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Finding great soba in Los Angeles

Does anyone know of good soba restaurants, preferably in the WLA area? I've tried some great soba in NYC at Sobaya, and the now closed Honmura-An, but can't seem to find anything like that so far in LA. Honmura-An was amazing, but the retreated back to their store location in Tokyo, Japan only. I'm thinking home-made, hand cut soba, with many varieties of cold and hot sobas, including many types soba noodle soups... check out Sobaya's menu as an example: http://www.sobaya-nyc.com/sobayasite/...

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  1. ichimian. there's one on pch, too.

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    Ichimian (Bamboo Garden)
    1618 Cravens Ave., Torrance, CA 90501

    1. Honmura-An was amazing. I went there frequently when I lived in NYC in the 90's. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard they had closed. Ichimiann is okay, but it's no Honmura-An. It has decent, hole-in-the-wall soba (skip the udon, though). The best soba I've had was at Otafuku Noodle House in Gardena. Exilekiss has a good article about them:

      http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2008/06...

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      Otafuku
      16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA

      7 Replies
      1. re: Peripatetic

        here's his review of ichimian:

        http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2009/10...

        1. re: Peripatetic

          Yeah, I really miss Honmura-An. Their "soba cuisine" was like fine dining in the soba world.

          I'm going to give Otafuku a try and see how it goes. I found another place on Pico in WLA called Yabu. Again, no Honmura-An, but it was good home made soba. We tried the duck soba, sansai (mountain vegetable) soba and the yamakake (mountain yam) soba - all good. Prices were reasonable, ranging from $9 to $15 for a bowl of soba. But the service was very slow that night, maybe they were understaffed.

          1. re: Ginger9

            Hi Ginger9,

            If you're driving down to visit Otafuku, you might want to consider doing a taste test then, and try the previously mentioned Ichimian (Bamboo Garden). Fresh, handmade Soba made each morning. Here are 2 Chowhound threads on it:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/552864

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/657007

            Enjoy~ :)

            1. re: exilekiss

              Is it definitely handmade? Two years ago I was chatting with the owner and he said it was freshly made by machine. It felt like (really good) machine product too... very even and consistent. Maybe they changed it up...

          2. re: Peripatetic

            +1 for missing and craving Honmura-An and frustrated about not being able to scratch that itch. There was something very peaceful and pure about eating there.

            Will give Otafuku a try. Any other kinds of soba or just the two shown in e-kiss' review?

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            Otafuku
            16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA

            1. re: Porthos

              Mori-san recommends Otafuku, for what it's worth.

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              Otafuku
              16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA

            2. re: Peripatetic

              Love seiro and udon at Otafuku! Haven't been there in awhile.. Maybe lunch today. Yum!

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              Otafuku
              16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA

            3. Throw in Inaba in Torrance which owns Ichimian and serves their soba as well.

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              Inaba
              20920 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA 90503

              1. I like Taiko in Brentwood. Good for the area. There is also one in El Segundo.
                http://www.taikobrentwood.com/

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                Taiko Restaurant
                11677 San Vicente Blvd Ste 302, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                Taiko Restaurant
                2041 Rosecrans Ave Ste 190, El Segundo, CA 90245

                1. Gonpachi at the Miyako Hotel in Torrance is light years away in terms of food and ambience from the Beverly Hills location and they make their own soba and udon. I had a kinoko (mushroom) soba there in January that was very good.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: TracyS

                    I trained a little in a soba restaurant for a little while in Tokyo and met a couple of people who supply soba supplies and equipment (specifically soba mills) to the the very few restaurants in the US that use them. As far as I know (I very likely could be wrong) Gompachi is the only place in Los Angeles that currently grinds their own soba flour. If I have overlooked any restaurant I'm apologize: Please let me know if there is another restaurant grinding their own soba when you read this. Although other restaurants in Los Angeles are making hand made soba, if the soba flour is old or not ground freshly the soba will lack flavor and aroma. I haven't weighed in on this thread because I haven't been to most of the restaurants people are mentioning, but among the ones I have been to, including Otafuku, the hand made soba had decent texture but lacked flavor and aroma compared to soba in Japan. I have nothing that came remotely close to top quality levels in Japan, which I have been told by another soba chef that Honmura-An was able to replicate. I have a Japanese friend that told me the soba at Gonpachi was very good, so I'd like to try it when I get a chance.

