Nara City 630-8217
During my Osaka stay, I made a day trip out to Nara. The good thing about Japan and its wonderful trains is that it doesn’t take long to go from one city to another – my trip to Nara only took 30 minutes.
As some of you may know, Nara is famous for its thousands of deer that quietly roam Nara Park and surrounding areas. It’s also home to some beautiful temples, serene parks and probably a whole of other stuff that I didn’t quite get around to seeing because my Osaka hostel owner said Nara ‘wasn’t worth staying overnight for.’ Still, it’s definitely worth a day trip – or even half a day if you’re pressed for time. If I had my way, I could have happily spent an entire whole afternoon patting, feeding and chasing all the deer.
After I had my fill of deer and temples, it was time for a late lunch before heading back to Osaka. Not knowing where to go or what I wanted, I decided to walk around until I found a place that looked reasonably busy from the outside – because chances are the food would be, like, totes amazeballs, right?
I came across Mentouan, which is located just after Nara Park but before Nara Railway Station, heading back. There was a steady but not a terribly long line of people waiting outside as well as a sign with what looked like a bowl of dashi and a fried bean curd bag and ‘No 1’ next to it. Being a sucker for hyperbole (and bean curd, I suppose), I decided to give this dish a go.
I was told that there would be a 10 minute wait for a seat which was fine with me – I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Plus, it was pissing down rain so the last thing I wanted to do was walk around the streets looking for another lunch venue. Once I got in though, I was greeted warmly by my waitress and presented with a warm towel and a cup of hot green tea.
My bowl of soupy goodness arrived within minutes. What was inside?
Oh mein Gott! Udon! And lots of them too! You should have seen me squeal in delight when I broke open the beancurd skin pouch and a motherload of beautiful slippery noodles came tumbling out. It was a bit Walking Dead-like in a sense – think guts oozing out of bodies but without the blood.
As for the taste? Delicious, absolutely delicious. It was such a simple and effortless dish that hit all the right spots, especially in the cold. Best of all, you got to eat the bean curd and the little spring onion ‘tie’ once you were down with your noodles. So so good. In fact, I’m surprised that this bean curd-udon-soup thing hasn’t caught on outside of this little shop in Nara.
So while Nara is famous for its cute deer, I think it should also be known for this amazing noodle shop that serves up reliably good (and tasty) noodle dishes for less than an Aussie tenner. They are closed on Tuesdays though and be prepared to wait if you decide to come smack-bang during the lunch peak.