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Japanese noodle bars

We are visiting NYC with our 2 daughters who want to try authentic japanese noodles. I remember the Times ran an article of a few about a year ago. Any real recommendations. Both love interesting food, as so we.

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  1. IMO, the best place for ramen in NYC right now is Minca in the East Village on E. 5th St. between Aves. A & B. They make a really nice shoyu ramen.

    For soba try Soba-Ya, also in the East Village on 9th St. between 2nd & 3rd.

    Since it's summer it's time for one of my favorite Japanese noodle dishes, the cold ramen and veggies thing called Hayashi Chuka. I always used to get this at Sapporo on 49th St. just off of 7th Ave. when I worked in Midtown, but I have no idea where the best place is to get it these days. Does anyone know?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Woodside Al

      "Hiyashi" chuka actually. "Hiyashi" means chilled. "Hayashi" has a different meaning, besides being a common family name...Anyway, hiyashi-chuka is a pretty generic term- doesn't have to be vegetables. Anybody know of good hiyashi-chuka ramens around town? This is a great introduction to a Japanese summer standard...I recently had a hiyashi tan-tan-men at Menkui-tei near St. Marks that wasn't so great...BTW, IMO, the best, most authentic, ramen in the area is in Edgwater, NJ at Santouka Ramen, in the Mistuwa Japanese supermarket plaza.

      1. re: Silverjay

        Rairaiken on E 10th (betw 1st and 2nd) has cold ramen with chicken, seaweed, apples, sundried tomatoes, spinach and ginger (I might have left out an ingredient or two)--Love it. They also have cold ramen with ground pork, I think. I like their (hot) shio ramen and miso ramen, too.

        1. re: kenito799

          Sounds interesting enough, but that's not even close to "authentic". My one experience at Rairaiken was subpar. A Japanese friend and I both gave up half-way through a bowl and walked out.

          1. re: Silverjay

            that's why i can't wait to try minca...i was rairaiken regular when i lived on 11th...always shio ramen or that hayashi. you should give it a chance--although why bother if better is 7 blocks away. momofuku is worse though, i agree with the other posters, stay away from the noodles there.

        2. re: Woodside Al

          Sapporo is a great place for lunch in Midtown, but I don't know if I would recommend going out of your way for it. You can check out pictures at http://midtownlunch.wordpress.com/200... and decide for yourself...

          1. re: Woodside Al

            Of the midtown hiyashi chuka slingers, I'd describe them thusly:

            1. Sapporo- Everything but the kitchen sink hiyahsi chuka. Last time I was there, my noodles were topped with beef, chicken, krab, egg, red pickled gari slivers, cukes, shrooms, seaweed, tomato, corn. Broth was dark and sweet. Tasty, but overmuch and ingredients on the cheap side.

            2. Menchanko-Tei: Elegant broth, finer ingredients than Sapporo. The Aristocratic hiyashi. Just egg, chicken, cukes, shrooms, and seaweed, I believe.

            3. MenKuiTei: Splits the difference, though less satisfying than either.

            1. re: Spoony Bard

              Finally made it to Men Kui Tei and I have to say the part about it being somewhere in between Sapporo and Menchanko Tei, was a perfect description. Nicer and more quality ingredients then Sapporo, but still quick, cheap and easy. Only downside is how small it is... you really have to get there early!

              The only thing I disagree with, is I left completely satisfied! I would definetely recommend it for anyone looking for ramen in midtown. Check out the pics @ http://midtownlunch.wordpress.com/200...

              1. re: Spoony Bard

                Men Kui Tei--bleh. Went there with a friend and both of our dishes were way overly salty, even more so than what's considered "normal" for noodle shops.

            2. i really like the tonkatsu ramen soup at saburi on 30th and lexington. i actually just had the yasai (?) ramen which is with chicken broth. it was perfect. very low key japaense/chinese "healthy" fusion place where apparently the chef was tutored by chef kinichi (of iron chef fame). they also have great gyoza.

              1. Menchenko Tei, midtown Manhattan, favorite place, exquisite, lot of Japanese patrons, last time I was there, noticed the secret is out, 2 locations, www.menchenkotei.com
                if only they'd open a few in LA!

