Aratama: Soba Hideaway

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I had passed by the small restaurant dozens of times, but it was only recently that I realized there was actually a small, very Japanese-looking restaurant built right into the east side of Omotesando Square downtown, just a stone’s throw away from the entrance to the 7-Eleven in the same building. It is built cleanly and directly inside, with only a slight alcove with two noren hanging over the entrance. It has no real windows, only one slight enough towards the bottom to give you a peek of the waiting space interior–if you bend down and get close enough. Something about the simple, hidden design makes it seem elegant and untouchable, which is why it took me a couple times passing it to actually open the door to look at what was inside.

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The interior is still in its own way elegant–wooden and like a clean, up-kept antique. There are bar seats for those coming solo and table seats for anyone else. Make sure if you go for lunch that you make it before 12:30, because by that time, there were already people lining up inside for a  table space–of which there is room for only roughly twenty people. I arrived with my lunch partner at roughly 12:15 and was seated with no problem, but we were told to share a table next to a pair of salarymen. (Luckily, they were a friendly bunch and mostly kept to themselves.)

The wait staff was also very friendly and accommodating to my absolute puzzlement regarding what I should order. Their specialty was soba, but their menu was very large and varied. Their lunch specials were also not to be overlooked–everything from katsu-don to ten-don to tamago-don to curry to onigiri sets with a pot of soba and a few other side dishes. The soba can be served either chilled or in a soup broth, and after many minutes of deliberation, went with the waitresses recommendation of the onigiri set, as they only offer a limited number each day.

As we waited for our food, I wondered if I had made a mistake–one of the salarymen sitting next to us had ordered the katsu-don, and it looked fantastic. Basically, as I looked around, everyone’s food looked fantastic, and I wondered if something as simple as onigiri would cut it.

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Luckily, it did. My salmon-filled onigiri came along with a small platter of various pickles, tempura-fried kamaboko, and hijiki. And, most importantly, the soba noodle soup was absolutely fantastic. The broth was perfectly seasoned, and it was incredibly flavorful with a few bits of thin pork slices and green onion in it. My lunch buddy had ordered the tamago-don set, and it likewise looked the same as all of my food observations above. The atmosphere really matches the quality of food in this (literal) hole in the wall.

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As high-class as it looks, especially from the outside, a lunch set will only put you back about 850 yen (tax apparently not included), so make sure you give it a try! I will definitely be back to try one of the other lunch sets again soon.

あら玉
028-622-5535
宇都宮市馬場通り4-1-1 うつのみや表参道スクエア1F
Hours of operation: 11:30-9:30 (temporarily closed 3:00-5:30 for preparation)
Closed Sundays, holidays, and the 1st Saturday of each month

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