And it’s not a limited time offer!

Osaka is known for many kinds of food, including takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Something that’s harder to find, though, at last compared to Tokyo, is soba noodles, since Osaka is more of an udon town. Luckily, we have our local soba fanatic and Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa to find great soba places for us in Tokyo and beyond. He recently found a soba place in Osaka that caught his eye, and he was even more intrigued by the menu inside.

▼ It advertises clearly that it’s a stand-and-eat soba place during the day, with soba (そば) written in giant characters on the signs out front.

This is Kita no Sakaba, an izakaya pub that only sells soba from noon to 3 p.m. It’s located in Osaka’s Kitashinchi neighborhood, colloquially known as the upper-class red light district. So amid fancy hotels and bars, this place in particular stood out to Seiji.

▼ It’s atypical for Osaka and the neighborhood, but in a good way.

The prices on the menu, like 450 yen (US$3.90) for plain kakesoba and 550 yen for kitsune soba, were slightly more expensive than what he was used to seeing in Tokyo, but it was decently priced considering Kitashinchi, as one of Osaka’s primary entertainment districts, isn’t a particularly inexpensive part of town.

Seiji entered the restaurant and took a look at the menu inside. It’s common for there to be more menu items on the menus inside than the ones advertised outside, and that was the case here, but what was surprising was…

▼ Those pictures don’t even look like soba!

…the menu items in the upper-right corner. There were three items marked as “special soba”: fried chicken soba, “everything fried” soba, and the 10 tempura shrimp special. The “everything fried” soba was topped with fried chikuwa fish cakes, fried chicken, fried shrimp, and more. The 10 tempura shrimp special was pretty self-explanatory. For 2,000 yen, you get a bowl of hot or cold soba topped with 10 tempura shrimp.

▼ Insanity! What other secrets is the quaint little eatery hiding?

“Why isn’t this advertised on the menu outside? The restaurant owner must be crazy!” Seiji thought, and since he himself is quite a smart guy when it comes to noodles, he wasted no time ordering the “ebi ten special” (which combines “ebi,” the Japanese word for “shrimp,” with the English number “ten”).

But for some reason, the employee who was taking his order hesitated when he asked for the ebi ten special.

▼ Did Seiji do something wrong? Is there a secret menu?

“Do you mean…the one with 10 tempura shrimp?” the employee asked hesitantly. Seiji began to panic. Was this a scam, or was it not really on the menu, or something? “Y-yes,” Seiji stammered in reply. The staff reverted back to their previous cheery state and said, “Understood!” Seiji was frightened by the sudden mood change and waited anxiously for his food. What would actually come out?

▼ Not to worry; it looks very shrimpy.

To his relief, it was exactly as advertised: 10 fat, juicy tempura fried shrimp on a hot bowl of soba noodles. There was so much shrimp and green onion in the bowl that he couldn’t see the soba noodles at first.

▼ Is it just fried shrimp soup, then?

Seiji was very satisfied with the shrimp-to-batter ratio, noting that this would be the perfect dish for shrimp lovers.

▼ There are noodles in it, too, we promise.

As he progressed in his shrimp and soba eating, he noticed that his broth was becoming more and more inundated with soggy tempura batter. It was bound to happen, but since the shrimp were such a big aspect of the dish, the amount of batter almost outweighed the soba noodles.

▼ So juicy and tender.

If you’re fine with that, Seiji thinks you’d be fine with the hot soba! But if you want to enjoy the shrimp flavor more, he recommends getting the cold soba, since the broth is served on the side for you to dip the noodles and tempura into right before you take a bite. Osaka-style soba broth usually has a lighter flavor than Tokyo’s, but Kita no Sakaba’s is still rich and flavorful.

As he finished his delicious dish, Seiji couldn’t shake the feeling of confusion he had when he ordered his noodles. “Why did you react that way when I ordered my soba?” he eventually asked the employee, who answered, “Besides the 10 tempura shrimp special, we also have a normal tempura shrimp soba,” and “ebiten” is also how you say “tempura shrimp” in Japanese.

▼ Top: How Kita no Sakaba writes “ebi ten” for its 10-tempura shrimp soba
Bottom: The standard way of writing the “ebiten” that just means shrimp tempura, even for just one shrimp

“Since they’re both pronounced ‘ebiten,’ sometimes I get confused and have to double check,” the employee explained.

Though the 10-shrimp one is offiially called the “ebi ten special” and the less shrimp-filled one just “ebiten soba,” Seiji recommends pointing to the appropriate spot on the menu when ordering to avoid confusion. So if you ever find yourself in Osaka craving a nice bowl of soba, he gives this place a thumbs up! And after that, you can stop by Koreatown to enjoy even more delicious eats.

Restaurant information
Kita no Sakaba / 北ノ酒場
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Dojima 1-5-35
Open noon-midnight (until 8:30 p.m. during state of emergency)
Closed Sundays and national holidays

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