                2 Replies
                1. re: luswei

                  Menchanko-Tei has its charms, but the 55th Street location is not as good as the 45th Street one.


                  NYCnosh: http://nycnosh.com

                  1. re: luswei

                    I don't care for Menchanko Tei. It's ok in a pinch.

                  2. I'd second Woodside Al's recs. You can see the noodles being made at Soba-ya so that might be a fun thing.

                    1. I loved Soba-Ya the one time I got in. There is often a long line there.

                      Compared to Soba-Ya, I guess a ramen house like Menkui-Tei is more informal and prosaic (and cheaper), but it's grown on me. There are two branches, one in Midtown and the other in the East Village on Cooper Square (downtown extension of 3rd Av.) between St. Marks Place and 7th St. If you go there, make sure to get the gyoza, which are excellent. Be careful not to order ramen that goes for $9.50 unless you plan on splitting it, because those bluish bowls are ridiculously humongous.

                      1. Definitely try the Momofuku ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar. It's made with Berkshire pork. http://www.eatmomofuku.com/

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Wu_Kong

                          The ramen I had at Momofuku was pretty bad, with mushy noodles and very salty broth. Some of their other things were good, and it's a fun place to eat, but not for ramen.

                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                            I tried their ramen on Saturday for the first time and concur nearly completely with you- though rather than salty, it was bland. The broth had no depth at all to it. I've had better at train station stand-up joints in Tokyo...The pork was hardly seasoned as well.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              I am not a ramen afficianado- but if you like pork, their pork neck ramen is out of this world. the flavor and the pork... (I've heard the ramen is not that great, but it tasted fine to me)

                              1. re: zGustibus

                                The ramen at Momofuku is as described by Peter Cuce. If you want to eat pork try their buns but the noodles are crap.

                              2. re: Silverjay

                                Everything there was so GREASY! I felt like I was eating a bowl of crisco - fat was the prodominant flavor in everything we tried. I didn't get a chance to eat much of the pork buns because oil was pouring out and running down my arm and onto the floor and potentially causing accidents. This is one of the few meals I have ever eaten that has caused me to throw up afterwards from the sheer amount of grease in it. My co-diner, someone who has lived in Japan and knows ramen, gave it a huge thumbs down.

                          2. We're also big fans of Soba Koh on 5th Street in the East Village, and the restaurant also gets bonus points for very helpful, very friendly servers.


                            NYCnosh: http://nycnosh.com

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Nosher

                              I would second Soba Koh over Soba-Ya. Nicer servers, better food and a more authentic atmosphere.

                            2. ONIGASHIMA - for the best udon, they make it in the traditional sense. perfect amount of chewiness, divine.

                              SOBA YA - for the best hand cut soba

                              MEN KUI TEI (2 locations) and alternatively MENCHANKO TEI (2 locations) for RAMEN, and HIYASHI CHUKA, and JAR JAR MEN, and SARA UDON. these are typical ramen shops, and offer other things on their menus

                              RAI RAI KEN is also a favorite of mine. i'm surprised Silverjay did not have a good experience there. all my japanese friends go to rai rai ken for an authentic bowl of noodles. its a true ramen "bar", with very limited seating.

                              SAPPORO on 1st ave and 10th (?) is not necessarily authentic, but their house ramen is really yummy (miso, lots of toppings)

                              i think my favorite house is Men Kui Tei. after the original noodles house from the 80's got destroyed in the WTC fall, they opened up 2 locations, one on 3rd ave and 7th st, and another one on 56th btw 5 + 6 aves.

                              sara-udon, japanese style chow mein, is one of my favorites. it's pan fried crispy noodles covered in a thicker sauce with shrimp, pork, veggies. delish. men kui tei and menchanko tei both have this. it's worth pointing out that menchanko tei has this amazing ground yuzu hot sauce on the tables.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jungirl

                                A friend had recommended Rai Rai Ken also so I think we'll go there. Which location of Men Kui Tei do you like best?

                                1. re: hamahoney

                                  both are fine, but the midtown one is more of a business lunch type place. the one on 3rd ave / bowery downtown is better for a meal. and you can take your daugters to st marks place one block up after to walk around and look. fun place for them (street vendors, etc). i forgot to mention if you want the total zen soba experience, HONMURA-AN. quite pricey though, but in a nice upscale setting.

