Shiozawa is the heart of koshihikari rice country, but one of the other things that they do really well in the area is soba noodles. For a stunning soba experience you need to check out Tabataya.
It is right on Route 17 which is the main road in the bottom of the valley through Minami Uonuma. The restaurant building is a low, traditional affair with a tiled roof, and you know it is a popular stop on the tourist trail as it has several bus parking spaces marked out at the front. It is a rare day you go in and there is not a bus group already there or pulling up.
The traditional theme continues once you enter, with a large open plan restaurant with spacious tatami seating areas down the sides. The interior is beautiful with a forest of beams above you.
There is a whole menu full of soba and udon noodle options but for a fantastic feed you need look no further than the Tabataya set - cold soba noodles, a bowl of rice, pickles, savoury egg custard, salad and a selection of tempura. The tempura was amazingly crispy - pumpkin, eggplant, pepper, nests of shredded mixed vegetables and even a flower. The noodles are dipped into one sauce (with wasabi and chopped leek added to taste) and the tempura has its own dipping sauce.
If you go in a group you can order the soba by the number of people. It is quite a sight to see a rack laden with noodles for six arriving at the table, and the quantity can challenge even the hungriest of appetites. Fear not though, as it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a container and take the excess noodles home with you. In fact, the noodles here are so popular that there is a courier desk at the front door so you can send a boxful to your nearest and dearest.
The set meals are a feast in themselves but if you are looking for a delicious and unusual snack, try a plate of the burdock fries - super crispy battered burdock root sticks that give even the best French fries a run for their money.
Great food in a charming setting - it is easy to see why this restaurant is held in such high regard.