229 East Ninth St (bet. 2nd & 3rd Aves)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 533-6966
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Noodle Shops/Bars
Area: East Village
Entree Price: $10-$20
Soba-ya provides a satisfying and smooth dining experience that starts with a warm hand towel and ends with a warm belly. While the food may not bring you to your knees out of gustatory awe, you will not go wrong coming to this St. Mark’s spot, located on 9th Street between 1st and Second Avenue.
As the name suggests, Soba-ya offers a selection of soba noodle dishes – thin buckwheat strands that taste grainier than their thicker udon counterparts. As a disclaimer, I ordered my dishes with udon noodles. The kitsune udon consisted of a few strips of fried tofu, leafy vegetables, noodles, and a thin soy-based broth. The overall impression was light and healthy, for the body and at $13, the wallet as well. For those more hungry, the kamo namban ($16) is a heftier option that will also please your palate. Its sautéed pieces of duck are dark, rich morsels that swim around the bowl, waiting to be plucked and enjoyed. My friend ordered the nabeyaki udon, a hot pot stew of shrimp tempura, chicken, raw egg, and noodle-like enoki mushrooms ($19). She seemed to like it and I couldn’t disagree, especially on an autumn night.
With a space dominated by blonde bamboo slats and bright papered lighting, Soba-ya is spare yet cheery. The walls are graced with framed calligraphy, which I assume say something as nice as they look. Near the front, look for the display of cute little carvings: netsuke, or ornaments that were used to hang satchels from robe sashes. Service is quick and polite, and you will not feel rushed. Even dining here at closing hour on a Sunday, I felt welcome to finish my meal at my pace. Conversely, you can expect a leisurely wait during non-closing hours – a table for two on Saturday night took 20 minutes.
Review By: Eric Wang