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

Anago Sushi: 

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

Soba Tofu:

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
(212) 254-2244

Cocoron – Great New Soba Place in the Lower Eastside

I really like living in the LES and the food scene has been getting better and better, but for some reason there is basically no good Japanese places in the LES.  The East Village is the closest place you can get decent Japanese food. However, that just changed with the opening of Cocoron.  I noticed it about a month ago when I was walking around the neighborhood and decided to stop in.  Since then I’ve been there three times as I like it a lot.

Cocoron specializes in soba (buckwheat noodles), but their soba is not traditional soba in the sense that they tend to have different preparations such a natto soba and curry soba.  They make their own soba noodles and I believe home make everything they serve.

It is a tiny place with a counter that can probably sit 10 people and there are maybe three 2 seat tables along the wall.  It is an open kitchen and you see them make everything.  The staff is very nice and the service is very good.

Here’s what I’ve tried:

Sticky Rice Chicken Meatballs:

These are a special on the chalkboard.  It’s chicken meatballs that are covered in glutinous rice and then steamed.  It’s served with soy sauce.  The meatball is very good, it’s tender and flavorful and the sticky rice gives it amazing texture.  These are really good.  8.5/10

Tamago Yaki (Egg Omelette):

I didn’t love their version here as I prefer my tamago yaki to be slightly sweet and this wasn’t sweet at all, so I thought it just tasted like an omelette with daikon and soy sauce.  6.75/10

Fried Chicken:

This was excellent.  It was freshly fried so the skin was nice and crispy.  The meat was very tender and flavorful.  It tasted great when you squeezed some lemon over it. 8/10


This was the first time I’ve ever had this.  Okara is the insoluble parts of the soybean which remain in the filter sack when pureed soybeans are filtered in the production of soy milk. The waiter looked at me sort of weird when I ordered it, so I figured it might be kind of funky which it was.  It’s got a very odd flavor that I wasn’t a fan of.  It tastes a little sweet, but tastes like something that had been left in the refrigerator too long; I don’t really know how to describe it well because it doesn’t really taste like anything I’ve ever had before.  It’s not something I would order again. 5.5/10

Chicken Meatball Soba:

This was another special on the chalkboard. The soba is served cold on the side and there is a small hot pot that has chicken broth, chicken and sliced green onions in it.  You take the soba noodles and put them in the hot pot for a second and then put them in a separate bowl with some of the broth in it to eat.  The chicken is tender and the broth is very flavorful with a strong chicken flavor and it is slightly sour.  The quality of the soba is excellent; it has great al dente texture and tastes very good.  This was a good dish.  8/10

Natto Soba:

Natto are fermented soy beans.  They have a fairly strong flavor and are somewhat slimy.  The only person in my family who likes natto is my grandmother.  When I was younger I couldn’t stand it as I’ve gotten older I can eat it now, but there are only handful of places that I will order it from. I don’t even really like Natto that much, but I like this dish a lot.  The natto here isn’t that strong and I think it goes really well with the soba noodles.  It’s served with natto, wasabi, takuan (a yellow pickled radish), diced cucumber, diced spring onion, a soft boiled egg, some white root and tsuyu which is a sauce made of a mixture of dashi (broth), sweetened soy sauce and mirin (rice wine). You put the egg, wasabi and spring onions in the bowl and then dump the tsuyu over it.  It turns out really good.  At the end, they give you a broth made from the water they make the soba in to pour into the bowl, it’s very refreshing.  8/10 (I forgot to take the picture before I mixed it up, so it looks a lot nicer when they first give it to you)

Oroshi Soba:

This is served hot with grated daikon, seaweed and some greens.  The broth is good; its slightly tangy and tastes like the typical hot soba broth.  Pretty self-explanatory dish, but it was good. 8/10

Soba Tea:

This is a buckwheat tea, it is really good.  I highly recommend getting this. 8.5/10

Yomogi Mochi:

Yomogi is mugwart, which is basically a weed.  It’s got a pretty mild flavor that it sort of hard to describe.  Mochi is rice dough and they put in finely minced yomogi into it giving the mochi its green color (normally mochi is white).  They put the mochi into a pan, heat it up, cut it up, cover the mochi in kinako powder (roasted soy bean powder) and sprinkle sweet crushed nuts over it.  They home make their mochi so it is very soft and has good texture.  I liked this a lot, but it’s very Japanese and not very sweet, so I’m not sure whether most people would like this as much as I did. 8/10

Black Sesame Cheesecake:

We were hoping this would be Japanese cheesecake, but it was basically just regular cheesecake although it was fairly light for cheesecake.  It tasted like black sesame, but was fairly light in black sesame flavor.  It was pretty good though overall. 7.75/10

Overall, I really like this place.  While Soba Koh is my go to soba joint for more traditional soba, Cocoron is my new neighborhood place and I really enjoy their high quality soba noodles and their interesting preparations.  I highly recommend.

61 Delancey St (between Eldridge St & Allen St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 925-5220