Review: Baiso, Shimokitazawa, Tokyo; 梅窓、下北沢、東京

Niku udon
Niku udon

Of the variety of noodles that constitute Japanese cuisine, the humble udon is less well known in the West, which is a tragedy. These white, egg flour noodles are fat enough to have a slight and wonderful dough-like texture when consumed. They’re served in a light broth, comprising dashi (Japanese fish stock made from bonito flakes), mirin (cooking rice wine), soy sauce and sugar. This is served with ginger and spring onions, and a variety of toppings. There is niku udon (beef), kitsune udon (sweetened deep-fried tofu pouch, and even kare udon (curry udon). One of the most popular versions is tempura udon, which I utterly fail to understand because why would you want that nice crispy batter to get all sodden and disintegrate into the broth?! 

Prepping the udon for the customers
Prepping the udon for the customers

Baiso is very close to Shimokitazawa station and I dived in there very late at night after a day of property viewings. I needed something cheap and cheerful, but I didn’t fancy a bowl of vending machine ramen. I ducked into the nearly deserted restaurant to find a dimly lit interior and simple udon menu, with many, many variations of tempura toppings. But, predicabaly, I wanted meat. Bring me the beef!

BEEF! Niku udon
BEEF! Niku udon

My udon arrived beautifully presented on a tray with ginger and spring onions on the side so that I could alter them to my desired taste. The beef was like brisket that had been stewed until it was so soft that it peels away in thin little strips or flakes off, in contrast to the very thin, flat slices usually served. I found it pleasant but lacking in flavour.

Which pretty much sums up my entire experience. At 980 yen, it wasn’t a tragedy, but Baiso’s udon lacked a wow factor. The udon broth itself is very delicate and therefore it’s easy for it to miss the mark. Sometimes it is too sweet or permeated by too many spring onions. It requires each flavour to be in harmony to really make udon sing. Otherwise, it falls flat and is just… well, it’s quite boring.

Baiso – their udon will warm you up but look for a flavour punch elsewhere.

Where: 東京都世田谷区北沢2-9-2 辻ビル 1F

The entrance
The entrance

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Author: Phoebe Amoroso

Phoebe Amoroso is a Tokyo-based reporter, multimedia journalist and storyteller. Hailing from the UK, she moved to Japan in 2014 and has since been shouting about the country to all who will listen. She divides her time between covering breaking news and producing feature stories for TV; writing about everything from business and tech to food and travel; and guiding hungry visitors who want to sample the best of Japanese cuisine. When not working and/or eating, she can often be found running up a mountain or cycling by the sea.

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