17 Liverpool St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I luuuurve noodles, and my list of favourite noodle dishes goes something like this: ramen, bun bo hue, cross bridge rice noodles, udon, pho, laksa. But notice how soba doesn’t even feature? Though the ideal solution to those summer noodle cravings, it’s never really stuck with me, and I usually end up sweating my way through a bowl of pho instead.
One thing food blogging has taught me however is that, if fresh and well-made, almost anything can be delicious, even carrots and Turkish delight. And that’s why I decided to give Shimbashi Soba and Sake a go; I may not love soba, but soba and I are still friends, and I’m more than willing to give my time of day to a restaurant that specialises in it.
Upon walking in, I was immediately taken with Shimbashi. Though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made it so, it felt like a little piece of Japan. On a more down-to-earth but no less exciting note, they have an electric millstone spinning away in the corner, grinding down the buckwheat that they use to make the soba in-house. Aside from soba they also have your usual selection of nibbles, and like any truly Japanese establishment, there’s a range of alcohol on offer – a large range.
The moment we sat down, we were served a small dish of potato salad. Despite being quite bland, the shreds of onion mixed through gave a hint of texture to the smooth potato, and I was starving.
|Kamo Siero ($19)|
Though it was a beautiful 24 degree day, I wasn’t quite ready to go the full monty and have my soba with nothing but a cold dipping sauce, but I loathed to miss out on the traditional soba experience. So instead I compromised with the Kamo Seiro ($19), where the cold noodles were served with a hot veggie and duck soup.
|Kamo Seiro ($19)|
It’s not what I’m used to, but I thought this was a very satisfying meal. The noodles did indeed taste noticeably fresher, with a firmer bite, when compared with the dried stuff. And the soup was fantastic – a soy-based broth with a dash of vinegar, chock-a-block with a hearty combination of silken tofu, enoki mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, and slices of duck, still pink in the middle.
|Chicken Soba ($16)|
After the savoury umami of the duck broth, the Chicken Soba ($16) didn’t make much of an impression. I recall the taste being mild and innocuous, and the gyoza tasty in its gingery porkiness, despite being soggy. For the price, I’d give this one a miss next time.
Unfortunately, our dinner was somewhat marred by a couple of doctors sitting opposite us whom I recognised from my hospital, bad-mouthing pharmacy and talking way more about chemotherapy than I like to hear outside of work. But of course, that wasn’t Shimbashi’s fault, and I enjoyed my meal, despite finding the food unremarkable and somewhat overpriced. True, I had been starving at that point, but thinking back now on a full tummy, I’d be happy to have another serve of the duck soba, and maybe some of the original dipping soba too, once the warm weather is here to stay.
Rating: 12.5/20 – soba so good.