Soba Sojibo (Sawtelle)

Soba at sojibo on Sawtelle. Not bad, but not ichimian.zaru ten soba

I’m always trying to find soba as good as The One I had in some random suburb of Tokyo made by a Japanese rastafarian who also brewed a mean cup of joe. Soba Sojibo’s soba was not that, but it was decent and better than your run of the mill soba ordered at a non-soba Japanese restaurant.  My favorite part was the soba-yu at the end of the meal. The dipping sauce tasted so good after pouring in the soba-yu.  The octopus wasabi small bite (and it is a very small bite) was pretty good as well.

 

Soba Sojibo
2006 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Delicate Soba and Changed My Life Coffee in Japan

When I visited Japan, I was expecting fantastic ramen, fresh off the boat sushi, crazy fashions, and crowded walks through Shinjuku. The last thing I was expecting was to be drinking the best drip coffee I had ever had sitting at a tiny, four-person noodle bar, listening to Rastafarian music in a suburb of Tokyo.

Ital Soba is located within a short walk from the Higashi-Kitazawa stop at the Odakyu line. It takes a transfer from the convenient Tokyo JR line, but trust, me, it’s worth it. Because of my initial confusion with maps in Japan (they’re oriented relative to what direction you’re looking in, not north/south/east/west like I was used to) I had to step into a veteranarian’s office to ask directions. A nice man who was waiting accompanied me out and actually walked me to the location. Talk about friendly, helpful locals!

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

The restaurant itself is tiny and hard to spot if you don’t notice the small Bob Marley card taped to one wall. Owner Koichi Nakajima was just setting up shop, so Will and I thanked the man who walked us there and entered. The interior contained a small bar overlooking the house-sized kitchen and three or four two-seater tables.

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

With my broken Japanese, we managed to order soba in cold broth for Will and a zaru soba for me. Everything is made to order there, so we got to watch the master at work. There was no rushing this soba. Nakajima first whet our appetites with a plate full of vegetables which were beautiful in their simplicity. Grilled slices of lotus root, sliced burdock root, a seaweed salad, some macerated adzuki beans, the appetizer set atmosphere of the noodles to come.

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

When the soba came, we were instructed to pick a dipping cup from a drying rack sitting on a stool in the corner. The cups came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Being able to personally choose one added to the comfortable, home-like atmosphere of the restaurant.

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

As expected, the soba was cooked perfectly, meticulously, and still retained a nice chew. The dipping sauce, enhanced by the grated radish and freshly grated wasabi, coated each strand of noodle sufficiently without being too salty. Zaru-soba is a simple dish, but it’s exactly that simplicity that shows how much care and attention Nakajima puts into preparing everything that exits the kitchen.

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

The soba in cold broth was also prepared well, with tissue paper-thin pieces of seaweed lending a welcome umami taste to the broth. Since everything on the menu is vegan, Will slurped up the bowl with confidence that there was on hidden flake of bonito anywhere.

After my bowl of soba, I sat back with a satisfied expression on my face and Nakajima timidly asked if I’d like to try some of his coffee, made from Cuban beans. Coffee out of soba sounded like a strange combination, but if he could make a coffee as artfully as he did a bowl of noodles, count me in. He asked me if I wanted something sour, or had more bitter in it and I chose bitter. It wasn’t until I took a sip of the coffee that I realized I misheard him and he meant ‘butter.’

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

Like the noodles, great care was put into preparing the coffee. Nakajima delicately held the top of the chemex filter over a mug as he slowly poured a steady stream of boiling water onto the grounds. It took a few minutes, but the brew that I sipped blew my socks off. It had a strong, rich aroma and tasted incredibly smooth, without any hint of astringency or acridness. I always complain that brewed coffee never tasted as good as it smelled, but I think this came damn close.

Even though it was a difficult to find, a bowl of noodles (or two in Will’s case), a fantastic cup of coffee, and getting to watch a master at work, is definitely worth visiting Ital Soba in my books.

Vegan Japanese Food by a Rastafarian

Ital Soba (cash only)
4-32-26 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku;
(03) 3485-7785
open for lunch and dinner (closed Tues. and the 3rd Mon. of the month)

Ichimiann Bamboo Garden

Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
Sitting in part of an unassuming building next to a Foster’s Freeze was the most delicious bowl of soba I have ever had in my life. It may be a hyperbole, but the soba I had at Ichimiann Bamboo garden was life changing soba; I will never look at these buckwheat noodles the same ever again.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
The restaurant is very small with only a handful of 4-seat tables inside and two tables outside. There’s also a counter that faces the wall which was where I chose to sit.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
Upon entering, I was greeted by a friendly Japanese man. His English was as good as my Japanese, so we had a bit of trouble communicating. Luckily, there’s a menu with pictures on the back wall as well as a place-mat type menu in English by the cashier machine.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
I ordered the mentaiko orochi with cold thin soba noodles. It came with grated radish, mentaiko (spicy fish roe), seaweed, green onions, and the cold dipping broth already mixed in with the noodles. I mixed all the toppings together with the noodle, took a bite and it was like Orff’s O Fortuna exploded in my mouth.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
I’ve always been a fan of soba, but this was unlike any soba I’ve had before. The noodles were crisp and chewy without feeling underdone. I thought the broth was too salty at first, but as I ate more of the noodles, I appreciated the taste more. The radish and green onions brought a fresh, spicy bite to the broth while the mentaiko gave it a subtle umami taste. The small dish of pickles on the side was overkill, but I couldn’t stop eating them.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the noodles after lunch. Ichimiann also offers thick soba, udon, and different types of rice bowls, but I will definitely be back for more soba noodles. If you really want to appreciate the chewiness of the fresh noodles, I would suggest ordering the cold broth instead of the hot, since hot broth might negate the perfect done-ness of the noodles.

The bowl of noodles is definitely worth battling the 405 around LAX during lunch time and the price is just right too. The mentaiko orochi only cost me $6.50 (including tax, sans tip). The only inconvenience is that they’re cash only, but there’s a Well’s Fargo on the other side of the block.



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1618 Cravens Ave.
Torrance, CA 90510
(310) 328-1323
http://www.ichimiann.com