Soba Koh – Underrated Soba in the East Village
For some reason I feel like soba and Soba Koh get no love. When people talk about Japanese food in New York they always talk about sushi and ramen. Although these dishes more than deserved to be talked about, there is a lot more to Japanese food. Soba as a dish certainly deserves more praise as does Soba Koh.
Soba is one of those dishes that I didn’t fully appreciate when I was a kid, but as I grew up I really started to like soba and now it’s something I eat fairly regularly. Lucky for me, New York has opened up some pretty decent soba specialists such as Soba Koh and Cocoron, I’ve yet to make it to Soba Totto or 15 East (although I’ve been to 15 East many times just not for soba), but those are on my list.
The restaurant is clean looking with exposed brick walls, dark wood floors and tables. If you walk in at the right time the head chef will be hand making the soba in a small glass room at the front of the restaurant. The service is always good.
On to the food:
Tamagoyaki is a sweet Japanese omelet that is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. I was obsessed with tamago when I was a kid and I think I still am. The version here is quite good, the sweet egg-y flavor is great and the texture is just right, fluffy and moist, but not too moist. They serve it with minced daikon and soy sauce. You put the daikon on top of the tamagoyaki and dip it in the soy sauce. I’m not sure everyone will love this as much as I do because I just really like tamagoyaki, but I think everyone would at least find it good. 7.75/10
Flash Fried Shishito Pepper:
Shishito peppers have a great flavor that is really conducive to being flash fried and salt gives it an extra bit of flavor that really takes it up a notch. The version at Soba Koh is not the best version I’ve ever had, but it is a decent version and is a nice start to the meal. 7/10
They always have specials that are changing, this was one of them. It was anago (sea eel) with the typical sweet thick eel sauce. It wasn’t bad, but I had eaten at Yasuda about a week before, so it just paled in comparison to the best eel in the city. 6.5/10
This was the same as the anago, it was decent, but having Yasuda a week before just raises the bar. 6.5/10
This is pretty interesting. It’s a tofu made from buckwheat (soba). It’s a very light and has a nice buckwheat flavor. It’s served with wasabi, shredded shiso leaf and soy sauce. It’s not going to blow your socks off, but it’s pretty decent. 6.75/10
Natto Cold Soba:
The soba at Soba Koh has a great texture where it is soft, but still has a slight chew. The buckwheat flavor is simple and great. This soba is actually a special soba that uses buckwheat from Canada, which is why the color is quite a bit darker than the other soba you’ll see. It is served with natto (fermented beans), diced green onion, minced daikon, wasabi and a soy sauce based dipping sauce. I dump the diced green onion, minced daikon and wasabi into the dipping sauce then take some soba dip it into the sauce and put some natto on it. This was great for me, but I will warn people that natto is an acquired taste as it’s got a strong fermented flavor and it’s slimy. 7.5/10
Uni Ikura Cold Soba:
This is my favorite dish at Soba Koh; cold soba in a bowl with uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon eggs), wasabi, nori (roasted seaweed) and shiso leaf. A light soy based broth is served on the side. The combo of the ingredients is wonderful. I highly recommend this dish. 7.75/10
Tempura Hot Soba:
My gf always orders this dish. Hot soba is very different from cold soba as the soba has a totally different texture. The broth is a nice soy sauce based broth that has yuzu in it, which gives it a citrus-y flavor. They make some of the better tempura in the city, it’s not overly breaded or oily and the batter doesn’t slip off the shrimp and vegetables the way bad tempura does. I recommend dipping the tempura in only as you eat it. I find that the oil from the tempura gives the broth a nice flavor, but if you dump it all in then the tempura gets all soggy. 7/10
Anago Tempura Cold Soba:
This is simply soba, anago (sea eel) tempura and the dipping sauce. Simple, but everything is good. 7.5/10
Overall, I really like Soba Koh and I’d highly recommend coming here.
309 E 5th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
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