The shop is a bit of a walk from the station, but the superb soba at this Akihabara eatery is worth the trip.
Much has been said about the delicate art of making great soba. The noodles must be cut and boiled just right, the broth the perfect balance of salty and sweet. There’s a fine line between truly spectacular soba, and soba that’s just mediocre (although there is basically no such thing as bad soba, thankfully).
Despite the precise balancing act required for making the perfect soba dish, hole-in-the-wall soba shops litter Tokyo train stations and the surrounding areas, cranking out mass-produced, decidedly mediocre bowls of limp buckwheat noodles and watery broth to sate the lunch hour hunger of the metropolis’s scurrying masses.
Armed with a little knowledge, though, intrepid soba enthusiasts can often flip the figurative bird at the Mediocre Soba Lunch-Industrial Complex and find fantastic, belly-filling bowls of soba on offer at some of the anonymous, charmingly derelict noodle shops that dot the landscape just a scant few blocks removed from Tokyo’s major train stations.
Like Akihabara’s “Kawaichi,” for example!
Kawaichi is a noodle shop we’d heard in rumors for a while; one that supposedly strikes a perfect balance between masterfully crafted meals and a location juuuuust within reach for hungry lunch break commuters. We decided we simply had to check Kawaichi out and headed to Akihabara — and we certainly were not disappointed!
Kawaichi is standing room only, with a simple, although beautifully calligraphed, menu plastered onto the walls — pretty solid indicators of a great Japanese noodle shop. The interior and exterior both are appropriately low key, while the menu spans just a handful of soba selections. We went with the ika-soba hot bowl topped with an enormous fried squid patty, but summertime diners would also do well to try the oroshi-soba that comes topped with a refreshing pat of grated daikon radish.
Tucking into our massive bowl of ika-soba, we found Kawaichi’s noodles to be unusually thick and substantial, with just the right amount of chew. The tsuyu broth — made from soy, mirin, kombu and bonito — is a rich, dark color with a pleasantly subdued flavor, and the fried squid patty, being as massive as it was, stayed crispy and succulent by virtue of its enormous surface area.
All in all, we think Kawaichi’s soba is a delicious, refreshing, and at least mildly healthy lunch for a hot summer day, and the plethora of salarymen we saw making pilgrimage to the slightly out-of-the-way noodle shop would seem to agree with us.
Kawaichi / 川一
Address: 1 Chome-2-7 Taitō, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0016
Open: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Closed: Weekends and holidays
[ Read in Japanese ]