I rarely venture over to the East Bay, but it was their limited amount of handmade soba noodles (they only make 100 servings a day) that had me getting up early on a Saturday morning to stand in line before it opens.
As you walk through, you can see there’s plenty of outdoor seating and some indoor as well. I like that the ambience and decor is super simple and doesn’t get in the way of the meal.
I heard they only have one chef (Chef Koichi Ishii) that hand makes all the noodles and because there is only one chef, there is a limited amount of noodles that can be served per a day. He even shipped a stone grain mill from Japan so that he can make this.
There’s primarily 2 types of soba: jyuwari soba – which is made from 100% buckwheat flour (20 servings per day), and nihachi soba – which is 80% buckwheat and 20% wheat flour (80 servings per a day). The popular kind of soba in Japan is the jyuwari soba as the noodle is softer and silkier.
We started with a spinach and duck salad. It was fresh, light and refreshing. There was a nice light flavor from the citrus dressing and the marinated onions. My favorite part was the duck. The pieces were so tender and perfectly medium rare. Sometimes I regret sharing certain dishes.
Because we got there to stand in line so early, we were one of the few who got to try the Jyuwari soba. The (cold) soba is sitting in a shallow basket and you’re suppose to pick it up with your chopstick and dip it in the (hot) dipping sauce. I took my first bite and knew that it was worth the wait. The soba was chewy, bouncy and silky and the dipping broth had amazing flavors of dashi (dried fish flakes) which I love. The tempura was also delicious as well. The vegetables/shrimp were fresh and fried perfectly in the light batter.
I really like the dipping Soba, but the broth of the Kamo Naban was probably one of the best broth I’ve ever tasted. It had an amazing salty, but light and duck-ish flavor and had a smokiness that I loved. I’m really bad at describing the true flavors of this bowl of Soba – it’s something you have to try for yourself.
I actually rarely eat soba, but Soba Ichi reminds me that I love this kind of noodles. The texture of the soba is so soft, bouncy and silky and the sauces/broth is really delicate, but is full of flavor at the same time.
I don’t think there’s any way to avoid the line, and I think it’s worth the wait.