Disclaimer: This is my review of the food served during my visit. Keep in mind that taste may change over time, depending on the restaurant’s consistency. Just keep munching~
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you must be expecting a post on Abura Soba for a few days now. So here it is :)
I’ve heard my fiance raved about it when he visited Japan earlier this year. In the interim till the recent trip, he’s also taken me out to try the local Abura Soba at PIK. It was when it first opened, which also happens to be around the time he first got back from Japan. It was a boom immediately in Jakarta, marketed as a “soupless noodles” to hint a slight innovation to the whole ramen-soba-udon trend that’s in vogue in recent years. The whole idea made people curious, but it’s basically just dry noodles with your own liking of chili oil and vinegar.
Considering how much the taste will depend on your liking, the noodles has to taste so good by itself that everything will remain great no matter how much you piled on (or limit yourself with) the oil, vinegar, spices, and extra toppings. With that in mind, as much as I love oil and vinegar and noodles, I thought the local Abura Soba doesn’t live up to its hype. I was planning to review it during the visit, but decided it wasn’t worth my time and the space on the blog, as I do with most restaurants these days (there’s just too many to keep up!). For my fiance though, whose tongue had just been pampered with the original taste in Japan1, concluded that it’s next to nothing compared to the one he’s just gobbled in Tokyo. It’s so good that he went to grab it twice during his 6-day trip.
Seeing how much Abura Soba has impressed a picky guy like him, I went into the little shop with high expectations.
Besides the noodles itself, I think one of the hardest things to replicate in the franchise may be its special secret sauce. It took some time for them to develop, as it was designed to add a little complexity and strike an exquisite balance to the overall taste. This is important because you can’t have quality noodles without a full-bodied sauce, and the reverse is just as true.
It’s also worth noting that in general, ramen/soba/gyudon stalls/shops like these are male-dominated spaces. These are the places men go to have beer after work and/or satiate their hunger in the wee hours. In Japan, the special treatment for women extends as greatly as to for-women selections on restaurant menus, women-only waiting line in bullet trains, and even girls-only karaoke bars. But in this case, just be prepared to have men stare at you once you enter, as Japanese women tend to dine in other “feminine” places like specialty coffee shops, dessert shops, Italian and/or French restaurants and cafes.
Your basic choices: The normal Abura Soba or the spicy Abura Soba. Each comes in 3 different sizes:
- Small: 160g
- Medium: 240g
- Large: 320g
Notice how all 3 sizes cost the same for the particular Abura Soba choice you make, with the normal one costing JPY 720 and the spicy one JPY 780 (so cheap + generous!!). Pick your choice and your size, and then it’s time to have fun with the toppings.
The most popular order combination is the normal Abura Soba with the Special Topping A set (negigoma + soft-boiled egg). The only difference between sets Special Topping A and Special Topping B is the 2 shreds of chashu (shredded chashu + negigoma + soft-boiled egg). You may also pick extra delicacies from their side dish selections on the second row from the bottom (the light brown buttons):
- Chashu (JPY 320)
- Bamboo shoots (JPY 150)
- Dumplings (JPY 200)
This is a medium bowl of spicy Abura Soba as it is. If you scroll further down below, you’ll see my unmixed normal Abura Soba, size small, with extra toppings garlic and soft-boiled egg. For now, I’ll take you on a walkthrough with the chili oil + vinegar mixing on the spicy Abura Soba.
As tempting as it looks, I didn’t dare to try the spicy one, as longtime readers would know I’m not quite tolerant with chili. But you can tell from the pictures alone that what makes it sooooooo delicious is its top-notch noodles, which was homemade from the highest-quality wheat domestically. It’s enjoyed this reputation for over half a decade now, and it shall remain committed to preparing and serving their noodles from scratch.
Speaking for both the spicy and normal Abura Sobas, it’s chewy and springy and rubbery all at once – far from the flimsy store-bought ones that doesn’t hold steady on your chopsticks and would ultimately splatter your face. The noodle density was just right, it’s just firm enough to hold still as you slurp on your chopsticks. But ultimately, I think what blew my mind was the secret sauce (it’s mildly spicy).
What makes it unique, and probably the best part of the whole Abura Soba experience, was that you get to choose how you enjoy it. I love my noodles super oily, loaded with vinegar’s tang, peppered much, and full of onions and garlic, so these textures also add up to create a rich and impressive flavor. For some reason, the subtle flavor of roasted nori really brought out the sauce as you chew. The soft-boiled egg I added also made everything all the more luscious <3
As always, I can’t attest how sugoi すごい the chashu tasted. A pork-less/meat-less bowl of noodles may represent a spineless human body for some, but judging from my spineless and un-spiced Abura Soba alone, I’m willing to bet you’re going to keep lusting over it that Abura will be your reason to revisit Japan again. They’re currently serving at 11 branches throughout Tokyo, so you’ll easily spot the big red “yóu” 「油」sign about town. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see all 11 branches of Abura Soba.
Abura Soba: Tokyo Aburagumi Sou Honten 油そば 東京油組総本店
+81 (0)3 3406 1911
M-Sa 11:00am – 04:00am
S 11:00am – 09:00pm
+81 (0)3 5571 6011
+81 (0)3 3280 2511
+81 (0)3 3518 9117
+81 (0) 422 275960
+81 (0) 48 643 1711
+81 (0)3 3571 9311
+81 (0)3 5992 4911
+81 (0)3 3986 3911
+81 (0)3 3340 4411
+81 (0)3 6272 3166
- He tried the Ginza branch at that time. “It tastes the same,” he simply said when I asked him which one tastes better: The Ginza branch or this Shibuya branch. Kudos for consistency. [↩]