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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Perfect soba noodles in Matsumoto

Cold starter of cooked seasonal wild mushrooms
topped with grated daikon in a  dashi-based sauce
'Tortilla' made of soba noodles, spring onions and seaweed
on a nest of deep-fried soba noodles
Homemade pickles
Alps' handmade soba consisting of different measures of buckwheat (from left to right):
2:8 buckwheat and wheat (Ni-hachi "2-8"); 1:9 buckwheat and wheat 
(both served with soba dipping sauce (top left));
and 100% buckwheat (Juuwari) served with water and salt for dipping
Sweet, deep-fried soba in red-bean soup
Interior of the tiny restaurant
The kitchen with the chef and his charming assistant
Fresh soba
The soba workshop at Alps with the chef holding his soba knife. 
LOCATION: Alps Restaurant, Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Japan (ask a local for directions)
CATEGORY: Japanese, soba 
DRINK: Sake, green tea
WE THINK: Best soba we have ever had and the most memorable meal during our week-long eating trip to Japan. Alps restaurant, founded in 1894, is tiny with 4 traditional low tables on tatami mats and one 'normal' table for people with stiff joints (Westerners) which we were initially shown to. This evening there were two elderly local couples enjoying a full soba meal like us, and a taxi driver finishing a bowl of soba noodles in record time. We were served by the chef's female assistant, a charming and loud number, who announced each dish with roaring laughter, broken English and goofy gesticulations. She later invited us to the kitchen where we were introduced to the chef who has practiced the art of soba-making at Alps for 28 years. The apex of our soba-themed meal this evening was, as should be expected, the cold soba noodles; in particular the delicious 100% buckwheat noodles (juuwari), dipped simply in salt and water. We dream about them at regular intervals. 

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