Falstaff Magazine International Nr. 0/2021 - SixPack
There’s no shortage of noodles in New York City. Whether you’re looking for hot, cold, brothy, saucy, spicy or soothing there’s a noodle for every craving – and every price point. But if you had your heart set on white soba, until recently, even in New York, you were out of luck.
Enter Sarashina Horii, a stylish and highly-specific outpost on West 20th, where luminous modern wood and tasteful grey banquettes are the backdrop to a kitchen legacy that dates back to 1789.
“We chose New York for our first location outside Japan because it is a melting pot of people from around the world,” says owner (and ninth generation soba maker) Yoshinori Horii. “Also, we’re proud to say we were founded in the same year that Washington became President!”
Though the details of the menu have changed a little since then, its heart and focus remains the same; white soba noodles, made 100% from the core of the buckwheat seed.
White soba noodles are something of a rarity, so much so, that Sarashina Horii stakes claim to being the first and only maker in the U.S.. Long lines form daily outside the Tokyo restaurant, as people wait to experience their delicious legacy of craftsmanship at work.
“You have to pay attention to the humidity, the temperature of the water as well as the temperature of the room,” says chef Tsuyoshi Hori, who made his first noodle as a child in the kitchen of his family’s restaurant before beginning training at Sarashina Horii. “Other important factors include time of the process and pressure when kneading - too long, the soba will dry out and lose its flavor and aroma. Too much pressure, and the buckwheat will fall apart and become too hard.”
The result? A finely textured noodle with a sweet gentle flavor much admired by Shoguns, the Japanese Imperial Household and even the late, great Anthony Bourdain, who featured the original restaurant on No Reservations.
Though the menu also features an array of dishes from shatteringly crisp tempura, to silky miso black cod and generously stuffed maki rolls, everyone’s here for the soba. White soba, of course, served cold and hot, but also Mori soba, made with 80% buckwheat and 20% wheat flour for body and chew. Whichever soba you select, the restaurant’s signature warm duck and leek noodles, served in a deeply layered broth, will absolutely hit the spot on a chilly Fall night.