“If you’re going to drink sake, go to a soba restaurant.”
These are some things that a sake enthusiast might say to you.
So why do sake soba restaurants get all of the hype?
Soba and Sake Origins
There is a long history between soba restaurants and sake. During the Edo period (1603-1868), there weren’t any bars like the ones we have today. People had to go to soba restaurants for decent sake.
There were also no refrigerators, so soba had to be cut and made on the spot. This made wait times for orders long. Because of this, restaurants made sake and nibbles available so that the soba could be served at the perfect time: right when their customer finished drinking.
This tradition has been passed down to soba restaurants that exist today and that’s why we see delicious sake and nibbles on their menu.
Here are some nibbles that we recommend you try at a soba restaurant.
Soba miso yaki: Grilled buckwheat seeds with soy sauce and miso, served on a rice spoon. Grilling removes the excess moisture from the miso sauce and the aroma of the buckwheat seeds make it go well with a refreshing dry sake.
Dashimaki tamago: A rolled omelet using the soba restaurant’s original stock
Each restaurant uses their own recipe to make dashi (stock). Using stock as an ingredient makes the umami spread throughout your mouth. Therefore, it goes well with sweet, dry, or any kind of sake.
Itawasa: Sliced fish paste eaten with soy sauce and wasabi
Dry sake goes perfect with this light nibble.
Grilled duck: Duck meat grilled and sliced. Although meat was not common on a soba restaurant’s menu during the Edo period, it was said that some places did serve duck. This is why many soba restaurants also have it on the menu today. Order soba and a refreshing dry sake with it.
How to order at a soba restaurant
When you go to a soba restaurant, try getting a dry sake and a nibble. Enjoy a little bite while reflecting on Japan’s history before you order your main dish, the soba. After emptying your sake, make sure to finish the soba that you ordered and then pay for your meal.
Soba restaurants aren’t somewhere people linger. For Japanese people, it’s a place to enjoy for a short time and then move on.
Are you craving sake and soba now? You should definitely try it.