                              2. Soba-Koh 309 E 5th between 2nd and 1st has wonderful soba noodles in hot and cold preparations. This place is an oasis of calm in a sea of the EV frenzy and the soba is excellent.

                                1. Wow,
                                  Thanks for all of the advice, we have two lunch opportunities for noodles so we'll choose from above. We are having dinner one night at WD-50. Their menu sounds interesting, any thoughts?

                                  1. Anyone know the name of the noodle joint on 10th St between 2nd & 1st Ave on the downtown side of the street? It is mainly bar seating and seems to have a diehard group of devotees usually lined up outside.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. I'd reccomend either Minca or Rai Rai Ken. Both in the east village.

                                      1. Honmura An is probably the most authentic, can't believe no one else mentioned it here!


                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: hon

                                          i did already! above :) i can't believe i forgot it the first time i posted on this stream

                                          1. re: hon

                                            Honmura An specializes in soba and udon.

                                          2. i have to agree with minca for best ramen in the city. the tonkatsu broth is thick and flavorful, and they have this mouthwatering slow-roasted pork as an optional topping. oh that pork. it still has a layer of fat attached and is so rich. if you prefer lighter broths you may want to go with rairaiken or menchanko-tei - however, i don't think they are as good.

                                            i really like soba ya. if you can, try going for their lunch special - it's a really great deal. you get a whole bento box with assorted appetizers, a choice of main (you can choose soba), AND dessert!! all for around $15. mmmmmmmm.

                                            1. if you are here on a friday at lunchtime, then you are going to CHIKUBU for the friday only shoyu ramen special.

                                              this is long acknowledged to be the best japanese noodle dish in town. 100% highly recommended. its near grand central.

                                              MINCA in east village is great if you make it down there to the east village. RAI RAI KEN is good too and has the best atmosphere. if your daughters are teen aged they will love the nabe.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: mrnyc

                                                I know people rave about Chikubu, and while it has all the right ingredients, it just didn't taste that great to me. I still prefer Minca.

                                                1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                  the broth is better at MINCA, but the ingredients and especially the pork is far, far inferior to the CHIKUBU friday special.

                                                  1. re: mrnyc

                                                    That may be true, but I didn't find it that exciting.

                                                2. re: mrnyc

                                                  I'm happy to know that Chikubu is still offering Ramen Lunch Special on Fridays. They must have been running it 10+ years. I used to break for lunch 10 minutes early so that I could avoid the long line. Their Chashu was so addictive. Gee, I gotta go back...!! I also like Ise's ramen.

                                                3. OK, here are my overall picks for ramen (not soba or udon), that I hope summarize comments. Not expecting 100% consensus, but I'm pretty sure they align...

                                                  Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce based soup)- Chikubu (only on Fridays)
                                                  Miso Ramen (miso based soup)- Sapporo (in mid-town)
                                                  Tonkotsu Ramen (slightly thick pork broth)- Minca (in EV, I don't find it authentic, but other people seem to)

                                                  Men Kui-Tei and Menchanko-Tei are other popular options. (I personally like the namesake ramen at Men Kui-tei in St. Marks I shared with my wife the other day).

                                                  For the "experience"- Rai Rai Ken is set up like a standard Tokyo ramen shop- though the one time I went, a Latino guy served us. Minca really is authentic set-up as well. The other shops tend to be Japanese restaurants that serve ramen- definitely inauthentic, but then it's not unusual to see ramen, sushi, and tempura on the same menu in this country.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                    UPDATE: I went back to Minca tonight. The tonkotsu is not even close to the flavor and body of the real deal. I shall not return and CANNOT recommend. The shoyu ramen, which my wife had, was passable and not too bad. But very one dimensional. The miso ramen is sweet and disgusting- made with peanut butter and seasame paste. I had tried that last time. Not sure what the guy was thinking when he came up with this recipe.?.) Chashu was alright. Toro (belly) meat was more like a pork loin....Disappointing after thinking about ramen all day.

