Savor Tradition with Post-Drinks Soba in Pontocho
Kawamichiya Ginka are a soba noodle restaurant that have been around since 1902.
The character “分” (meaning “divide”) on the store’s small noren traditional store-front curtain, signifies the fact that this restaurant is a branch of the famous “Sou-Honke Kawamichiya” soba restaurant, who are known for their famous Kyoto buckwheat cookies, the “Soba Houru.”
A long time ago, the three daughters of the Kawamichiya restaurant took on chefs as sons-in-law, and from the eldest, were given the store names “Kinka,” Ginka,” and “Douka.” One of those chefs was the third owner of Kawamichiya Ginka, Mr. Ueda’s grandfather.
Ueda has a strong connection with the original store through his experiences of going to Kawamichiya to learn the trade when he was around 18 and helping out at their festival stall at Yoshida Shrine.
It has been 47 years since the store established itself in Kyoto’s famous street of old bars and restaurants, Pontocho. Ever since then the store has opened at 5 PM to Midnight to meet the demands of the lively nightlife area.
If you take a look at the Japanese fans and Senjafuda stickers that are plastered around the restaurant, you can see that many Geisha stop by here after work too.
Two of the most unique things about Ginka is the umami of their dashi stock and the chewiness of their soba noodles.
While it may be a given for warm soba noodles, their dashi stock is used as the base for the dipping sauce of their cold soba noodles as well. In combination with the gentle flavors of their dashi stock, their chewy soba noodles, which use Japanese yams in conjunction with a ratio of 20% wheat to 80% buckwheat flour, allow you to savor the flavors of Kyoto traditions in food form.
In Japan it’s common for people to have a bowl of ramen or even ochazuke (tea poured over rice) after drinking; however, as you’re in Kyoto, why not give the quietly tasteful and very Kyoto-esque post-drinks soba a try after drinking at Ginka or other Pontocho establishments.
Grated Yam Buckwheat Noodles
/ ￥1,450 (Inc. Tax)
This highly recommended dish features a helping of cold soba noodles with a side of grated Japanese yam. The grated yam refers to the side of ooey-gooey goop that comes from grating the especially sticky Yamato-imo variety of Japanese yams.
Also, just before you begin eating your noodles, this dish actually requires a little work from you. First, pour the strong dipping sauce in the white sake bottle onto the grated yam so that it covers it completely, give it and the egg yolk inside a good stir.
Once finished, take around six soba noodles, dip them in the goopy egg and yam mixture and quickly scoop it into your mouth before it all slides off the noodles.
The smoothness of the grated yam, the aroma of the dipping sauce, egg yolk and sea lettuce, and the chewiness of the soba noodles come together to make one of the best soba sets there is.
Tempura and Buckwheat Noodle Set
/ ￥1,650 (Inc. Tax)
With this popular dish, you can enjoy both refreshing cold soba, as well as tempura. The tempura is fried with a perfectly thin layer batter, which allows the two shrimp, sweet green peppers, eggplant and pumpkin to really stand out.
Furthermore, these vegetables change seasonally and are chosen in accordance with what tastes best at that time of year (The above picture is from June).
The dipping sauce, which is made with soy sauce and a dashi stock base, is on the stronger side, so you only need to dip the tempura or soba in halfway to get the full flavors of the sauce.
The soba noodles are made from scratch at the store every day and are fresh when they’re boiled, allowing them to keep that classic soba fragrance and giving them a pleasant chewy texture.
The cooks adjust how long they boil the soba for, upon seeing how the day’s noodles have turned out, so definitely give them a try and be amazed at the skill of these fantastic cooks.
Buckwheat of Chicken and Leek
/ ￥1,100 (Inc. Tax)
The Buckwheat of Chicken and Leek are a warm bowl of soba noodles perfect for enjoying the flavours of the restaurant’s dashi stock.
The leek refers to the famous Kyoto Kujo Scallions that are used in this dish.
The dashi stock is made from Hokkaido’s luxury kelp, Rishiri Kombu, and the largest producer of bonito flakes in Japan, Kagoshima Prefecture’s Makurazaki Katsuo bonito.
In addition to all that, the oil from the chicken, chewiness, and sweetness from the Kujo Scallions and fiery taste of the Japanese pepper, culminate in a perfectly Kyoto bowl of refined noodles.
The mild flavours of this dish make it the perfect late night finisher to a long night of drinking.