Daijiro Soba-Ya is a restaurant in Gracia focusing on handmade soba noodles.
This time last year I was binging on books* about Japan in preparation for my two week trip to Tokyo. My first time ever to Japan. Though I have visited Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam I knew that Japan would stun me. And it did. Japan is more unique than most people know. For 217 years it was closed to the rest of the world. From 1635 to 1852. Under the Sakoku Edict, trade was restricted, foreign travel was forbidden and Christianity was banned. For more than two centuries they developed and evolved out of context with the rest of the world.
In Europe when you go for Japanese food it’s all mish-mashed. Sushi and ramen, tonkatsu and donburi. In Japan, the only place you will encounter that is in a 7-11 mini-market (oh but they were so fascinating as well!). Otherwise, restaurants serve a speciality. Tonkatsu (breaded pork) at Sanjo Honten in Kyoto. Unagi (smoked eel) at Hitsumabushi in Tokyo.
While we have excellent sushi in Barcelona. The rest is vague. Enter Daijiro Soba-Ya, right before Covid-19 hit. It’s a soba noodle restaurant in Gracia. Soba noodles are grey-blue, square-shaped with no chew in them. The lack of chew comes from the lack of gluten. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, the triangle-shaped grain sometimes used in French savoury crepes.
At Daijiro Soba-Ya, Chef Yasuhiro Hisa serves up a lunch menu of 19.50€ (25€ when I went pre-COVID) where the soba noodle is the undeniable star of the show. Served cold or hot. He makes it daily in a time consuming physical process. First, the buckwheat flour is mixed with water and formed into a dough. The dough is rolled out by hand and cut with a knife. That’s right, every single noodle is hand-cut.
I find the small starters almost more beguiling than the main affair. I still hanker after the chew even though I know is not supposed to be there. The dishes are so delicate in flavour and presentation, so similar to what I remember from my time in Japan. There are details like the tempura served on a blotting paper that remains unstained by oil, that show this is the work of a highly trained professional.
The space is soothing and quiet. The four-course meal leaves me feeling full but not bloated and the whole experience makes me realize I can’t wait to go back to Japan again.
C/ Francisco Giner 6
Reserve 93 342 66 94
*What I read before my trip to Japan:
Convenience Store Woman
Strange Weather in Tokyo
Michael Booth’s Sushi and Beyond
And listened to Dan Carlin’s four-hour podcast Supernova in the East on the bit of history where Japan had a hand at trying to be colonialist inspired by the practices of Europe.