Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New-season soba at Shimbashi

Disclaimer:  I ate here for free.  See end of post for full disclosure.


Once you get clued into seasonality, there's something deeply disconcerting about cafe menus spruiking  heirloom tomato bruschetta at this time of year.  Why stubbornly hang on to basil, avocado and all the other delights of summer when you can celebrate lovely roast pumpkin and wilted, garlicky kale?  What we're often unaware of is that like fruit and veg, nuts and grains also have seasons, and right now is buckwheat harvest time.


In Japan, soba noodles made from the season's first buckwheat are called shin soba and are highly prized for their particularly sweet flavour and delicate fragrance.  I've previously written about Shimbashi, Melbourne's only dedicated soba bar where Chef Taka Kumayama grinds buckwheat into flour and makes soba noodles with it daily on the premises.  Taka invited me back to try out shin soba, only available once per year.


Deep-fried soba to start.  Perfectly crisp and seasoned.


Shimbashi now have a dedicated sake sommelier!  I love this nigori-sake, unfiltered sake served cool, with a texture almost like drinking yoghurt.  We also had amazing, lolly-water yuzu sake and plum wine.


One of my all-time favourite foods - nasu dengaku, or eggplant with sweet miso sauce.  This was a sublime specimen - the eggplant flesh scored into diamonds, cooked till velvety-soft, with luscious, almost caramelly miso.  WOW.


Gorgeous oysters with ponzu sauce and fat petals of sashimi, all tangled up with fresh salad.


Tempura love!  Delicate wedges of pumpkin, zucchini and eggplant in light, blistered batter.  Only the Japanese can make deep-fried food seem healthy.


The main event.  I love how it looks like a prayer offering.  To eat, sprinkle the dipping sauce with spring onion and gently dunk strands of soba in.  Just so lovely.  I don't eat soba enough to be able to wax lyrical about new-season shin soba, but I can tell you that these are some mighty fine noodles.  You can taste the chef's passion in every bite.


Afterwards, the staff will come and top up your sauce pot with soba cooking water to make a warm "soup" that tastes so delicious and nourishing.


Sake pudding.  Wow wow.  The pudding itself is utterly luscious, like creme caramel.  Loved the tangy, marmalade-like lemon sauce on top.


Shimbashi has been open for about eight months now, and I think it's really come into its own.  The public hold Japanese restaurants to standards of authenticity far above any other cuisine in Melbourne, and Shimbashi definitely hits those heights.  It's a very Japanese restaurant, right down to the quirky, homely decor and the Japanese version of Smooth FM they play.  A refreshingly non-sceney spot.


If you want to catch the season's first shin soba, head to Shimbashi in the next week or so.  Of course you can still enjoy hand-made soba here year-round, as buckwheat keeps well - unlike heirloom tomatoes.

Shimbashi Soba (Facebook)
17 Liverpool Street, city
Open:  Mon-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm, 6-10pm

Disclaimer:  Shimbashi invited me and a friend to try shin soba on the house.  This was NOT conditional on subsequently writing a post, but I so enjoyed this meal I wanted to share it.  Shimbashi have not requested nor been given any editorial control over this post.

1 comment:

  1. This looks so freakin' good. Those oysters, and fresh noodles, ugh.


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