose, Fuji-cho, Saga-shi, Saga Prefecture
Open 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays, on select function days in the region
[ Read in Japanese ]