                                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                                      From my last experience at Minca, I'm reluctant to go back. A few months ago, 4 of us went and ordered 4 different ramens, and the consensus was that it was pretty bad. I was completely suprised by the falloff.

                                                      Actually, I heard similarly about Ise on 49th, which I had recommended in the past for their niboshi ramen.

                                                      The only two places that remain in my mind worth recommending are Chikubu and Santouka (in NJ).

                                                      1. re: E Eto

                                                        the salt ramen at SANTOKA in nj is awesome. what a great place the all-japanese mitsuwa mall is, totally worth the michelin guide 'detour.'

                                                      2. re: Silverjay

                                                        Silverjay, where do you consider to have the best "real deal" tonkotsu broth in NYC?

                                                    2. BEST SOBA IN NYC

                                                      1) Soba Nippon.
                                                      51st (5&6). They grow their own buckwheat in Canada.
                                                      Super-authentic soba. Or try their soba salad (with shredded chicken or tofu)
                                                      which is incredible. Not cheap, but worth every penny.

                                                      2) Soba Koh.
                                                      Glad to see it mentioned here so much. Incredible place, great for brunch
                                                      on the weekends.

                                                      3) Soba-ya and Honmura An.
                                                      These places have lost their edge. Soba-ya has gone WAY down, consistently soggy noodles, average broth. Used to be wonderful. If you used to like Soba-ya, go to Soba Koh. Honmura An has amazing side dishes (avocado salad!) but their soba is average, given the $. Soba Nippon is the same $, and significantly better.

                                                      4) Onigashima.
                                                      This place has been on a downward spiral for the past 5 years! Their Udon used to be the best in the city, but now I'd suggest staying away from this spot completely.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: kvn

                                                        Minca for ramen

                                                        I wasn't too impressed with Honmura-An. Thought the soba noodles were too fragile, broke too quickly and tasted flat.
                                                        But, it's authentic.

                                                        1. re: kvn

                                                          sobaya's broth is salty and the noodles are soggy. gross.

                                                          i had a great experience at honmura an! definitely a great place for soba.
                                                          unfortunately, there are no decent ramen places in the city.
                                                          i've tried them all (even the specials they have at chikubu and Ise... btw menkui-tei is owned by Ise sushi and i was not impressed at all. actually i will not go back there)

                                                          the closest 'semi-decent' ramen place was in Fort Lee, NJ at Mitsuwa Supermarket, and even there I wasn't satisfied =( i've been spoiled raised out in san francisco. Santa's ramen ROCKS!!

                                                          btw, rairaiken is disguisting. don't waste your time and money.
                                                          granted, if you like salty ramen broth then by all means go for it

                                                          1. re: feedme

                                                            OK, I beg to differ about Soba-ya, I have loved this place since I first tried it about 6 years ago and I was there tonight and had a stellar meal.

                                                            1. Sake selection is great. we had a bottle of Tengumai, delicious.

                                                            2. Range of appetizers is awesome and everything is done really well. Kinpira, tofu with sansho, gindara, chicken tempura with shiso, uni with mountain yam, all wonderful. "Carpaccio" of snapper was a great Euro-crudo dish, with black pepper and olive oil, seaweed, radish sprouts and shallots. Maybe a tad too much pepper, but I loved it.

                                                            3. I love the broth. I had matsutake soba, meaty earthy sliced matsutake with a slice of yuzu, how autumn can you get. The soba is not soggy and while I likeed Soba-Koh, their noodles broke into pieces, unlike Soba-ya. I forgot to order gingko nuts, duh.

                                                            4. Desserts are delicious! They are doing an anmitsu now with yuzu agar; the sweet potato pudding is awesome; and you can't beat the ice cream trio of yuzu, black sesame and honey wasabi.

                                                            I need to eat here more often.

                                                          2. re: kvn

                                                            just ate at soba koh last night. it was outstanding. the daikon salad was so refreshing on a hot day - ribbons of thin white radish topped with baby arugula, bonito flakes, grated ginger, yuzu and a little soy sauce. really fresh and light. i had the soft shell crab tempura - the tempura batter was light and airy, and the soft shell crab so tender and crisp. it came with a mildly hot green pepper, also fried in tempura. the soba had a nice bite to it. and the presentation of everything was beautiful, restaurant decor was calming and very open. had a large feeling for an east village restaurant, lots of minimalist wood that didn't feel cold. highly recommended!

