Our native Osakan tries out this unusual combo.

Ordinarily, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa wouldn’t bother stopping his steps while walking past a branch of restaurant chain Metoroan. Sure, Seiji is a big fan of soba (buckwheat) noodles, which is what Metoroan specializes in, but Metoroan’s menu tends to be about as basic as soba joints come.

▼ “Nothing special to see here. Move it along,” Seiji can hear his stomach saying.

Coming across a Metoroan branch usually isn’t a particularly rare experience, either. The chain is run by a subsidiary of Tokyo Metro Co. (“Metoro” is also how “metro” gets pronounced in Japanese), the operator of one of Tokyo’s two subway networks, and so the chain has branches inside a number of stations.

Seeing one above ground, like the branch in Tokyo’s Ueno neighborhood pictured above, is a little more noteworthy, but that novelty alone wouldn’t have convinced Seiji to step inside and get something to eat. What did convince him, tough, was this.

Proudly being advertised on a banner next to the menu was Metoroan’s Deluxe Takoyaki Soba. Takoyaki are bite-sized ball-shaped dumplings with a piece of octopus (tako in Japanese) at the center. They’re a beloved snack, regularly sold from streetside stalls and eaten using a toothpick…but never put into a bowl of noodles, at least at anywhere Seiji’s seen.

Seiji was particularly intrigued because takoyaki are the representative street food of Osaka, his hometown. So seeing takoyaki noodles in Tokyo was doubly surprising, and so he decided to head inside the restaurant for some investigative eating.

Ordering at this branch is done via touchscreen, and Seiji saw that he could select either soba or udon for his noodles. Like a lot of people who grew up in Osaka, Seiji finds the noodle broth in Tokyo to have a stronger flavor than what he was used to back home, and so he opted for the soba, which has a bit more flavor of its own compared to udon, which he predicted would make the best match with the broth. He still wasn’t sure if this unorthodox noodle concept was going to be good or not, but at a price of 650 yen (US$4.35), it wasn’t going to hurt his wallet very much to find out.

Visually, the Deluxe Takoyaki Soba is very brown. Aside from the color of the takoyaki, broth, and noodles, there’s the sprinkled katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and also plenty of tempura flakes too. As for that patch of red near the rim of the bowl, it’s a dollop of mentaiko (spicy cod roe).

Different takoyaki stands cook them a little differently. Metoroan’s have just a touch of crispiness to the outside edge of their breading, which helps keep them from getting soggy while they’re sitting in the broth. The breading is still soft enough to absorb the flavors of Metoroan’s broth, though, which is made with bonito, mackerel, and sardine. Combined with the takoyaki’s octopus core, the overall balance was great, making for very tasty results for this unexpected combination of takoyaki and noodles.

Still, Seiji still couldn’t quit comprehend how Metoroan, of all places, came up with this idea. Even weirder, it turns out that the Deluxe Takoyaki Soba, which is available for a limited but undisclosed time, has been on sale since January, and that the very first branch in the chain to start serving it was this one, in Ueno.

But as Seiji stood up and walked out of the restaurant, with his taste buds happy but his mind confused, he thinks he got the answer he was looking for.

Again, this is the Ueno Metoroan storefront…

…and right across the street from it is this.

That’s a branch of Gindaco, Japan’s most popular takoyaki chain. The Metoroan staff sees it every day, and Seiji figures on one of those days one of them came up with the idea of putting takoyaki in their noodles.

It’s a reminder that inspiration, and good food, can be found all around you, as long as you keep your eyes and mind open.

Restaurant information
Metoroan (Ueno branch) / めとろ庵(上野店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Higashi Ueno 3-19-1
Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Closed weekends, holidays

Related: Metoroan location list
Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]