soba-packageWhen it comes to comfort food, I’m still a Jersey boy at heart – give me a plate of pasta any day.  Although the long corkscrews known as fusili lunghi are my favorite, I’m an equal opportunity eater when it comes to shapes.  I’m not even particularly picky when it comes to toppings.  I enjoy a good garlicky pesto; a simple toss with olive oil, parmesan and black pepper; and a nice tomato gravy (we don’t call it sauce where I come from) from time to time.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I was struck by a feature in one of our foodie magazines (Everyday Food) highlighting soba.  These buckwheat noodles are prevalent in Japanese cooking, whether served in soups, salads or on their own with a dipping sauce.  Soba (and buckwheat in general) contain high quantities of cholesterol-lowering B-vitamins and rutin, an antioxidant.  So we decided to give it a try.

soba-soupWe found one recipe within the feature that caught our eye, a soba soup with shiitake and spinach.  Looking through our cookbooks, we also found a recipe in John Ash’s “From the Earth to the Table” for Japanese-style grilled salmon with a cold soba noodle salad.  We decided to check out both to experience soba in two very different ways.

One of the recipes was a home run; the other, not so much.

Which one was which (and the secret behind the soba that’s “No. 1 in Japan”) after the jump. (more…)

<<EDIT: 9/11/09, 5:00 PM – As a result of Tim Carman’s post about Makoto’s erroneous kaiseki classification over at Young & Hungry, we’ve gone back and edited each reference here to reflect the more appropriate “kaiseki-style.”  Thanks for letting us know, Tim!>>

Unless you know what you're looking for, you just might miss Makoto.  All images thanks to Toro E. at Yelp.comI wanted to do something special to celebrate Elizabeth’s new job.  Rather than going back to a favorite restaurant or trying one of the higher-profile chef’s tasting menus around the city, I decided to take her to a place that I had heard about and filed away for just such an occasion.  When she posted about our love of Sushi-Zen, I knew that Makoto was going to be a winner.

If you haven’t heard of Makoto, don’t feel bad.  Despite offering what has been described as the most authentic Japanese dining experience in the entire city, it seems like very few people are aware that Makoto even exists.  With only twenty-seven seats in the entire restaurant, that’s probably for the best.  Makoto serves an assortment of sushi, sashimi and traditional Japanese dishes like soba noodles a la carte, but the restaurant is primarily focused on the presentation of multi-course kaisekistyle meals.  This ‘chef’s choice’ approach results in an impressive 8-to-10 course meal that presents a subtle and balanced series of tastes and textures.

More about our experience after the jump. (more…)