Ginza doesn’t have to be all about pricey eating. Yomoda Soba is a down-to-earth canteen-style soba and curry operation that’s a great choice for a quick, inexpensive meal.
Soba with jumbo mixed vegetable tempura (kakiage) and half-size curry rice. - image © Florentyna Leow
Ginza is not my favourite part of Tokyo. That’s putting it mildly. The seemingly endless blocks of shops hawking luxury brands, the tourists milling around with shopping bags and cameras, the relentless clarion call of capitalism - all of that makes me want to crawl back into the subway and take the train out west to Takao. After about 15 minutes around the central shopping street I usually start casting around for a green space, a resting area, anything that isn’t asking me to drop money on things I don’t need.
Still, there are pockets of sanity here and there in Ginza. There’s a Tsutaya bookstore on the top floor of Ginza Six with a sleek, beautiful reading area. The side streets are home to a few odd bars and kissaten run by irascible folks who couldn’t care less about brand names. And then there are places for ordinary folks, like Yomoda Soba.
The entrance to Yomoda Soba in Ginza. Nihonbashi is where the main shop is. - image © Florentyna Leow
Yomoda Soba is fast food that won’t send you to an early grave. It’s hearty stuff that’ll power you through a ride on the Ginza line at rush hour. It’s not all that pretty, but it is reasonably tasty and good value for money. JPY640 for a bowl of soba and curry rice is nothing to sniff at, especially in Ginza.
When I say fast food, I really mean fast. Forget McDonald’s - Yomoda Soba is one of those places that has you in and out of the door in under 10 minutes if you slurp quickly. If there’s a queue, it will last a few minutes tops. Turnover is quick. Everyone’s in a hurry here.
The ticket machine for Yomoda Soba. - image © Florentyna Leow
Naturally, this is a ticket machine kind of place. Who has time to take orders? Certainly not the staff: they’re too busy putting together your meal. All the buttons are labeled in English as well, which is a nice touch for a shop whose primary clients seem to be local office folks and blue-collar workers.
Slot in your money, hit the buttons, and hand your tickets over to the staff at the kitchen inside. It’s a canteen-style operation and it’s all very efficient. If you want your soba cold, ask for ‘tsumetai soba.’ Pick up your food and squeeze yourself into a seat at the counter.
Pick up your tray after about a minute’s wait. - image © Florentyna Leow
Yomoda has a few interesting things happening on the menu. You can have soba and Indian-style curry on the same tray, two things you don’t often see cozying up to each other. The curry in question is a chicken curry, only mildly spicy but deeply flavorful and creamy. It’s good. Spoiler: I’d go back for the curry.
Yomoda’s other claim to fame is ‘international’ soba toppings, the most unorthodox of these being cheese. Granted, folks here in Japan can’t get enough of cheese. It is fashionable to put cheese on anything and everything, which makes it pretty passé now. I would eat this at least once. It’s all about the melted cheese, though, so you can only have cheesy soba if you order it hot, which no one in their right mind is going to do on a 35C summer’s day in Tokyo.
Curry rice that doesn’t look like much, but I’d go back for this. - image © Florentyna Leow
I genuinely wasn’t expecting much for a JPY640 bowl of soba plus curry rice, and a JPY160 ham katsu. But I shouldn’t have doubted the constant stream of office workers popping in and out of Yomoda. (This shop also does takeout.) The noodles had a nice al dente bite to them. The chilled broth has enough umami and salt to power you through a gallon of sweat in summer, and the generous lick of wasabi gives it extra zing.
Ham katsu tastes exactly like how you would expect ham katsu that costs JPY140 to taste. Stacked slices of ham straight out of a plastic package, battered and deep-fried. Hot, a little bit salty. It was what I wanted in that moment. Nothing more, nothing less.
A huge jumbo vegetable tempura that’s almost the size of the bowl. Sadly, not worth your time. - image © Florentyna Leow
The bad: do not order the vegetable kakiage. Not unless you can guarantee that it’ll arrive on your soba hot from the fryer, because anything fried is far better hot and greasy than cold and greasy. No one likes soggy fried vegetables.
The poster on the wall is like the Ten Commandments, but it’s about Yomoda Soba’s commitment to good ingredients instead. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you’re coming in summer, do what I didn’t do, and order the cold aubergine soba. It’s basically the soba described above, with fried aubergine, a shower of crispy tempura batter bits, grated daikon and a bit of grated ginger. Summer is the time for aubergines.
The lack of space and the rapid canteen-style service means it’s not a place to linger. But at this price point, there’s no need for a leisurely sit-down experience. And, in a country where most ‘breakfast’ places don’t open until 9am, Yomoda Soba opens at 7am so you can have your soba or curry right after you wake up. Thank goodness for Yomoda Soba - places like this keep a neighbourhood like Ginza saner and more down-to-earth than it would otherwise be.
Directions: take exit B2 from Ginza Station. You’ll see Gucci on your right. Turn into the street just after Gucci. Walk along the street until the end of the block and turn left. You’ll see Yomoda Soba on your left.
Yomoda Soba Ginzaten
Name in Japanese:
1F Ginza Hakua Building, 4-3-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo-to
東京都中央区銀座4-3-2 銀座白亜ビル 1F
7:00am - 10:30pm
Subway: 2-minute walk from exit B2 of Ginza Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza or Hibiya line.
:: Read customer reviews of Yomoda Soba Ginzaten on TripAdvisor.
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