One of my recent rant was about how I wished there were more pop-up places that can be more accessible and viable for diners to try out new dishes from the creations of upstart chefs. That particular wish was somewhat granted by the same people who brought us the Hatchi series.
This new series was called the SOBAPOP...get it?...as in "Sodapop" for the introduction of soba noodles for the good people of L.A. This limited engagement was held in the BreadBar restaurant on Third Street that was the same location for the first two LudoBites series.
Cold Artisanal Tofu with Japanese Herbs and Grated Ginger - $8
I was somewhat skeptical on how inventive or how experimental soba noodles can be. More poignantly, I was more interested in what groundbreaking new ways for people who already can grabbed a bowl in anywhere else in east part of Los Angeles and south bay area of Los Angeles county where plenty restaurants can served this noodle in every way possible from traditional to cross-cuisines dishes.
For the limited engagement, the team of Sonoko Sakai and Akila Inouye introduced the healthy buckwheat flour of noodles that can be served stone cold dip in a sauce or served in hot broth soup. For those of the uninitiated, please check out my other post that dealt with soba in my reviews of popular establishments of Inchimian or Otafuku in the south bay area.
Summer Pickles with Cucumber and Japanese Turnip with Yuzu, Asazuke Style - $7
Will the people that are not familiar with the traditional soba noodles appreciated this type of traditional Asian cuisine? One big selling point to the uninitiated, they will appreciate the fact in that the noodles are originated from the stone-milled, organic wheat crops from the Gunma Prefecture in Japan. The noodles are served hand-made fresh daily in the restaurant. The only obstacle in the health conscious mind will be the fact that it is still consider cabs in the carb-free diet world.
Marinated Soft Boiled Egg, Tokyo Style with Garnishes served in a cold soy-bonito broth - $6
The appetizers are fine, but not really out of ordinary either. Pretty much of a safe play for these non-decrepit starters. You can't really screw the pooch on a boiled egg or seasoned pickles. At the same time, the tofu is pretty much very easy as long as you don't add too much sauce of a flavor to taint the soft tofu taste. Those can easily avoid a disaster, but also can't really go beyond either.
Tender Pork Belly, Kakuni Style with Greens - $15
As in for the pork belly, that I can give much more kudos because of different preparations with different style of seasoning and added greens for different savory taste of the simple pork and fat.
I was glad our table ordered a lot more appetizers than it needed to because the soba noodle dishes does take some time to be ready. In fact, the menu did put a warning on the bottom stating that it would take 20 minutes for each to be prepared.
Toro Toro Pork Soba - Tanemono Style, Braised Pork Belly, mushrooms, scallions, mitsuba, yuzu - $24
When the bowls of hot soba noodles does come, I felt a sense of a relief on that the dishes have arrived.
Honestly, I can tell a lot of work was put into it with many of the ingredients being imported from various prefecture regions in Japan was put into the bowl. At the end, I think it feel like the braised pork belly we just ordered was placed into that bowl of soba with soup broth. The soup taste fine with different elements of Japanese ingredients until I get a good bite out of the noodles.
Instantly my cold pessimism had gave way. Never had I felt the quiet moment to myself and just enjoying a simple bowl of noodle. The noodles just melt in my mouth with me taking a huge amount of slurp gobbling down whatever that was put into the bowl. Never mind the fact that my dining companions were sharing their cold soba with tsuyu sauce or they had a Kari-Kari Shrimp soba in their disposal. I just didn't have the care in the world to pay attention or share until it was too late.
I knew I was in trouble because I got a mean stare and a couple cracks of me not sharing the rest of the night, but thank goodness it was so good that I didn't mind at all. I was mean, but I don't think anyone would remembered after a day (Incredibly, I was so wrong when the same person brought it up again a few months later).
Broken Plum Wine Jelly and Dattan Soba Kanten Jelly - $7 each
For the desserts, we have two types of jelly. One was a plum wine with Okinawan brown syrup and soba grannules (Left on the picture) with the other bowl having a clearer Umeshu Jelly with seasonal fruit. Both served well to cleanse our palate for the night and continue the trend of healthy eating for the night.
On the back of the menu, I noticed that both Sakai and Inouye were teaching classes on how to make hand-made soba noodles. It was only later that I discovered that I found out on that Inoyue had trained many Japanese soba chefs that went on to open their own restaurants and eateries around Japan. He has his own teaching academy in Tokyo, Japan where many of the aspiring soba chefs have gotten start. Sakai had written many cookbooks and is a film producer that was trained under Inouye at this said academy.
Here's the kicker, if I wanted to experience their soba adventures again, where can I find them again? I can ponied up a pretty penny to attend one of their soba making class for one day if they happen to be in town. If not, here is what I hope....Sakai resides part time in L.A. Hopefully Sakai can come back to do one more limited engagement in L.A. and bring Inoyue, the master chef and teacher to do this event.
Boy, do I kick myself for not going more often. I only tried one dish and that was not enough. This is why sometimes we do need more of these pop-ups to get one of these chef(s) to these events more often. Even if it's for one day, it's well worth it.
8718 West 3rd StreetLos Angeles, CA 90048