Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bits & Morsels Eats Soba

Hot soba with poached egg at Soba Totto.

This past weekend I dined at Matsugen,
the upscale Japanese restaurant brought to us by the infamous Jean-Georges Vongerichten. At first glance the menu has all the typical Japanese dishes like sushi and miso soup, but the real reason to go is for the soba noodles. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and buckwheat is actually a fruit, making soba noodles a healthy pasta alternative (they are rich in vitamins and protein) if you have any wheat allergies. They have a nuttier flavor and texture than pasta (made with white flour) and making them properly is considered an art form. This time of year, nothing beats cold soba noodles with a flavorful dipping sauce.

For a brand-new restaurant, Matsugen (located at 241 Church Street) has got their act together. There were no service kinks or kitchen issues. I dined at the communal table on cold soba noodles with sesame sauce and vegetable tempura. The noodles were served neatly next to the dipping sauce along with a dish of garnishes that included ginger and scallion. Tempura and soba noodles are a classic combination. The lightness of the soba and the heartiness of the tempura make for a substantial meal.
Matsugen outside and in.
Goma-dare (Japanese sesame sauce).
Vegetable tempura. Chocolate cake with green tea ice cream.
Another place I like to go for soba other than Matsugen is Soba Koh, located at 309 East 5th Street. It's slightly more low-key than Matsugen, the interior is serene and delightfully bare and there is always smooth jazz playing in the background. For a very reasonable $14.00 you can load up on a generous portion of vegetable tempura and soba noodles. The soba is made fresh everyday with organic ingredients.
Soba noodles and vegetable tempura at Soba Koh.
If you don’t feel like schlepping downtown head to Soba Totto located at 211 east 43rd Street. Soba Totto is as authentic a restaurant as they come. The atmosphere is bustling and the clientele is mainly Japanese. The menu is both in Japanese and English. Besides serving soba and tempura, they also have a solid selection of grilled meats and vegetables on skewers.

Sitting at the bar gives you a front-row seat to the chef's grilling mastery and it makes for a fascinating dinner show. When soba is served in a hot broth, the texture of the noodle changes and it practically melts away in your mouth. Try the hot sobe with poached egg; and instead of ordering the assorted vegetable tempura reach for the corn tempura. Fresh fried summer corn, enough said.
Clockwise from top left: The bar at Soba Totto; Corn tempura; Japanese yam with miso paste; Hot soba with poached egg.
Construction on the second avenue subway between 90 to 96th streets is well under way and local shops are hurting. There are many quality neighborhood restaurants that could use a boost to their business. I stopped in at Nina’s Argentinean Pizzeria (Second Avenue between 91st and 92nd Streets) for brunch this past Sunday. Turns out they they have an amazing brunch deal. For $9.95 you get freshly squeezed juice, coffee or cappuccino and a main dish like the eggs Benedict. It would be a shame to see any of these restaurants go under so please head uptown and help keep them afloat.
A view of the Second Avenue construction sight. The view from inside Nina's.
Eggs benedict with smoked salmon and a cappuccino all for $9.95.
Here is a list of healthy foods that are easily accessible and that we need to eat more often. The lists include items like beets, frozen blueberries, sardines and canned pumpkin. Frozen blueberries are an especially tasty and refreshing snack in the summer months and a good substitute for Mister Softee. [Well]

If you feel like grabbing a quick bite (literally) down the street from you, check out these seven street carts for lunch. They are located all over Manhattan and in Brooklyn and Queens as well. If you are feeling adventurous head to Flushing for grilled lamb or head to midtown for some Caribbean flavor. [The Daily News]

If you plan on grilling this July Fourth
weekend you should definitely check out this list of barbecue sauces. The list has sauces to suit every palate and is available for online purchase. All of the sauces are made by pit masters who compete on the barbecue circuit. [Serious Eats]

KFC stores in Canada are going to start offering fried tofu as an alternative to chicken. As a result of pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, KFC will offer more vegan menu options and improve the conditions in which they slaughter chickens. [The Globe and Mail]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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