My first expertise with soba, the skinny Japanese noodle comprised of buckwheat, was at Honmura An, a temple of Zen class in SoHo that, beginning in 1991, made its noodles by hand, on the premises, for sixteen years. It was additionally the primary time I had sea urchin, and Honmura An’s soba with uni stays one of the formative (learn: rapturous) meals of my life. After that restaurant’s chef and proprietor, Koichi Kobari, closed store, in 2007, and left for Tokyo (the place he took over his father’s soba restaurant, Honmura-an), it wasn’t till Cocoron got here alongside, a number of years later, that I fell, once more, for soba.
The extraordinarily contemporary sashimi plate at Sarashina Horii can embrace toro, seared tuna, salmon, and sea bream.
Far from Honmura An’s hushed reverence, the ambiance at Cocoron, a tidy gap within the wall on Nolita’s Kenmare Street (one of a number of areas over time), begins with its kooky, exuberant menu. Full of footage, charts, and quotes from an unnamed supply—“Get recovery and energy if you’re not feeling well”; “Toppings will always support you!”—it dotes on how wholesome and pleasant its many dishes, such because the ethereally silken selfmade tofu and the wealthy, spicy Mera Mera Soba, are certain to be. The soba is offered usually, on trays holding bamboo mats of noodles that have been boiled to order and rapidly chilled (for the right consistency), bowls of chilly dipping sauce or pots of sizzling broth, and accoutrements resembling grated ginger or daikon. When you’re nearly completed, you get a long-nosed pitcher of sizzling soba cooking water so as to add to your waning soup, to increase each your advantage and your pleasure.
Nods to pomp and circumstance are subtly proffered within the Japanese type of understated service.
Now there’s a brand new type of soba place on the town, with a historical past that harks again a bit additional than SoHo within the nineties. Sarashina Horii, which opened within the Flatiron district in July, is an outpost of a restaurant in Japan that has been serving soba since 1789, when a member of the Horii household, 9 generations in the past, employed a technique for milling solely the core of the buckwheat seed, quite than your complete groat, to provide a white flour finer than the same old brown buckwheat, leading to a fragile white noodle. The indisputable fact that this soba, known as sarashina, was, in keeping with the menu, “favored by the Shogun family who lived in the Edo Castle, as well as Imperial Families,” is clearly meant to impress us, too.
The restaurant focuses on white soba noodles, made with a flour milled from solely the core of the buckwheat seed.
The dining-room design—in counterpoint to Sarashina Horii’s lots of of years of historical past, and, most definitely, with a view to slot in with the extremely aggressive in-the-now vibe of the encircling eating places—swings modern-dramatic, with moody, clandestine lighting, spare furnishings, a glimpse of a manicured rock backyard, and a cover of what may even be noodles dancing overhead.
The Japanese-whiskey and shochu cocktails abide these searching for a glamorous evening out; the superb meals abides everybody else. Black cod with miso improves on Nobu’s well-known dish by mellowing the sweetness. Nods to pomp and circumstance—hand towels magically expanded with a tableside pour of sizzling water, one massive plush duck meatball scorching on a cast-iron slab, a spectacular show of extraordinarily contemporary sashimi—are subtly proffered within the Japanese type of understated service, in deference, all the time, to the client.
Soba is obtainable in sizzling broth or served chilly with dipping sauce, accompanied by a spread of proteins, resembling sliced duck breast and grilled eel.
But how are the well-known noodles? The ultra-clean-tasting sarashina noodles have a easy texture that, on one evening, nearly disappeared after they appeared to be cooked a tad too far; on one other, they’d simply the correct quantity of chunk, offering a high quality accompaniment to the soy-laced home broth or the gentle chilly dipping sauce, livened up with wealthy additions—tender duck breast, meaty mushrooms, frivolously battered lobster tempura, glazed grilled eel. Both the sarashina and the mori (conventional buckwheat) noodles fare usually higher within the chilly preparations, the place they keep their meant firmness, than in a sizzling soup that retains them cooking.
For dessert, order “the great tiramisu,” as one server put it. A small picket field is layered with deep-green matcha cake; thick, subtly candy cream; and a blanket of matcha powder, grassy and barely bitter, like a sprinkling of nature. (Soba dishes $16-$41.) ♦