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Sobaya, Soba Totto, Soba Koh, Matsugen


weinoo
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So, with the 3 star NY Times review of Matsugen hitting the presses (I haven't been yet), I was wondering which of the restaurants that are "real" soba places does everyone like the most? And, do you take your soba hot or cold, or does it depend?

For me, it's Sobaya, on 9th St. I find their noodles to be consistently well made, nice and chewy and their accompaniments to be just right. Soba Koh also makes some pretty good noodles (and great tempura), though I think they're a bit thinner and therefore less chewy than the ones at Sobaya. And Soba Totto has just way too many other goodies (love the tongue and weird chicken parts) on the menu for me to be able to focus on the soba, though I thought it was okay.

And I like my soba cold, no matter the weather.

Of course, the late, lamented Honomura An would probably have ranked at the top.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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You might not like this answer, but after Honmura An closed, based on their basic soba skills alone, Sobaya, sobakoh, and soba totto are pretty much on an even playing field IMO. They all make, AFAIK, their own soba-ko (buckwheat flour), and make their noodles properly and authentically. For straight-up soba, broth, toppings and tempura, I'd give the edge to sobaya. For service and everything ELSE you can get there, I much prefer Soba Totto. I have not been to Sobakoh.

Hot or cold is a personal preference, but for myself, and most of my Japanese friends, cold soba or somen are in order in the summer, whereas if you want something to warm you up, hot udon or ramen are in order. As a general rule, think noodle thickness as directly proportional to ideal temperature served. That said, I love me some thin-ass kyuushu-style ramen noodles, so, rules are made to be broken.

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You might not like this answer, but after Honmura An closed, based on their basic soba skills alone, Sobaya, sobakoh, and soba totto are pretty much on an even playing field IMO. They all make, AFAIK, their own soba-ko (buckwheat flour), and make their noodles properly and authentically. For straight-up soba, broth, toppings and tempura, I'd give the edge to sobaya. For service and everything ELSE you can get there, I much prefer Soba Totto. I have not been to Sobakoh.

Hot or cold is a personal preference, but for myself, and most of my Japanese friends, cold soba or somen are in order in the summer, whereas if you want something to warm you up, hot udon or ramen are in order. As a general rule, think noodle thickness as directly proportional to ideal temperature served. That said, I love me some thin-ass kyuushu-style ramen noodles, so, rules are made to be broken.

I hate to be such a bandwagon jumper, but have to agree that since the closing of Honmura An, I find most of the soba joints fairly level. I tend to choose Soba Ya because of the combination of location, mellow atmosphere, and solid food. I have yet to try Matsu Gen, but early reports seem to confirm my pre-visitation guesses: very good quality soba, but with a somewhat inflated overall menu price point (presumably a result of the trendy aspect lent by JG). Also, the concessions to mainstream America, such as including sushi on a Sobaya menu, may disturb purists.

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Actually, I like both the answers so far, and don't feel that anyone is bandwagon jumping. We're definitely talking about a fairly even playing field, soba wise. It seems that the other factors (e.g. what else the restaurant offers, atmosphere, etc.) almost factor more into the decision. For example, Koh is a spare space, with a fairly limited menu (some great specials, though). Sobaya is always pretty busy, with lots of menu items, and an East Village feel. And Totto has all that wonderful skewered stuff, along with that midtown "salaryman" vibe, if I may use that term.

And raji, I can't believe you haven't been to Soba-Koh yet - that, to me, is the biggest surprise so far.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Just want to raise a point for 15 East's soba - they claim to have the honmura an person, and while it isn't quite the same as it used to be, it's pretty darn close and, in my opinion, a ton better than sobaya, and a bit better than matsugen. Haven't been to koh or totto, though. Mostly, if someone could make kamonan(ban) the way they used to, I could die happy...

Also, they had the best freaking tempura I've ever had in NYC. No one else is even close on this one.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Actually, I like both the answers so far, and don't feel that anyone is bandwagon jumping.  We're definitely talking about a fairly even playing field, soba wise. It seems that the other factors (e.g. what else the restaurant offers, atmosphere, etc.) almost factor more into the decision. For example, Koh is a spare space, with a fairly limited menu (some great specials, though).  Sobaya is always pretty busy, with lots of menu items, and an East Village feel. And Totto has all that wonderful skewered stuff, along with that midtown "salaryman" vibe, if I may use that term.

And raji, I can't believe you haven't been to Soba-Koh yet - that, to me, is the biggest surprise so far.

Hehehe well I only really CRAVE soba twice a year and by then I'm back in Japan for one reason or another. I have a good friend who frequents that place so i will try it out. I know I've seen articles about the soba-maker at Soba-koh. Also, believe it or not, by accident I caught an Emeril Live from a few years back (obviously) where he does a piece about Sobaya. They are both pretty dedicated, and persistent about introducing good, real soba to New Yorkers, as is the team at Totto, and as JG espouses in his press.

Sarariman is a term seen with mostly affection in Japan - plus, most good Japanese know to follow the sarariman because they know where the good food is. Totto executes everything on a very high level and also tends to use very high quality ingredients, especially in terms of Japanese vegetables, spices, seasonings, pickles and sauces. Obviously their special with a bowl of soba with toppings AND a rice-bowl with their famous chicken parts on it is the way to go there -

I imagine if I get a 7pm reservation at 15 East and all I order is a bowl of soba, I'm going to get that horrible waiter you all seem to hate in my face....

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You get the small bowl of soba at 15 east in addition to the regular sushi... It's an exception to the rule.

Or you sit at a table and just do the soba... :-)

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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