Minami Aoyama is a charming area of Tokyo with lots of greenery and businesses tucked within residences. There are lots of hair salons and tiny boutiques from the famous luxury brands to the not so famous luxury brands to affordable and semi-affordable. It’s also within close proximity to Harajuku and all of the shopping in Omotesando. Then there are tens and possibly hundreds of incredible restaurants and cafes. If you are familiar with New York, Minami Aoyama reminds me most of the West Village.
The problem with this area, though, is that it is so well known and there are tens of famous (Michelin rated, etc.) restaurants. Booking is almost always required for lunch or dinner. Or, stand in line for hours at one of the many mega popular pancake / brunch places clustered in this area. (I did a round-up here.)
Enter Gonbēi, a teeny soba and udon place but they have so so so much more. It’s Japanese comfort food at its finest. For lunch, they have combinations all under 1,000 yen (apprx: $9 USD) of soba buckwheat noodles or udon thick wheat noodle with a rice bowl topped with katsu katsudon. Katsu is deep fried pork cutlet and katsudon is katsu with dashi and a slow scrambled egg. Oyakokon is chicken with dashi and slow scrambled egg. And loads of other dishes. I took two of my out of town friends there for their first lunches in Tokyo and they both LOVED it. By the way, we ordered katsudon with udon and oyakodon with soba and I had the kitsune udon (the photo on top). Which is udon with a huge stewed tofu pocket called aburāge that’s used for oinarisan — like these things ↓
The interior is a bit dumpy but the entire staff so charming and the food is so delicious, you’ll forget about the way it looks. It might seem strange to eat soba and udon in an old school restaurant in such a trendy area as Minami Aoyama but this place is definitely recommended (and not to mention a crowd pleaser — there’s something for everyone.)
So if you’re shopping in the area or happen to be walking around Harajuku, definitely check it out!
Drop this into Google Maps ↓
Lunch: 11:30 am – 2 pm (last order is at 2pm)
Dinner: 2 pm – 10 pm (last order is at 9pm)
*there is an English menu but I didn’t look at it – try going with a Japanese speaker to see the full menu
Bonus photo of a katsu bowl with poached egg and soba. Yum.