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teuchi soba lunch at ippuku [Berkeley]

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i know the soba lunches are mentioned in the main ippuku thread, but since they have such limited availability, i thought i'd post about my lunch separately.

last saturday i joined two friends for lunch at ippuku to try the teuchi handmade soba, which is only available friday and saturday from 11AM until 2PM or until they run out (60 servings per day). i ordered the ten zaru soba, cold noodles on a bamboo tray with shrimp and vegetable tempura. one of my friends ordered the same and the other ordered the tororo soba, cold noodles with grated mountain yam and raw quail egg.

we also ordered a few appetizers: the hiya yakko soft cold tofu with minced pickled eggplant and bonito flakes, asparagus in a black sesame dressing, and a dashi maki, rolled omelet flavored with dashi.

this was only my third time trying freshly made soba. the first was in tokyo a few years ago, the second at NYC's soba koh a little more recently. i enjoyed both of those meals better than this one, but that is not to say that i didn't like these noodles. the noodles were toothsome and bouncy. the dipping sauce seemed nicely nuanced. the shrimp tempura had good flavor, unlike the anemic shrimp crusted in battle-armor fried batter common elsewhere. the veggie tempura consisted of kabocha squash, okra, a shishito pepper, eggplant, and a shiitake mushroom, accompanied by a light and fresh dipping sauce.

i tried a bite of my friend's tororo soba, and one bite is just enough for me. i could appreciate the contrast between the rather mucilaginous yam and raw egg with the firm bite of the noodles once, but i find that texture too challenging for a whole meal. just not my thing.

towards the end of the meal, they brought out a kettle of hot soba water, the water used to boil the noodles in. this starchy liquid is poured into the remainder of the dipping sauce and consumed like a soup or hot beverage. its very soothing.

the hiya yakko was a refreshing starter. good flavored tofu paired with the slight astringency of the minced eggplant and the smoky bonito flakes. very thin asparagus cut on the bias with black sesame sauce was nutty and tasty. the dashi maki was surprisingly pale in color, as if there was very little yolk. indeed it was less rich than other versions, and it was served hot with grated daikon. it was more savory than a lot of other versions, as well, much less sweet.

for various reasons unrelated to the quality of the food i ate, it's not likely that i'll make it back anytime soon for a repeat lunch, which is a shame because i thought it was a solid meal. i wish that the bay area shared the same passion for soba or even udon as it does for ramen. until then i look forward to the next time i can make it across the bay on a friday or saturday for more of ippuku's soba.

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  1. " i wish that the bay area shared the same passion for soba or even udon as it does for ramen"

    I agree. Cold soba are my favorite Japanese noodles. I think people just don't know how good soba can be. I didn't know until I was visiting a friend in Japan and she took me to a soba place in Kyoto.

    I really enjoy the cold soba lunch at ippuku. Last time I had the Yam one and loved it. Significant other had the natto soba which he liked a lot. We had the most amazing appetizer there. I was going to post about it here but never had the chance. Buckwheat tofu. It was one of the best things I have eaten all year. Amazing texture and flavor.

    1. My report on soba for lunch there:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7189...

      I went back and had a hot soba dish I really liked, neglected to post about that.

      1. Don't forget to get their special hot shochu made with the water used to cook the soba!

        1. "limited availability". I was there at around 12:10 yesterday and they'd already run out of soba. Next week for sure!

          1 Reply
          1. re: ernie in berkeley

            They ran out last time I was there too, and I was told I could call ahead to reserve one next time. I don't know if they offered this to me because I had been there at dinner before, or because I told them I wasn't local.

          2. I just walked by today and saw a sign indicating this was the last week of soba lunch, to be served on the 13th and 14th.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ...tm...

              The last week of the year or the last week ever? It would be a shame if they totally stopped the soba lunches since they are really good. We went last Saturday and really enjoyed it. In addition to the soba noodles they also make a delicious buckwheat custard (soba tofu) served savory or sweet. On Saturday we had it for dessert and it was excellent. It was served with a Japanese molasses syrup and some toasted grains on top that added nuttiness and crunch. The savory version which we have tried in the past is also outstanding.

               
              1. re: ...tm...

                A few days ago I called Kisaku in San Mateo to see if they are still offering handmade soba noodles. With a lot of difficulty (because the guy's English was really limited), I think he told me to call again next week, when there is a good chance of getting it.

              2. A friend took me to Ippuku this year. Visiting from Japan, I was quite impressed at all the little details that make Ippuku a real treat for those familiar with Japan. Having handmade buckwheat soba in the Bay Area is certainly a great experience for those who can appreciate it, not to mention the other interesting things they do.