Noodle shops are very common throughout Japan and finding a good one is never difficult. Most are bustling establishments, primarily designed for standup counter or seated counter dining. Most are open late and are very economical. Don’t confuse the local places here the 50 cent packages of dried ramen you have in the pantry leftover from college – no sir, the noodle dishes here are prepared fresh for your order and served up piping hot. No silver foil flavor packets here. Broth will differ between establishments and be made from bonito, pork or chicken stock or a combination of these. One of my favorites are the dark, rich miso based ones. Noodles satisfy my appetite for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And I am not alone, as you will see happy slurpers lined up at counters throughout Japan enjoying this national dish.
Udon and Soba are types of Japanese noodles – Udon are wheat noodles and Soba, generally served cold, are buckwheat noodles. Ramen is a Chinese noodle, but very popular in Japanese noodle shops. English menus are rare at the independent or small chain shops. Ordering for me consists of pointing and knowing a few words in Japanese. Luckily on my recent trip I had my friend Nahoko to translate and order.
At Iwai, and like many restaurants in Japan the menu is limited to a several standard items and a special or two . The Udon is offered hot or cold in a broth, and also dry on a plate. You generally can order noodles with vegetable, beef, pork, or seafood.
On this visit we all ordered the same thing which was Udon served in a large bowl of broth with some vegetable bits. The flavor was good but needed to be doctored to become very, very good! The condiments offered include chili powder, sesame seeds, fresh ginger, and house made tempura ퟙcroutonsퟘ. Lunch included green tea, and a rice dish – a rice ball or a bowl of steamed plain or flavored rice mixed with vegetables was offered today.
Seating is limited at around 20 persons and half is community style at tables, which means you are likely to share a table with others. Unlike your typical noodle shop, there is no counter seating and the bustling is replaced by an efficient calmness. The decor here is contemporary, yet comfortable. I think smoking is allowed but I didn’t see anyone smoking.
Don’t’ burn your tongue!
Postscript: If you are hankering for top quality noodles and don’t have travel to Japan in your future, head to Mitae Ramen in Costa Mesa or Oshima Ramen in Denver for the next best thing here in the states.
Helpful links: http://www.journeythroughjapan.org/daytoday/daytoday_detail.cfm?id_news=11590455&type=1
What To Order: Depending on the weather try the hot Udon noodles with broth.
This information was accurate at the time of posting, but it’s always a good idea to call ahead or visit the website to confirm hours, location and other details.
Osaka, Japan Japan
Near the American Consulate in Osaka. 1 minute walk out the front door and to the right.
Average Cost Per Person, excluding drinks: $10 or less
Limited, Table seating, Community seating, Cash only, Casual, Smoking, Speedy Service