It was the last day of school. No classes but more pertinently, no kyushoku (Japanese for school lunch). The lunch hour was upon me with no thought given to what I was going to do. All the school staff had brought their own lunch. I was on my own. And then I remembered the restaurant that had opened across the street from this school: Echigoya Jihei Soba.
“Oh, it’s very good!” the school staff informed me, and it was.
Gray skies, light snow and a cold wind that bit more of winter than of early spring made this the perfect day for a warm bowl of soba. Echigoya’s menu offered three kinds of soba: cold (rei), hot (on), and “dip-able” (tsuke).” Order cold or tsuke soba and the amount of noodles can be increased for an additional ¥100. Hungry as I was I went for the tsuke soba with an Echigo mochi-buta (Niigata raised chewy pork) soy broth. After demolishing the starting small dish of crisp salt pickled cabbage and cucumbers and the cup of warm tea, I took in Echigoya. The restaurant’s architecture mimics that of Taisho-era restaurants I’ve visited but modernizes it with the advent of large windows and modern fixtures, and brightens the atmosphere further with wood-colored walls, floors and furniture. The seasonal Hina dolls placed throughout the restaurant assure an authentic Japanese feel without pounding diners over the head with it.
Shortly after finishing the starter my meal was delivered: a tray bearing a plate heaped high with soba noodels; a big bowl of soba broth with chunks of pork, saffron and mushrooms enticing me to dig in; and a small dish of fried green onion and a smudge of yuzu paste for me to dress the broth to my liking. Echigoya’s noodles were flavorful and just a little bit chewy. The soba broth itself was well balanced and gave the noodles, meat and vegetables a wonderful flavor. The heat of the meal also stuck to my ribs and pushed back against the cold outside. This carnivore would have preferred more meat (a lot more meat) and mushrooms and veggies with my soba. If I were to have my way though, restaurants everywhere would have to up their prices. Happy travels!