A couple of years ago I read a fairly in depth article about how soba noodles are made in Japan. Like seemingly everything in that country, there seems to be a very long drawn out apprenticeship, followed by a lifetime of perfecting a craft. Is this a case of someone making a mountain out of a molehill? A noodle, is a noodle, is a noodle, right? Or so I thought.
We arrived in Honolulu just in time for lunch. With Regina’s penchant for all things Japanese and my fascination with the handmade, we made a beeline for Matsugen near Waikiki. I was warned this was going to be Japanese Japanese. Oh really? What exactly is “Japanese Japanese”? Is there a difference between that and regular old Japanese? I was intrigued and a little scared at the same time.
As we walked into the restaurant I noticed that, like most things Japanese, it was very small. The main dining area was to your left with lacquered tabletops, simple place settings, and minimalist décor. The room was well lit, with a glassed-in work station surrounded by a bar and stools. Every morning they make fresh soba noodles by hand. While I wanted to see them actually make the noodles, the day’s noodles had already been made.
I decided to go with the cold soba noodles with “goma-dare” sesame sauce. In the past I’ve had these noodles where they are so horribly bad I couldn’t even eat half of the bowl. The buckwheat in the noodles can be gritty and overpowering in taste. I could have easily eaten two bowls of these silken artistic beauties.
Regina ordered the Butterfish and avocado tempura. The perfectly cooked butter fish came apart in perfect flavorful bite sized slabs. Our chopsticks slowly reduced the fish down to an empty plate with a spent lemon rind. High marks for this dish. The creaminess of the avocado was counterbalanced by the light tempura crunch.
The menu had a number of interesting options and it’s clear from the patrons that this place is popular. Our biggest obstacle was a lack of exposure and understanding of the Japanese items on the menu. My wife scribbled down many of the dishes she wasn’t familiar with. Next time she plans to do some research ahead of time, so that we can make informed decisions. The food is very well crafted and is worth at least a lunch if you find yourself on the edge of Waikiki Beach.
255 Beach Walk
Honolulu, HI 96815