With a history spanning nearly 100 years, Yamamotoya Honten has established itself as the best place to try Nagoya-style miso nikomi udon. Originating in Nagoya, miso nikomi udon is a traditional Japanese noodle dish characterized by thick udon noodles simmered in a flavorful and salty miso broth.
As Yamamotoya Honten’s signature dish, the miso nikomi udon showcases every ingredient. This includes handmade noodles, a masterfully prepared broth using quality ingredients, and miso exclusively fermented for the restaurant.
Over the years, the restaurant has earned a significant following from locals and tourists alike, who are interested in trying out the dish for themselves.
Today, the restaurant chain operates various branches in Japan, mainly in Nagoya. Recently, I chose to visit their outlet in the ESCA underground shopping center located near JR Nagoya Station.
Waiting in Line
If you’ve traveled to Japan before, then you are no stranger to waiting in line at popular restaurants. And, it was no different on my visit to Yamamotoya Honten.
When I got to the restaurant around noon, there was already a sizable line. Since I arrived at the peak of the lunch hour, I was prepared for a line.
In the end, I waited around 45 minutes in line until I entered the restaurant and was seated.
Interior of Yamamotoya Honten
Despite its century-long history and focus on traditional cuisine, the restaurant’s ambiance was refreshingly modern and clean. While located within the basement of a shopping mall, the space felt bright and open thanks to its tall ceilings, hanging lights, and white walls.
At the center of the dining room were counter-style seats tailored for solo diners like myself. Flanking the walls on both sides of the dining room were tables set to accommodate guests in groups of two or four.
Though the space felt cozy and inviting, I could tell it was not the best place for conversation or hanging out after a meal. Most diners took a seat, quickly ate their food, and left. This ensured the line out front moved quickly.
Yamamotoya Honten Menu
On my visit, the Yamamotoya Honten menu I received was in Japanese with images of the most popular items. My server offered to bring me an English menu, but I came for the miso nikomi udon, so I politely declined his offer.
The menu also featured variations of miso nikomi udon with chicken, shrimp tempura, pork loin, tofu and leeks, and beef offal. Other than miso nikomi udon, the menu had a few side dishes including green onions, tamagoyaki, and potato salad.
As for drinks, you had beer, highballs, sake, shochu, soft drinks, tea, and juice.
Miso Nikomi Udon
The Miso Nikomi Udon served at Yamamotoya Honten arrived in a beautiful clay pot known as donabe. These earthenware pots, made exclusively for the shop, are often used in Japanese cuisine when cooking over an open flame.
The moment I uncovered the pot, I was met with piping hot broth that was still bubbling. This was a result of the pot being cooked over fire. In Nagoya, the way to eat miso nikomi udon is by placing noodles in the lid of the pot and letting them cool down before eating.
Yamamotoya Honten takes pride in their miso broth. The broth, exclusively created for the restaurant, was meticulously made using local red and white miso that had been brewed for over three years.
The two types of miso were blended together with sugar and simmered for hours in a large pot, intensifying the depth of flavors. Incorporating dashi, a traditional Japanese stock made with bonito flakes, into the miso blend, completed the broth.
The dedication to their craft resulted in a thick broth that balanced both saltiness and sweetness. With its robust and rich umami flavor, the miso flavor intensified with every sip. The contrasting flavors of the robust, salty miso-based broth used for the miso nikomi udon and the subtle, clear dashi-based sauce for udon was striking.
The same level of care was devoted to the handmade noodles as was given to the broth. The noodles were prepared with wheat flour, skillfully kneaded by craftsmen who adjust the recipe based on the season and weather.
The result was a fresh noodle that boasted a firmness surpassing typical udon noodles, while still retaining its chewy texture. As the noodles absorbed the broth, their flavor intensified, making them even more enjoyable to eat.
Finishing off the bowl were pieces of fishcake, green onions, and a raw egg. The fishcake added a chewy but firm surprise to the bowl.
On the other hand, the fresh green onions added color and a fresh, crispy component. Finally, when the raw egg was incorporated into the hot broth and began to cook, it added an additional layer of richness to the dish.
Accompanying the dish were pickled cucumbers and pickled daikon, both offering a balance of crunchiness and tenderness. While simple, the lightly salty vegetables complimented the richness and saltiness of the broth.
On my visit to Yamamotoya Honten, my interaction with the staff was limited. But, despite waiting in line for 45 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised by the efficient service. As soon as I took my seat, a menu was promptly presented to me, and my order was taken.
In just a matter of minutes, my food was delivered to the table. While I never felt rushed by the staff, this prompt service ensured the line out front kept moving. Other than that, while there was a language barrier, I had no complaints about the service.
Nagoya meshi, the cuisine of Nagoya, is a hidden gem in Japan’s culinary scene. While Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are praised for their cuisine, Nagoya quietly offers a culinary experience that is impressive and deserves more recognition.
One of Nagoya’s signature dish is miso nikomi udon. With a century-long legacy, Yamamotoya Honten stands out as the best place in Nagoya to try the dish.
This dish has achieved popularity with locals and tourists. And, they are willing to wait in line for an hour to try the dish of handmade noodles and rich broth crafted from dashi and two kinds of miso. While the rich, salty, and umami flavors may be too bold for some, I enjoyed the robust and distinct taste.
- Flavorful, robust, and salty broth
- Handmade noodles
- Clean and modern décor
- Relatively expensive compared to other similar restaurants
- Often a line which can be long
6-9 Tsubakicho, Nakamura Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 453-0015, Japan
GPS Coordinates: 35.16953,136.88054