                                                            1. re: shirlotta

                                                              Soba Koh 7/21/06, went after hearing about it here, thank you all! Loved it. Good sake selection. We had the Silver Mountain, great with the food. Apologies if I misspell Japanese names.

                                                              The soba broth was very good, but the noodles broke apart easily. This didn't bother me but I don't know how seasoned soba eaters would feel. The kinoko (three mushrooms) did not skimp on the mushrooms. The cold soba with uni and salmon roe was great (what isn't great when good uni is around). What a perfect hot-weather dish. I had the special hot soba with fried tofu cakes seasoned with eel and hijiki, grated mountain yam in the broth, tasted very homestyle.

                                                              Also excellent:
                                                              Goma-ae (broccoli rabe with black sesame)
                                                              Kinpira, nicely smoky taste
                                                              Daikon salad, agree with above post, refreshing, nicely done

                                                              Chicken wings with sansho--I have had crispier wings but these were pretty good, three full wings rather than single joints. The sansho had an effect similar to sichuan peppercorns--would have liked more of it

                                                              A special of "carpaccio" of Japanese horse mackerel: served over marinated red onion slivers, each richly perfect slice daubed with a drop of concentrated sweet soy, served perfectly at room temperature. It was so good we had to get a second order.

                                                              Now we will return to Soba-ya and see if it has really "gone downhill."

                                                              1. re: kenito799

                                                                Soba Koh had a ad saying “Dinner Special 6 – 7 PM during week!” I knew they do have a weekend special as such but not during the week. To avoid weekend crowd, we went during week.

                                                                I heard such good things about their foods and was told their special was a great deal so I rushed and got in the restaurant a bit after 6 PM. I live in West Village but I took a cab not to miss this chance. I was so excited to have the special I only heard good thing about it.

                                                                Guess what? When I asked for the special, the waitress told me simply “We don’t do that any more!” then, I told her “But there was an ad in Japion for this week!” She insisted that they no longer have the special. It was really misleading ad! I was not very happy. But I heard such good things about the food so I ordered Cold soba and wanted have some shrimps to go with. The total became about $19. I would pay for good for that much BUT the soba was very interestingly have a nice bite touch. The broth was different but good but not that special. The shrimps were greasy, fried in wrong temperature. It was awful!

                                                                Over all, the waitress, misleading ad, awful shrimps and the price $23 plus tip and tax! It just doesn’t add up!

                                                                I told my friends who told me about this place that I had a bad experience. They gave me a frown face.

                                                                About a month or so, my friends started telling me that I was right.

                                                          3. my question is do any of these places have Yasai (vegetable) ramen? It is not a vegetarian option but a regular ramen with a mountain of vegetables on top. All of my favorite ramen places growing up in Japan served Yasai ramen but I can't find it here. :-(

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: ICE_Student

                                                              Just ask them to put the vegetables on top for you. They're just toppings. I never hear of yasai ramen in Tokyo. You can usually order something specified like "negi" or "moyashi" ramen, where they give you extra large servings and hold back on the chashu... Ramen is about broth and the more vegetables, the more watered down it becomes....Minca, incomprehensively, tossed on a bunch of cabbage on top of mine last night. You couldn't even see noodles when it was served.

                                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                                I lived outside of Tokyo for 5 years and that is how I always had it...lots of bean sprouts, cabbage and other veggies. Perhaps I have the name wrong but I'm about 99% sure that is what they called it and that it was always available like that. It was about 12 years ago but I have a fantastic memory when it comes to food. And I don't recall it ever being watered down. Perhaps I'll try the ramen at Minca because that is how I remember it...so many veggies that you couldn't even see the noodles. :-)

                                                                1. re: ICE_Student

                                                                  You're probably right. Every place is different, but they always have an option to get it stacked with veggies, by one name or the other. You can skip Minca though.

                                                              2. re: ICE_Student

                                                                MenKuiTei in the east village (3rd Ave and 8th St) has Yasai Ramen. It's very good - lots of vegetables piled on top of perfectly cooked ramen in a rich pork rib broth.

