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Soba-Ya


Pan
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For a late dinner tonight, I wanted something light and not too hard on the stomach, so I suggested this place on E. 9 St. between 2nd and 3rd to a friend I was out with. When I'm by myself, I won't wait a long time to get into a restaurant, but our wait of "20 minutes" turned out to be a good deal less than that. My friend is Japanese, and I asked her to order for me. I didn't take notes and can't find a menu online, so please bear with my descriptions, as I am no expert on Japanese cuisine and don't know the names of everything by memory.

My friend got some buckwheat beer, which was rather good. I generally dislike ordinary beer (and I like lambic but drink it in small sips and have a hard time finishing a glass), but I liked this combination of beer and the unique dark taste of buckwheat, and had no trouble quaffing a couple of glasses.

We had an appetizer of tofu that had been made from a mixture of sesame seeds and soybeans. It was rich, cheesy in a good way, and kind of spectacular (impressive). The other appetizer was Konnyaku, and it, too, was great. Those in the know will be able to describe it much better than I, but I understand it's made from a root vegetable. The result is chewy, tasty shreds, combined with slivers of ginger, shreds of cucumber, vinegar, sugar, water, and I suppose soy sauce.

For mains, two soba soups were ordered. One is a river fish soba soup that Hiroko told me is a specialty of Kyoto. The other one, which I ate, had sticky yam paste in it, though not much of it. Hiroko is from Shikoku, where the food is salty and not sweet, whereas in Tokyo, the food is sweeter and less salty, she says. She was not entirely satisfied, as she felt both broths were too sweet (to Tokyo taste, probably) - and she found her fish too salty. To my taste, the fish was excellent, and both broths were tasty, though the one with the fish was a bit sweeter than the other one and I liked my broth better. I was surprised by the aromatic taste of the leaf in the soup, which I had expected to be cilantro or parsley - it was a moment of the spectacular in a subtle noodle soup. Hiroko found the soba itself tasty, and I enjoyed its texture.

For dessert, we shared some black sesame ice cream, another thing I had never had before. At first, it tasted like vanilla; then, the black sesame seeds kicked in; and then, some bits of sesame crackle on the dish below the ice cream kicked in. So the dessert was both subtle and spectacular.

A couple at the table next to us had their dessert during the early part of our meal. They had different ice creams, but one of them was clearly green tea, and it came with some kind of caramely walnuts or something and looked well worth having some other time.

The tea we were served was also very good.

Hiroko commented that the soba is better at Soba-Ya than at the much more expensive Honmura in the West Village. Do you agree? I haven't been there so I have nothing to say other than that my dinner at Soba-Ya was pleasant and worth repeating.

One other thing Hiroko mentioned was that she usually has soba with dipping sauce at Soba-Ya and didn't even realize they had soba soups.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I like both, although the soba at Honmura An has a "smoother" texture. That's probably not the right choice of words but it approximates my experiences there.

Honmura An is actually located in SoHo. (Mercer between Houston and Spring)

Soba (the guy, not the noodle) :raz:

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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Pan,

that sounds like a great meal!

The tofu at the beginning of the meal was probably gomadofu, it is creamier than regular tofu becuase of the addition of ground (and sometimes whole as well) sesame seeds.

The leaf in the soup that you mistook for parsley or cilantro was most likely mitsuba, it has a taste all of its own and is really wonderful.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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It was a very satisfying meal.

That tofu definitely had ground sesame seeds in it. Hiroko said she figures the sesame seeds were put in at the same time as the beans, which would account for the uniform tofu/sesame texture and taste. It is truly a gourmet food!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I had dinner at Soba-Ya the other night. I had a special, which was Soba with various mushrooms (Shitake and Enoki, i think) and Duck in a broth. It was good, and definitely good for the price, but IMHO, I don't think comes anywhere close to Honmura An, one of my all time favorite restaurants.

I would have to try the Soba side by side to really compare ... But, Honmura An makes a soba dish with scallions and duck that is amazing.

Clearly, a lot of what you're paying for at Honmura An is the ambiance and the decor, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.

Pan, you should definitely try Honmura An, I would love to hear what you think.

Although, those desserts at Soba-Ya sound very interesting, now I wish I had gotten dessert.

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The menu at Honmura An is structured a little like this:

Appetizer plates (anywhere from $4 to about $9 for these)

Cold soba

Hot soba (from $15 to $20+)

and a few specialties like sashimi and soba/rice casseroles on the side. Certain dishes have to be ordered in advance due to the advance prep time required.

Keep in mind I'm going from memory so I don't really know current specifics at the moment -- this may be inaccurate or things may have changed.

Typically people order a handful of appetizer plates and then go on to either cold or hot soba. A dinner for two will probably net you a bill of about $60 to $70, including tax and tip. I don't drink, so those prices don't reflect the addition of alcohol.

Soba

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We paid exactly $60 including tax and tip at Soba-Ya, but that did include alcohol. Honmura-An doesn't sound too expensive for me to go to.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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This probably could go in its own thread, but I have eaten at Honmura An a few times. Every meal has been memorable.

For apps, i've had a "soba gnocci" according to the menu an "esoteric" japanese dish. A plain soba noodle shaped like a leaf that comes out in a bamboo box in broth. Very plain, but cool looking. I've also had salmon caviar with wasabi and radish. The last time I was there, we ordered a snapper appetizer that was amazing. The fish was so succulent and juicy, moist on the inside, crispy on the outside. We placed a second order.

For entrees I've had: soba with scallops, soba with prawn tempura. I've also had the soba, duck, and scallions. This is all served in a broth.

I've also ordered the tasting menu which runs about $50. Last year it came with asparagus with a miso sesame dressing, vegetable and prawn tempura, egg triangles (i'm sure there's an official name for them, but i don't remember), the cold soba nooodles that come on the bamboo box, and sushi. Their sushi has noodles inside, instead of rice. I believe the last time I was there they had eel sushi.

That about sums up every meal I've had at Honmura An. I feel like i've eaten the whole menu.

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I think I'd sooner go to Amma for a $50 tasting menu, for several reasons. I'll go to Soba-Ya again sooner, too, partly because it's in my neighborhood.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Hiroko is from Shikoku, where the food is salty and not sweet, whereas in Tokyo, the food is sweeter and less salty, she says. She was not entirely satisfied, as she felt both broths were too sweet (to Tokyo taste, probably) - and she found her fish too salty.

Hi Michael!

Did I say that Shikoku food is salty and Tokyo food is less salty? :hmmm: I guess you misunderstood what I said. :shock:

Setting the record streight, generally the eastern Japan (including Tokyo) is saltier and the western Japan is less salty. For instance, in general the eastern japan use dark soy sauce whereas the western Japan expecailly use light soysauce. So, I am from the western Japan; therefore, I sometime find many Japanese restaurants in NYC to be too much salt or soy sauce. Besides, my parents do not like to use too much salt, so I am naturally the favor of less salty food. Sobaya's soba soup wasn't flavorful to me -- little saltier and less soup stock flavor, I thought.

So, Michael, would you like to try soba at Hommura An? It worth a visit at least once. We can just get a plain cold zaru soba, and we can compare Hommura An soba with Sobaya's soba. :cool:

hiroko

Check out the latest meal!

Itadakimasu

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Wow, Hiroko, what a pleasant surprise to see you here! :wub: And thanks for the correction. I guess I did get that a bit garbled. :laugh:

Sure, we can go to Honmura An. Let's talk schedules off-thread.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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