Soba Ya is a small noodle shop in the East Village. Manhattan's strongest concentration of Japanese restaurants (after Midtown) appears here, with many excellent joints specializing in one thing or another. I'll happily document them here as time passes.
This is by no means a find on my part. It's quite popular and I was intoduced to it by a Japanese friend. Usually, popularity doesn't mean shit to me in NYC, which is teeming with mediocre restaurants with perpetual lines out the door. Luckily, not so with Soba Ya, whose popularity is well-merited (and quite tempered compared to other restaurants - half hour wait, maximum).
As its name suggests, the draw here is hand-made Japanese noodles made from buckwheat and served in a hot or cold broth, based on some combination of dashi, soy and other stuff. Toppings range from marinated, raw tuna and grated mountain yam (mucilaginous!), to the more familiar tempura variations. Udon noodles are available as well.
The soba are remarkable. Nearly uniform in shape and size, but nontheless exhibiting the hallmarks of good hand-made noodles: perfect chew and texture, freshness, a sublime and subtle nuttiness. I could eat this stuff nearly everyday.
Their non-soba offerings are excellent as well. While one could ceratinly pay more for sushi in Manhattan, I doubt you could do better at the price. Unique, and quite traditional, Japanese appetizer and veggie dishes are available as well, such as a house-made tofu and yuba "sashimi" and a simple panfried burdock dish that I recently enjoyed, the latter tasting like good health on a plate.
In fact, everything at Soba Ya feels insanely healthy, which wouldn't be remarkable to me if everything there didn't taste so godamn good.
While it is certainly no substitute for the wonderful foods I left behind in Chicago that are not available
in NYC, places like Soba Ya put out dishes that we can't find in Chicago, and are thus well-worth a visit for lovers of Japanese food when in New York. Highly recommended.
229 East 9th Street
Manhattan, NY 10003