Since May, our beloved Ippuku of Berkeley has been serving teuchi (handmade) soba. Owner-chef Christian Geidemann recruited Koichi Ishii from Yamagata, a prefecture well-known for soba, to come and cook at Ippuku and start a soba program right here in the East Bay. We are SO LUCKY!
I know, I should have reported on this sooner. But rest assured that I have been able to try many different dishes, to show all the variations of soba that are on the menu. Let's go!
From Yoko and my first visit back in May. Soba fantasy!
Mori soba: simple, basic, no accoutrements. A mound of soba.
Zaru soba: mori-soba with nori sprinkles. All soba dishes come with housemade pickles!
One of the more popular dishes, the cold ten-zaru soba. A bit pricey at $18, but you get Ryoji's beautifully fried pieces of shrimp and seasonal vegetables.
Natto soba: cold soba plated with natto, uzura (quail egg), some grated daikon, nori, katsuo-bushi (dried bonito flakes), cucumbers and kaiware daikon sprouts.
Natto + uzura porn.
There is no wrong way to eat this dish. The tsuyu (dipping sauce) comes on the side and just pour it over the soba and slurp away! I personally like to mix mine altogether to get the daikon together with natto and egg.
There are several cold soba dishes on the menu where the soba comes on a dish like this, and you pour the tsuyu over the dish like dressing.
Tanuki soba: cold soba with tempura flakes, nori, negi and katuo-bushi. Photo by Martha Chong
They also have tororo (mountain yam) soba, in all its slimy gory, but I have not gotten to that yet. An oolong-hi (shochu + cold oolong tea) is the perfect accompaniment.
In classic soba-ya-in-Japan form, they will provide soba-yu (hot water used to boil the soba noodles) to pour into the tsuyu.
Then drink the savory broth with no shame. They also serve sobayuwari (shochu + sobayu). Shizuka wrote about it here.
As the weather gets chillier here in the Bay Area, it is perfect for a hot bowl of soba.
Tsukimi soba: hot soba with raw farm fresh egg.
The soba is really really really delicious. Koichi makes a limited batch every morning from scratch, using sobako (buckwheat flour) from his native Yamagata. He apprenticed at a soba-ya for a few years in his hometown before Ippuku. We are so lucky to have him here.
I was fortunate enough to watch Koichi in action the other day, rolling out the sobako and handcutting the dough.
Once finished, the dough is ready to be cut
Koichi slicing the dough
Soba is really pretty and so special. At Ippuku, the soba goodness is not just in the noodles -- Koichi's soba tsuyu is really a star player as well. It is sharp, deep and savory -- so full of dashi and umami.
I believe Ippuku is the Bay Area's only shop serving teuchi soba -- it's a bit of a learning curve for locals, but I believe that with time soba will be the next big thing here. It's so healthy! I don't usually use that as a selling point for anything, but buckwheat really is good for you -- full of minerals and high in protein. Plus, it's gluten-free! Wiki says that despite its name, it contains no wheat. Interesting! And as you can see, there are so many ways you can creatively enjoy it.
New York has its legendary Soba-ya, as well as the more recent shops that have opened up like Soba Totto and Soba Koh. Our time has come!
2130 Center Street
Friday and Saturday Lunch
11am - 2pm