Owariya — 540 Year Old Soba Restaurant 本家尾張屋
Owariya, a purveyor to the Imperial Household, has a history that goes back over five hundred and forty years. It is the oldest noodle shop in Kyoto.
Over the centuries, Owariya has served emperors and shoguns as well as the monks of many of the temples of Kyoto.
Owariya is very popular with both locals and visitors for it’s soba noodles as well as soba confectioneries.
Owariya, properly called Honke Owariya (the ‘Original’ Owariya) is very popular for it’s noodles as well as confectioneries. The main restaurant is located on a quiet street just south of the Imperial Palace. The concetionery shop is located in the same neighborhood, one street to the west on Karasuma Street.
Owariya is a very ‘Kyoto’ establishment, centuries old, excellent food and atmosphere, yet very approachable. If you want to experience ‘Kyoto’ and ‘soba’, you cannot go wrong with Owariya.
Owariya Main Restaurant Entrance
Inside the gate, on the right side is a delightful little garden.
Zashiki and Tokonoma
Zashiki (sit on the floor on tatami mats). Tokonoma (alcove with hanging scroll and flowers). There is a delightful little dining alcove to the right of the door as you enter Owariya. There are just two tables, if you can get seated here and you don’t mind sitting on the floor, this is a cozy little place to enjoy lunch or dinner. (By the way, sitting on the floor Japanese style can be uncomfortable for folks not accustomed to it. If you are not quite as limber as in your younger days, go for the chairs and tables.)
A sampling of Owariya’s soba confectionaries
Owariya actually started out as a confectionery shop. If you visit the restaurant between 3 and 5:30 guests are given these complementary wagashi. Take them home with you if you like. They are of course, soba (buckwheat) confectionery.
Rikyu Soba (利休そば)
This is one of Owariya’s most famous dishes. It contains fu 麩 (wheat gluten) that has been deep fried, simmered in sweetened shoyu. The geens are mitsuba, there is a sheet of dried and reconstituted yuba, the ‘maple leaves’ are also fu, but nama (fresh), not fried. The dashi (soup stock) always amazes me, it is a very delicate and understated broth but not at all wimpy.
Soba Tempura! — A side dish of assorted tempura, tenpura chirashi (天婦羅ちらし)
Tempura Chirashi (literally, a scattering of tempura) is on the ‘hors d’œuvres’ section of the menu. (The really call it hors d’œuvres!) Tempura soba is common on menus, that is a piece or two of tempura served on top of a bowl of soba noodles. This is not that dish, it is soba noodles that have been deepfried along with the shrimp and baby eggplant! (Paku hadn’t even heard of this one! It is quite rare, and a treat.)
note: grated daikon upper right
Rikyu Soba and Tempura Chirashi
The grated daikon radish is placed in the dipping sauce, this is of course for the tempura.
Soba Tempura – detail
Left to right; nori,soba (tied in a delightful knot), shrimp tail
Nature is just a sheet of paper away!
I pulled back the shoji latticed slidding screen/door and got a delightful peek at the garden. Though flowers are blooming it is near freezing, so the shoji did not stay open for long!
The Entry Vestibule and Noren
The noren, or shop curtain reads, “御用蕎麦司” (goyou soba tsukasa), “purveyor of soba to the Imperial Household.”
Plastic food, shinise style!
Ah, Japan’s ubiquitous plastic food! At Owariya, it looks completely real! The dish on the right is some delicacies that can be enjoy with sake before dinner. There is soba-miso, fish cakes and herring simmered in sweet shoyu sauce.
Owariya Soba Confectionery Shop
The confectionery shop is located on the next street over from the noodle shop, on Karasuma Street and it would seem that the restaurant and the confectionery shop are connected at the back.
The Owariya confectionery shop has confections made with soba!
Soba Warabi Mochi (蕎麦わらび)
This is a variation of warabi mochi, but this is sprinkled with Owariya’s soba powder.
Soba Bouro 蕎麦ぼうろ
A kind of biscuit, or cookie made with soba flour. Soba bouro is common and popular all over Japan. It is often somewhat sweet.
English menu: yes
English website: www.honke-owariya.co.jp
Service/Staff: Staff is ok, not especially friendly.
Price: 1,000 – 3,000 yen. (A nice lunch can be had for about 1,000 yen and for dinner or a house specialty, 2,000 to 3,000 yen)
Location and Access: The noodle shop is just a five minute walk south of The Imperial Palace on Kurumaya-cho Street, and one block east of Karasuma Street.
Near Sightseeing Spot: Imperial Palace