                    As a side note, the "seiro" soba at Otafuku is made with sarashina soba flour, which is very different than regular seiro soba, so you can't compare the seiro at Otafuku with other seiro because it's made with a completely different ingredient. If you are comparing seiro at another restaurant to seiro at Otafuku, order the kikouchi (100% buckwheat) at Otafuku instead. I have never understood why they don't call it by it's proper name, but I guess that's just how Seiji-San likes to do things.

                    1. re: la2tokyo

                      Thank you, this is very informative.

                      Honmura-An did grind their own buckwheat (the grinder was in a glass room at the back of the dining room). I'm sure that made all the difference.

                      1. re: Peripatetic

                        I should add that I'm not saying Otafuku is bad. I eat there all the time. There isn't much of a comparison between what we have in LA and what you can eat in Japan. Serious soba fanatics in Japan debate over the quality of buckwheat from each growing region and the quality of crop from year to year. Unfortunately that's not going to be a possibility for soba fans in LA any time soon, but hopefully one day.

                        1. re: la2tokyo

                          Otafuku used to be radiant perfection in my book. I've never been lucky enough to eat soba in Japan, but Otafuku was so many leagues beyond anything else I'd tried after years of soba-searching here and in the Bay Area and in NY... but that was back when that old soba-master looking dude was always in the kitchen. Now there's a younger generation back there, I think the same dudes that worked with the Old Master when the Old Master was around, so it's probably safe to say they were trained by him, but it's lost it's super-mega-sparkle in my eyes. It's still my favorite in the area, but it's lost its sparkle. It used to be leagues better than Ichimiann's, and now it's dropped within spitting distance... Not saying Otafuku isn't worth going to. I still drive there regularly for some of the seiro and some of the 100% buckwheat - but it isn't quite as glowing-with-holy-sparkle as it used to be.

                          -----
                          Otafuku
                          16525 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA

                          1. re: Thi N.

                            Wow, I just checked and I haven't been to Otafuku since June 2008. I can't believe it's been that long. Do you remember if these changes happened before or after then?

                            1. re: Thi N.

                              This brings up an interesting side point...

                              Thi, is there any eatery that still retains its "glowing-with-holy-sparkle" embodiment of radiating perfection in your book at this time?

                        2. re: la2tokyo

                          Interesting information. I know next to nothing about soba, but I tried Ichimian several months ago and found it fairly bland (and not particularly worth the drive from West LA, although I enjoyed the sleepy ambiance of the street and the Dairy Queen next door....). Wonder if the lack of freshly ground flour had anything to do w/ that...

                          1. re: ilysla

                            For people who don't eat a lot of soba I can't say that freshly ground soba will make the difference between liking soba or not liking soba, but when comparing the soba of different restaurants it's a significant factor in the final product. Of course the sauce is also something that is overlooked by most people who eat soba casually. The dipping sauce for soba is just as important as soup for things like ramen, but I don't think casual consumers see it that way. Soba fans have likes and dislikes for every variation of dipping sauce imaginable, all of which would probably taste exactly the same to anyone who eats soba less than a few times a year. I think fanaticism for soba is hard for anyone who hasn't grown up with soba to understand - even the people in Western Japan who don't eat soba that much don't pay much attention to all these factors.

                            1. re: la2tokyo

                              We definitely see discussions on sushi and ramen focus on subtle distinctions, but sadly not soba or udon, probably for lack of truly good examples.

                              1. re: la2tokyo

                                Maybe I need to try more to develop a taste for it, then.... ;)

                            2. re: la2tokyo

                              it says on ichimiann's website that they mill buckwheat daily.

                              http://www.ichimiann.com/

                              i've never been to the gonpachi in the miyako hotel. i'll have to go there one of these days.

                              1. re: raizans

                                You're right! Thanks. I'll go try it as soon as I can.

                                1. re: raizans

                                  so i went to try the soba at gonpachi. i wouldn't recommend it at all, but i'd go back to try something else because the salad bar and other stuff is nice.