I don’t know about you, but I love to travel for food. I mean, it’s nice to discover new places of course, BUT the best thing is to taste popular local dishes right? I have visited a lot of prefectures in Japan but unfortunately, I have never been to Iwate (it’s on my list tho!) so when I heard about this place in the middle of Tokyo I was super excited!
What is Wanko Soba
Iwate Prefecture is mainly known for its noodle dishes such as Reimen (chilled noodles), Jajamen (Flat Noodles with Miso-Meat Sauce) or Wanko Soba. Today, we’re going to focus on the last one because it’s a dish with a unique eating style that you need to pay attention to if you come to Japan!
Wanko Soba is a traditional “all-you-can-eat” food from Morioka City and Hanamaki City that consists of continuously eating small portions of soba (buckwheat noodles) one after the other, served in bowls that you stack on top of each other as you go. It is usually served with numerous condiments such as wasabi, green onions, grated daikon radish and a dipping sauce on the side.
From Iwate to Tokyo!
If you don’t have the chance to go to Iwate to enjoy wanko soba, the good news is that a new restaurant called “Amusement Wanko Soba Kurukuru Wanko”, just opened in Tokyo, in the middle of the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku! But wait… there is more fun!
Traditionally wanko soba is served by the staff at your table, who fill the bowls as long as you eat. At this Tokyo shop, the bowls are scrolling on a conveyor belt, so you just have to grab them yourself. You must have already heard about conveyor belt sushi, but conveyor belt wanko soba is quite unusual and to be honest it was super fun!
All-you-can-eat in a limited time
As mentioned before, wanko soba is an “all-you-can-eat” dish. At “Kurukuru Wanko” you can choose between 3 formulas: 5 min for 1100 yen (~8USD), 40 min for 3300 yen (~24USD), or a VIP one with no time limit for 5500 yen (~40USD).
Each of these 3 sets contains green onions, wasabi and ginger but if you want to order other condiments such as grated radish, seaweed, sesame etc, it costs 100 yen (~0.75USD) for each. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are also available to order for about 500 yen (~3.65USD).
All the orders are made on a digital machine at the entrance and after you make the payment you’ll get your ticket and you’ll just have to get your belly ready.
Put your apron on and hit the timer!
The staff will bring you to your table and provide you with an apron which, for sure, is really recommended to use. A thing to notice is that there is no chair! We were a bit surprised in the beginning but after thinking about it, it’s actually easier to take the bowls from the conveyor belt since you’ll need to do your best to eat as many bowls as possible before the time limit. When we went the record was 465 bowls for the 40 min course and 64 for the 5 min one, which is quite impressive!
After bringing you your own large bowl (you can’t eat directly from the small ones, you’ll need to transfer to your own bowl before eating!) and condiments, the staff will push the timer button and here we go!
5 min and 30 bowls later
It was my first time eating wanko soba and after a few bowls, I found my own rhythm and was able to eat 30 bowls in 5 minutes. I don’t know how impressive it is but to be honest the size of the portions makes the challenge pretty manageable. As a reference, 15 portions is equivalent to one normal size bowl of soba noodles which means I had 2 full regular bowls.
The conveyor belt setup was fun, the soba noodles were delicious with a smooth texture and the included condiments were more than enough for me! When I have soba, I like to have the first “slurp” without any condiments to be sure to enjoy its true and simple taste, so that’s what I did. And I wasn’t disappointed! Then, I tried with only wasabi and after I added green onions which was a perfect combination.
Last but not least, the atmosphere of the place was lovely, including some Japanese style music and decorations, and the staff were very nice and cheerful! We enjoyed our time there and we recommend you visit it if you’re looking for a fun and challenging experience!
- Name: アミューズメントわんこそば くるくるわんこ
- Address: 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−22−9, J・Gold Build., 5th floor
- Google Maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/qEUFJb5RsDUhGiP68
- Open everyday from 12-10 PM