Japan – Nishunan Soba Restaurant, Shimokitazawa

nishunanbabysquidUnless there’s a cooler place that I don’t know about by being insufficiently cool then Shimokitazawa is the coolest place in Tokyo. A shambles of small stores, bars and live-houses not tangentially far from Shinjuku and Shibuya. Fitting then that I’m meeting Soh and Mayumi who I met 10 years ago in a small beer bar in Shibuya and have sinced looked up to them with a slight intonational quiver when referring to them as my friends. Soh has been right on many things and I value his recommendations. A soba restaurant after a day of picnicking in Yoyogi Park it was.

nisshunanotoushiThe place was near empty of a Saturday night and I wondered of any place could be that obscurely good in a town that lives on lists of places to go. I was convinced with the arrival of the o-toushi. O-toushi are a small bowl of food, ususually bits of vegetable or seafood, that are given to you when you sit down along with your hot towel and chopsticks. This was four immaculately presented pieces, that included baked egg with what I think was flying-fish rose, and a wedge of sweet potato; prawn on tomato and radish; and a sazae – we refer to it as sea bogey as it is twisted out of it’s cavity but it’s chewy and tasty and reminds me a bit of smoked oysters. Apologies for the slightly blurred pic, I was still coming to grips with my camera (goat wisdom on ISO still being in the future).

nishunantempuraOff the beer and on to the sake and the rest of the meal. The tempura was a collection of vegetables for vegetable obsessives such as coiled fern frond and a river plant that looks like a cross between broccoli and a sunflower. I was pleased that far from having to sneakily grab a few pics, the waiter would turn the dish into the right position. Sashimi followed, and very baby squid are in season but sadly bonito isn’t. The baby squid were served with ginger shoots and a kind of sweet yellow Japanese mayonnaise. Soh and Mayumi watched while I seem to eat it all and tried to distract me with tricky questions about Japan being better than Europe or not, to which I’d reply something like Europa wa OK ga Nihon wa nnn sah neh, Tokyo wa ii deshou, daisuki desu, and then sneak another morsel in.

nishunansobaSoba is the closing dish and it’s very good, being super-aldente and quite chewy, the sign of a well cooked one. I pick up a tip not to dip it all in the sauce, just the ends. And we finished with a tea made of the sauce and some of the water the soba was cooked in. Lovely.

sohmayumisobarestaurantWent back to theirs to whip up an improv chorizo cooked in chianti (eek the rest of the Italy souvenir chianti they just brought back). Ah well nice to see them. Somewhere along they managed to remember every negative comment I’ve made about music (no classical is fine, yes the Velvet Underground do only have one song but I still like them). Much shuffling of songs and we settled on Jailbreak.

Nishunan:Daizawa 5-32-5, Sherubo Shimokitazawa 2F, 03-3411-1128


  1. David’s avatar

    Sounds very nice. I’ll be in Tokyo this weekend too!

  2. Santos’s avatar

    hanging out with rock stars again, i see. i wish more people liked soba. isn’t sazae some sort of snaily thing?

  3. Anthony’s avatar

    I read your post you crazy guy. MAke sure you have a great time. It’s a wonderful town. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Well again as in the last time I was in Tokyo. I gues soba has a subtle qualities that turn to blandness if it isn’t done right, the chewiness gives it more oomphs. Sea snaily, lives in a cone shaped shell and has a lid it pops out of. Neatly extricated with a toothpick.

  4. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    The Velvets only one song?! The soba and tempura look great.

  5. Anthony’s avatar

    Yeah I mean it’s a great one song and it goes faster for “Heroin” and “Waiting for my Man” and slower for “Sweet Jane” and “Monday Morning”.

    Soba and tempura were great, expecially the mystery vegetables.

  6. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I thought you were going to pick one with Nico in it, like Femme Fatale or I’ll Be Your Mirror.

  7. Anthony’s avatar

    Nah, I likes me Lou Reed, and John Cale too – the Songs for Drella thing they did was the business.

  8. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    The business?
    The whingy old has-been business! So a nutcase shot the big AW. Get over it.
    Well, that’s what I thought as a youngster. Now I’m a whingy old has-been/never-was perhaps I’ll like it.

  9. Anthony’s avatar

    To their credit, it is whinging by proxy unless you see it at whinging about Andy’s whinging in which case it is whinging. A case work on vulnerability and as we become less invincible it resounds more. No where was I, oh yes young people today woth their bicycles and their bad manners, why in …

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