First We Feast
Beyond Sushi: 10 Places To Eat Incredible Japanese Food In New York City.
“Popular culture has anointed this the Year of Ramen in New York City. That’s fine and all but we’re high up on the more nutritious, lighter soba. The buckwheat noodle can be ordered in many of the city’s Japanese slurp shops and there’s no fresher rendition than the one found at East Village mainstay Sobaya. Located on the same block as a few other Japanese-owned places worth a visit (including next-door neighbor Robataya and speakeasy Angel’s Share), the cozy establishment dishes out hot and cold preparations of fresh soba noodles with a wide variety of accompaniments. (Pro tip: splurge for the version topped with a generous portion of fresh uni.) If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a noodle maestro hard at work, kneading and cutting dough in a see-through cubicle near the front door…”
Michelin Guide 2013
“In a neighborhood replete with tempting Japanese dining options, Soba-Ya has been sating noodle cravings with awesome buckwheat soba and hearty udon all homemade daily-for more than a decade. Enterprising co-owner Bon Yagi, also of Curry-Ya, favors authenticity over flash in his establishments, and this popular soba spot fashioning a traditional Japanese aesthetic is no exception.
Sit among the largely Japanese lunchtime clientele to savor and slurp cold, refreshing soba attractively served in a red-black bento box neatly stocked with the likes of dashi-poached vegetables, fresh and deliciously glazed salmon, or crisp shrimp tempura. Complete this meal with a pot of hot broth added to your remaining soy-based dipping sauce for a warming finish”
Food 25 Decor 19 Service 21 Cost $30
At this “low-key” East Village “go-to”, the “superb” Japanese soba features “refreshing broths” and “delicious noodles”; “no reservations” spells “waits on weekends”, but “affordable” price tags and “pleasant” evirons mean most don’t mind much.
Sobaya is one of the East Village’s most venerable institutions, providing heavenly handmade soba (buckwheat) noodles to customers from near and far for over 10 years. Their soba noodles are composed of 80% buckwheat flour and 20% wheat flour and are of the “sarashina” type, meaning that they use only the finest part of the soba grains, which gives refined flavor and subtle aroma. They also make their own “kaeshi” (dipping sauce) that boasts round flavor obtained from three-day maturation. Sobaya lives up to its name with over 12 kinds each of hot and cold homemade soba, in addition to seasonal offerings that vary daily. This fall brings with it the advent of Matsutake Soba (hot soup noodle with matsutake mushrooms), which will keep you warm as the temperature drops. Sobaya has a wide selection of not only soba, but drinks as well. You can start your meal with an appetizer like Tatsuta-Age (fried chicken) or Buta Kakuni (braised pork belly), accompanied by Sobaya’s very own buckwheat ale. Also, to complete your meal, don’t forget to try their delectable, homemade desserts, such as Soba Manju (steamed soba cake filled with red bean paste).
Wagashi: The Art Of Seasonal Expression and Hospitality
Nerikiri-style wagashi handmade by Ms. Yagi.
At left is wagashi in the shape of a cherry blossom and, at right, a hydrangea.
Growing up in Japan, one of my favorite things to do on my way back from school was to go into the neighborhood wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) store and admire all the beautiful treats that lined the counters with so many colors and shapes. When we had them at home, I often sat staring at my sweet before savoring it, wondering how on earth these edible gems were made. Who would have thought, years later in New York, I’d actually get a chance to meet a wagashi expert, Ms. Tomoko Yagi, who would humor my curiosity.
Ms. Yagi is a food consultant/instructor specializing in sweets whose creations are available at Soba-ya (www.sobaya-nyc.com) and Sakagura (www.sakagura.com). To explain the essence of wagashi, she brought up chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony. According to Ms. Yagi: “Wagashi are central to the Japanese tea ceremony, and the tea ceremony encapsulates what Japanese culture is all about. For example, expressing seasonality is an important feature of wagashi. Also, wagashi are supposed to please all five senses.” This explains why I was so charmed by the beautiful wagashi in my childhood and why my memories of wagashi are related to certain moments of the year.
New York Times:
Noodles are the focus at this bright, handsome little Japanese restaurant, one of several nearby owned by the same group. The soba noodles — buckwheat, pale tan and smooth — are served hot in soups or cold, a better bet for appreciating their lightness and clear flavors. Appetizers are excellent, differing night to night but sometimes including cooked marinated spinach, rice with shreds of marinated sardines and fried squares of marvelously fresh tofu.
New York Magazine:
In Japan, buckwheat soba and creamy udon noodles are enjoyed in restaurants and noodle bars for both their taste and nutritional value. Soba-Ya brings this tradition to the East Village with an impressive menu of cold and hot noodle dishes as well as Japanese standards like sweet potatoes, squash, and regional sake. If you feel confused by the many unfamiliar names and choices on the menu, the helpful staff will guide you. It’s easy to be surprised when even the ice cream comes in unusual (yet delicious) flavors like black sesame or honey wasabi.
Desginer Alexander Wang Tours New York-East Village
The Village Voice
July 11th, 2005
Who would guess this elegant new restaurant is a humble Japanese noodle shop? But it’s the East Village’s first offering hot and cold assemblages featuring either udon or soba. All the soup combinations sampled were excellent, including curried chicken with soba and udon with a mushroomy vegetables marriage.
Who could resist the appetizers like homemade shumai. Tempuras and lost in the extensive sake menu, a bar snack of raw baby squid marinated a fragrant dark liquid.
The New York Times
March 4th, 1998
Noodles are the focus at this bright, handsome little Japanese restaurant, one of several nearby owned by the same group. The soba noodles, buckwheat, pae tan and smooth, are served hot in soups or cold, a better bet for appreciating their lightness and clear flavors. Appetizers are excellent, differing right to night but sometimes including cooked marinated spinach rich with shreds of marinated sardines and fried squares of marvelous fresh tofu.