Guru in the Echo
Just returned from SobaKoh in the East Village. Not bad, not bad at all. According to the worldly NYT food critic, noodles are in season right now because the farmers are out harvesting their buckwheat. (As if I would be able to tell the difference in noodle ripeness, anyway.) I cannot recall the last time I went to a Soba bar, so this was somewhat of an unusual dining experience for me.
As I arrived early, for a change, I was able to survey the restaurant before my friend arrived. At 7:30 on a Wednesday evening, the place was nearly empty. I chose the table by the window and the server was quick to greet me. SobaKoh is a small restaurant with a pretty mellow atmosphere, tasteful Halloween decorations and a mostly non-Asian clientele.
We started with the Japanese eggplant covered in bonito flakes. I don't know what a bonito flake is, but it provides a crunchy contrast to the eggplant. We probably should have tried something a little more adventurous, like the Albacore Spicy Miso, but the eggplant was well executed.
For a main dish, I ordered the Agaedashi Soba Gaki. That's fried soba gnocchi stuffed with ground chicken, served with a light sauce, ground Japanese radish and Japanese scallions on top. When it arrived, my meal looked like a couple of chocolate doughnut holes floating in a vegetable broth. My meal's taste did not actually match up to it's appearance, yet it did not exactly match up to my standards, either. It was too grainy and kind of bland, like eating chocolate doughnut holes without the chocolate flavor.
My dining companion ordered the hot soba noodles with tofu and eel cake in soup. Of course, his meal looked more appetizing than mine and, although I did not sample, it probably tasted better, too. My friend, who has aspirations of becoming a food snob, decided that even his dish was "not incredible."
However, SobaKoh's prices are very reasonable and it was relaxing to eat a meal in this city without being crammed into the table next to you, with one ear tuned into a stranger's conversation. And yes, I suppose the noodles did seem very ripened.
Final verdict on SobaKoh: One thumb up for atmosphere, one thumb down for taste.