Friday, November 11, 2011

SobaKoh: What to Order

Last Friday, the temperature dropped in New York. A cold wind blew through the East Village and reminded us that winter's just around the corner. What better way to fight off the chill? A bowl of warm noodles in a quaint little Japanese soba house.

Daniel and I  met up with an old friend named Jaclyn Einis. Years ago, Jaclyn and I worked together at a food magazine where we talked endlessly about restaurants and exotic ingredients. She always emailed me new restaurant menus and was always the first person in the office to ask: "So, what's for lunch?"

Since she left the magazine, Jaclyn's traveled through Italy and Croatia where she stayed with local cheese mongers, winemakers and olive oil artisans. She wrote for a few travel sites, but mainly focuses on food writing – her area of expertise is a personal favorite of mine: locavore cuisine. She helped compile a list of the best farm-to-table eateries in Brooklyn. She, like Daniel, also appreciates a great bowl of noodles – with shots of sake.

With this in mind, we checked out SobaKoh on 5th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave). The dining room was full, but never got loud enough where you had to yell across the table. So it was perfect for a mini reunion. What blew us away was the plating. It was beautiful, delicate, and so simple. Each bowl is a work of art.

 Pour the raw quail egg, resting on a bed of wasabi paste next to the bowl, on top of the yam (the white blob in the center). Before taking your first bite, give the noodles a good mix with your chopsticks; this "cooks" the egg. The red container on the side, contains chili powder. Shake this and a dab of wasabi into the broth until the quail egg and yam soba is flavored to your liking.

Filled with ground duck meat and fried Japanese eggplant, this bowl of warm noodles comes in a darker, saltier broth. 

This is SobaKoh's most popular dish: cold soba with uni and ikura (translation: sea urchin and salmon roe). The delicate ceramic container holds the chilled broth. This dish threw us for a loop. "How do you eat this?" asked Daniel. "Aren't you supposed to dip cold soba?" Apparently, not. The server trickled a bit of the broth around – not over the noodles! – so the soba would have some flavor, but wouldn't taste over-saturated.  

Dessert: Black Sesame Custard with Whipped Cream

When Jaclyn and I worked together, we'd sneak out of the office for Beard Papah's cream puffs and black sesame ice cream. There's a Japanese market near 41st Street and 5th Avenue called Yagura that serves both. Also, since everyone there speaks Japanese it always felt like a quick trip to Tokyo. 

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