                                                                  1. re: wadawada

                                                                    Everything I've tried at that branch has been ultra-bland. Skip it.

                                                                1. CHIKUBU, the best ramen of its kind in NYC. Nice deep broth, wonderful deep pork flavor.

                                                                  1. If you want udon noodles, the place to go is Omen, in Soho.

                                                                    I agree that Chikubu has the best ramen in NYC. But I think the days they have fresh ramen are limited - call to find out.

                                                                    1. Saburi on 31th & Lex. have a tasty Hiyahi-chuka. The cheif is a Chinese from Japan. He lived in Japan for 7 years working at Chinese restaurant in major chain hotel in Kobe. The chef knows how Japanese like this summer noodle that is originated in China and brought into Japan as Hiyashi-chyuka

                                                                      The chef’s taste is very close to what I remember as Wayou-Chyuka. “Wa” is Japan and “Chyu” is China. So it could read as Japanese-Chinese. There are many restaurant specialized as such in Japan.

                                                                      Because of the chef has the taste, I dig his choice of flavor. You have to try to know. They also offer other dishes and mostly good.

                                                                      I recommend going there early so that the chef is not too busy or too tired. Avoid during busy hours, I had few disappointed experiences. They started to open late as 3 AM most of the week but I am sure that hours are catering to drinking people who wants to eat late and drink more... I don’t drink and never been at that hours.

                                                                      What I liked and surprised me was Una-jyu. Eel on rice. That was so soft in side and nicely sweet and grilled outside. It was in this sone ball and hot and was sizzling.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: sunnydesu

                                                                        Thanks for the tip. I'm looking forward to trying this out.

                                                                      2. Thank you for all of your recommendations.
                                                                        We went to Rai Rai Ken for lunch and had two different ramens. I thought the ramen called the Miso Ramen was too heavily flavored with Garlic. The other one was delicious with a lovely slice of pork and an egg. The kids loved the atmosphere and really enjoyed our server who brought us pot stickers to try, excellent, crispy on the outside and soft/fresh on the inside.
                                                                        We had dinner the next night at Honmura An. This place was very special. The service was inpeccable and the food lovely. We tried a number of dishes including the soft shell crab, very good. The ramen was terrific with a rich broth and perfect noodles. We started with the soba gnocci, very cool presentation and terrific pairing with a horseradish chutney.
                                                                        The crepe dessert was a surprise for a japanese restaurant and even though I've had this uptown, it was perfect. Light, creamy, not too sweet. We will definitely go back.
                                                                        Thanks to everyone!

                                                                        1. To continue this thread.
                                                                          We ate at Honmura An tonight and it has strengths and weaknesses.
                                                                          The main strength: quite excellent broth with hot soba. I had sliced duck soba and the duck was delicious. The noodles were tasty but they tended to break. All in all, broth less salty (but a bit less mushroom flavor) than Soba-ya, but I still like the noodles at Soba-ya better. However, the topping of grated daikon with yuzu really added a lovely dimension to this soup and therefore it is worth a visit. Duck Soba, $17, decent price.
                                                                          Neutral: toro and uni sashimi were very nice, served with lots of daikon, seaweed, and fresh wasabi. Two pieces of each, $28, sort of a splurge, but it's toro after all. Santa Barbara uni was sweet and creamy, no complaints there.
                                                                          Weakness: oshinko "regular" not "deluxe". "Regular" pickle assortment was lightly pickled, fresh cucumber (OK fine), big pile of pickled cabbage with kelp (good enough), and NOT pickled, sliced raw carrot (???). This was $8.50? OK, if we had gotten the deluxe ($12-$18) maybe we would have gotten THREE pickles?
                                                                          Dessert of strawberry sorbet with vanilla ice cream, sliced strawberry, red beans, nice but simple and very petite for $7.50.

                                                                          This is a decent place for soba soup. I think the quality and variety of other dishes are more consistently superior at Soba-ya. Sake range is better there, too. Prices more reasonable. I am not interested in helping pay the rent to Soho landlords.

                                                                          1. mamafuko for ramen, soba ya on 9th for soba