I was a big fan of the limited soba lunches and then nights at Berkeley’s ippuku, and was sad to see them go, especially since they had well run out of soba for the night the last time I went. I’ve been waiting ever since for soba ichi to open, from the same crew who were behind ippuku’s noodle nights.
Soba ichi is open for lunch from 11 until they run out or until 3. My other soba loving friend and I put ourselves on the list here on Saturday the 7th at 12:02 pm. There were many many people ahead of us already. There is a large outdoor area with some shaded and some exposed tables for waiting and sipping drinks, but not for dining. I had an iced soba tea and an iced hojicha. They have beer, shochu, etc. we were told by our friendly host that we would definitely get some soba, probably the last two orders, based on where we were on the list, but at 1:45 when we were finally seated there was only one serving left. Thankfully we were planning on ordering the same thing so we split an order of cold tempura soba, and asked for an extra portion of tempura, which they gave us on the house. We also split the spinach and duck salad, and one house made cold dressed tofu. I had tried to snag the last order of soba mousse, but was too late for that as well.
The salad was perfectly refreshing in the hot weather. Five thin rosy slices of duck breast on a bed of raw spinach with red onion, fried soba seeds and fried soba noodle crispies. Think fried chow mein bits on a Chinese chicken salad. Ponzu dressing.
Dashiyakko cold tofu came with finely minced…eggplant? With katsuobushi flakes in a light shoyu dressing. It was also a compliment for the weather, and had a nice creamy but just firm enough texture.
One of the workers was a regular where I work and kindly brought us a dish of fried herring carcasses repurposed from making the miso nishin herring appetizer, which we later ordered. The carcasses aren’t on the menu but I’m sure if you ask…great crunchy snack. Think beer.
The soba! The noodles were toothy and springy to chew and slurp. These weren’t the 100% buckwheat which are (even more) limited, but the 20% wheat to 80% buckwheat. I’ve had so few opportunities to sample fresh handmade soba and I’m far from knowledgeable about them but I love them so much. The slightly nutty flavor, smooth textured but almost gritty. These did not disappoint, aside from having to share them! Dipping sauce came with the usual finely sliced green onion, grated daikon, and wasabi. I think the wasabi may have been freshly grated real stuff but I’m not really sure.
Tempura came with one well fried tender and tasty shrimp, a slice of kabocha, a piece of maitake mushroom, a shishito pepper, and a small fan of eggplant. Served with matcha salt.
We ordered the nishin herring because the carcasses were a treat and we were still hungry (last serving of noodles!). It was good, salty and sweetly glazed, though I wanted some acid to cut through the assertive natural oiliness of the herring, but I think this is the more or less traditional way it’s served.
So what have we learned? Come really early if it’s a Saturday. We were told people were waiting outside around 10 AM, and there was a line when the door opened at 11. Or, come on a weekday if you can.
I’m looking forward to our usual cooler weather to try the noodles in hot soup. Either with the tempura again or the kamo nanban duck, since it worked well in the salad. Though it might over cook in the hot broth…
If you like soba but have never tried it made by hand, there is such a huge difference between these and the usual dried or frozen product. There will always be a place for the more convenient, affordable, and perfectly satisfying product found in most restaurants and homes. But these are so delicious and I count the Bay Area and myself lucky to have it available here. It is not easy to find in the US.
I didn’t get pictures of everything, but here
2311A magnolia st Oakland