Believe it or not, I actually had more noodles in Japan than sushi, sashimi…any kind of seafood combined. This includes the snacking at the Tsukiji Fish Market and Nishiki Fish Market in Tokyo and Kyoto respectively. What I noticed in Japan is that many of the restaurants were small and intimate and the food was pretty specialized. Some menus only had a handful of items available with minimal room for variability or substitutions. However, the food in these places was incredibly delicious and much better than in some of the larger restaurants where dishes were more mass produced.
The noodles were especially delicious. And I can’t pass up a good bowl of noodles.
While in Kyoto, after spending nearly three hours on the Shinkansen from Hiroshima, E-Buns, Groucho, and I looked for something to eat as it was getting dark. We passed multiple little restaurants with large posters of the menus propped up outside, enticing customers to come in and try their dishes. The place we found was perfect.
Nekomata is a unique noodle restaurant that is a few minutes walk from the Kiyomizu Temple. The specialty here is Abura Soba noodles or “Oil noodles.” Think of it as ramen, but thicker, and flavored in a homemade sauce and savory oils. The noodles were not oily and were easy to eat. For 600 ¥, I opted for the plain noodles (Groucho had ordered the spicy miso, which was just as delicious), topped with chopped green onions, bamboo shoots, and pork, garnished with seaweed.
Abura Soba noodles have been growing in popularity in Japan but it’s still relatively new. Because it doesn’t require a soup base like regular ramen, it’s easier and cheaper to make. Believe it or not, restaurants have instructions on how to best enjoy the noodles. Stir the noodles with the oil on the bottom of the bowl and you may opt to add additional flavoring. It’s really up to the customer.
Recently opened, the restaurant’s name Nekomata is a nod to the split-tailed cat in Japanese folklore and has adorable decor with ceramic and plastic cats watching over the patrons from the walls. The restaurant is tiny and seats only about 15 to 20 people and we didn’t have to wait long to sit or get our meal. It’s a great little place to go either alone or with a couple friends. Sometimes those random little places you walk by every day offer the best food and the best service.