Hoteiya (Soba), Taishido

I wasn't sure whether I should feature "Hoteiya" as it's one of my best well-kept secret and it's a little out of the way from Shimokitazawa, but what's the use of keeping a blog for visitors if not to divulge the best stuff?

Hoteiya is a family-run Sobaya (Soba noodles restaurant) located in the residential Taishido area, between Shimokitazawa and cool Sangenjaya, though way closer to the latter. The restaurant is the oldest Sobaya in business in the huge Setagaya ward (as big as Manhattan NY), and has been open since 1925. This local's favorite is kept vibrant and lively by an incredibly friendly old couple, their three daughters and an always smily charming grand-daughter.
It is a little difficult to find, but if you're willing to enjoy potentially getting lost before reaching the place (or even not get there....), soak up in an authentic local atmosphere, eat good food at VERY reasonable price, try real Japanese hospitality and get comfortably numb with the very rare and excellent Sobayu-Wari (distilled barley alcohol mixed with boiled water diluted buckwheat flour), then go for it!

Though Hoteiya is a Soba restaurant, the sisters will be the first ones to laugh that they've become over the years more of an izakaya (food serving pub) than a noodle eatery. The best thing to do when you get there is definitely sampling some of their extensive non soba/udon food menu before finally attacking the specialties.
That's exactly what we did the other day when we ordered some Itawasa (fresh slices of fish cake Kamaboko eaten with wasabi and shoyu) to accompany our opening beers, before working on the chewy Konyaku (block of boiled konjak) Miso-Dengaku style (seasoned with hot sweet miso sauce). Both dishes are healthy low-calories typical Japanese appetizers and very pleasant to munch on to while your appetite grows, so try them if you can.

Miso Dengaku

We then moved on to the amazing and even healthier Yon-Shoku-Mori (literally Mixed Four Colors) which is a combination of four gooey ingredients, Nato (fermented beans), Tororo (grated Japanese yam potato), Mekabu (Wakame seaweed root) and Okura. You add a little soy sauce, mix the whole thing until it becomes slimy and eat it. Though it's rather poor in taste, but interesting in consistence, it has become one of my favorite dish at Hoteiya because of the rather big portion they give you and its affordable ¥500.

Yon-Shoku Mori

In the meantime, we ordered the incredibly rare (I have NEVER seen this anywhere else) SOBAYU-WARI to follow our empty beers. SOBAYU is the (once again very healthy) water in which the soba noodles have been boiled. Soba shops usually bring you the translucid and whitish liquid at the end of your meal, so you may add it in your Tsuyu dipping broth and drink the delicious solution. That's how Sobayu is used in Japan 99,99% of the time but not in Hoteiya. They go through the process of mixing buckwheat flour with boiled water to make a thick (and obviously much more flavored than the usual Sobayu, which is after all just remaining cooking water) soup that you mix with Mugi-Shochu (distilled barley alcohol which tastes like vodka) to make an interesting drink. It's got that undeniable Sobayu taste but it's a quite lethal one! You'll see a lot of repeaters ordering this for its good taste, its rarity and for the nice buzz that follows....

Soba-Yu Wari

It's unfortunate I have a limit of 5 pictures per thread because we also ordered a "Tako-Butsu" (raw octopus cut in chunks) which comes in rather big proportions. By the way, you will quickly find out that this family always seems to be in a mission of stuffing you until you give up. That's a least how it's been every single time for us, though we are increasingly careful about the amount we order each time. Whether it's due to the fact that they sometimes bring repeaters a little "extra" dish to thank you for patronizing them or because everything is so cheap, I'm not sure yet but we still haven't managed to order less than we should.
So it almost came as no surprise (if not for our belly) when they brought us a free Ume (marinated salty plum) seasoned Tofu salad, after we had already ordered a final Udon dish each.

I chose the "TenZaru Udon" (cold udon with a separate plate of Tempura). After so much to eat and one too many cup of Sobayu-Wari, it's difficult to keep track of what you're gobbling, but if I remember well, the good Tempura consisted of deep-fried Carrot, Shiso leaf, whole Shrimp, Eggplant, Green Pepper, Zenmai fern and Okura. And yes, I haven't forgotten Hoteiya is a noddle restaurant: well, their cold udon (thick wheat flour noodles) had a nice Koshi (firmness) and were the perfect finish to this orgy.

Udon (with Nori seaweed on top)

If you're wondering how much we paid for all that food and drinks, it cost less than ¥5,000 for the two of us. Not bad huh?

Hoteiya is (unfortunately) closed on Tuesdays and open the rest of the week from 11:45am to 15:00pm and from 17:30pm to 20:30pm in the evening
Setagaya-ku, Taishido 2-32-3
Click here for a much needed MAP