Does soba pair well with ramen broth? And will our expectations of the presentation meet reality?

Soba is one of Japan’s best dishes. A mellow broth full of umami, soft and slightly chewy buckwheat noodles, and a light topping of your choice (often green onions or other vegetables) makes for a delicious, easy-on-the-stomach meal that’s immensely satisfying for both the belly and the taste buds.

Except for some of the soba dishes served at Nadai Fujisoba. Known for experimenting heavily with the basic soba recipe and toppings, this soba chain has previously devised unusual combinations like Toast Soba and French Fry Soba. That’s because each individual branch of Nadai Fujisoba has the creative freedom to design its own original dishes, so they’ve come up with some really unique things.

This month, one branch has invented a special dish in collaboration with ramen restaurant Kichijoji Musashiya: ie-kei soba. Now, ie-kei is a particular kind of ramen that originated in Yokohama and blends rich, tonkotsu (pork-bone) broth, prevalent in Fukuoka, with shoyu (soy sauce) broth, the most common in Tokyo. Ie-kei has become a popular kind of ramen that most fans have eaten at some point in their noodle-loving lives, but how does the style work with soba, whose broth is usually a mild blend of kelp, bonito, soy sauce, sake, and mirin?

Naturally, our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato had to go and find out.

The Nadai Fujisoba offering Ie-kei Soba is the Nishi-Ogikubo branch in western Tokyo. They started selling the unusual dish, whose broth was made under the supervision of Kichijoji Musashiya, on April 1.

There are two kinds available: ordinary Ie-kei Soba (650 yen [US$5.05]) and Ie-kei Soba Kichijoji-mori (900 yen), which is served with a luxurious array of ramen toppings. Of course, we at SoraNews24 don’t do anything by halves, so Mr. Sato naturally chose the Kichijoji-mori.

According to Fujisoba’s Facebook page, what’s special about the Kichijoji-mori is the seaweed topping, which is very specifically arranged. Not one, not two, but seven pieces of seaweed are to be placed in an overlapping line from left to right in the back of the bowl, with the left piece underneath the right, and the top of the seaweed must make a straight line. Mr. Sato didn’t know who decided to create such a rule, but it sure looked nice in the menu picture.

That’s why he was pretty excited to see how cool the bowl would look when it came out of the kitchen, so he eagerly ordered the Ie-kei Soba Kichijoji-mori. But Mr. Sato went to the bathroom, and then went to fill up his water cup, and while he was gone, his bowl of soba arrived. When he came back, what he saw was…


It was already starting to collapse!

Of course, it must be pretty hard to make it stand up like in the menu picture. As time passes, the bottom of the seaweed pieces undoubtedly gets soggy and they’ll start to sink into the broth. Reality is not quite as forgiving as the ideal. Still, he couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the contrast.

However! Just as the Facebook post dictated, the seaweed was in fact overlapping from left to right, and the top of the seaweed was probably arranged in a straight line at first. They really did put all that effort into the presentation!

Mr. Sato then gave the soup a taste, and there was no doubt it was a ramen broth. Mr. Sato didn’t think he’d ever had such a thick and heavy soup with soba before.

However, what was waiting at the bottom of the bowl was not ramen, but soba, so he had to make do. Sadly, the combination of soba and ie-kei soup was good, but something was missing. Perhaps it was because the soup had so much punch that the mild and soft soba noodles couldn’t quite match it.

It was tasty, but it made Mr. Sato want to eat ramen, to slurp up firm noodles that have been soaking in the rich broth. Nevertheless, he had to admit it was a brave endeavor to try paring soba with ie-kei ramen broth. If people didn’t try crazy things like this, then new dishes would never be invented, after all! His hat goes off to Fujisoba for their creativity and enterprise.

By the way, the seaweed, at least the top part, was still crispy and delicious. It made him want to try the Ie-kei Soba Kichijoji-mori again, but only if he made sure to eat it before the seaweed wall collapsed.

Nadai Fujisoba also offers ordinary bowls of soba and lets you customize them with your favorite toppings, so if you want to keep it classic, you certainly can (true to our natures, though, we always tend to go a little overboard).

Restaurant information
Nadai Fujisoba (Nishi-Ogikubo Branch) / 名代富士そば(西荻窪店)
Address: Tokyo-to Suginami-ku Nishi-Ogikubo 3-9-7
Open daily, 24 hours a day (except between 3 and 3:45 a.m.)

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