11:00-14:00 and 17:30-19:30 (Mon-Fri)|
11:00-14:00 (1st and 3rd Sat)
Shinano is a rustic soba and udon restaurant. It opened in 1969 in Nishi-shinbashi and was highly popular till a few years ago when it was forced to close due to the construction of so-called "Mac Arthur road"(1).
"Mac Arthur road" is a nickname to the wide street which is to be constructed between Toranomon and Tsukiji. It was originally conceived as a part of the magnificent urban reconstruction plan of Tokyo after WWII. However, different from such cities as Nagoya, Sendai and Hiroshima, Tokyo did not put the plan into practice due to the sabotage of Governor Nakai who was reluctant to touch the vested interests.
The original plan foresaw a road with 100m width for this part of the ring road. The plan survived, but the size of the road was modified to 40m width and the construction of the stretch between Toranomon and Tsukiji started in 2005, 60 years after the first plan. There is a rumor that Douglas MacArthur issued an order to construct this road, as it could give the shortest cut for the American Embassy to the Tokyo Bay. But, that is only a rumor and GHQ was not supportive because a large-scale reconstruction plan was unnecessary for a defeated country.
Nishi-shinbashi is a good location for restaurants as there are many offices and most of the office workers go to nearby restaurants for lunch. Guests had to stand in a long queue if they wanted to eat at Shinano during lunch time. There must have been many Shinano fans who felt sorry for the closure of Shinano from their neighborhood.
Shinano then moved to the place near Akabanebashi subway station and opened a new and smaller restaurant four years ago. The new location, Akabanebashi, is less densely occupied by offices and the queue of visitors waiting for their turn is not as long as before. However, the old customers gradually discover this new location and Shinano attracts new clients in the new neighborhood.
In Japan specialized restaurants often have the same or similar name and this indicates their close relationship, though not franchise nor chain restaurants. Young cooks learn their skills through a sort of master ? apprentice relations and when they become independent, they are allowed to use the name of their master’s restaurant. This noren-wake system is typically seen for sushi and soba restaurants (See the article on Sunaba).
Shinano group does not have a long tradition like Sunaba or Sarashina. The original restaurant of Shinano is located in Kannai, Yokohama and there are some six sister restaurants in Tokyo. I have not tried all of Shinano restaurants, but hear that the Shinano in Akabanebashi is the best among them. The characteristics of Shinano are expressed in its menu and rustic style. Shinano offers both soba and udon prepared in country style; noodles are thick and unsophisticated. Its specialty kenchin-jiru appeals to the customers in particular in the cold seasons.
In case of Shinano-Akabanebashi, I used to prefer udon, while I felt soba too coarse. The texture of their udon is highly resilient and chewing it gives you an extra satisfaction by way of teeth in addition to the pleasure of toungue. Therefore, I love it till today. On the other hand, I recently come to appreciate their soba despite of its coarse texture, as it keeps the very essence of soba taste: the opposite of the sophisticated and elegant Issa-an style soba noodle. Recently the thickness of soba noodle is slightly lessened.
Kenchin-jiru is very delicious indeed. Frankly speaking, I would not frequent Shinano so much, if they had no kenchin-jiru(2) I try to cook for myself Kenchin-jiru as tasty as at Shinano, but not much successful by now.
|(2)||Kenchin-jiru is a sort of soup made of radish, carrot, yam, konnyaku, burdock and tofu. After roasting ingredients with sesame oil, they are cooked in soup. It was originally made by monks as a vegetarian dish. In case of Shinano, grated sesame seeds and white-miso are added and mitsuba (wild chervil) is assorted for its aroma and fresh green color.|
We can order kenchin-jiru as an independent menu, but there is also a menu of noodles in Kenchin-jiru. I personally prefer noodle and soup separately, so that I can enjoy two different kinds of taste: we then eat soba or udon after dipping them into soy-based sauce with different herbs.
The interior of Shinano is simple and comfortable. The restaurant is run by the owner and his wife alone. The wife serves all guests in a very confident manner. There is no wonder that Shinano has a high reputation among soba and udon lovers. I also frequent Shinano, at least once in ten days.