Yabu Restaurant : West LA's Secret Soba House
I've had a secret for awhile. So, I'm about to spill the... soba. I didn't want to share. It's my secret soba house, and it's very special. For a good reason: Yabu has the best soba noodles. These handmade soba noodles cannot be found anywhere else in Los Angeles. Except for their other location. But even so, I promise you, once you taste these freshly made buckwheat noodles, you won't find anything like them, unless to travel to Japan.
Yabu (West Los Angeles) was established in 1990 at their cozy Pico Boulevard location. They specialize in Japanese soba noodles, but also provide an extensive menu of other traditional Japanese dishes. Master Chef Tetsuya and his kitchen staff make everything fresh daily--- the soba noodles are never dried--- so the earthy buckwheat flavor is at its best the same day:
I have gone to Yabu for years now, and can remember almost every lunch and dinner that I have enjoyed--- by myself a few times, with family, with my children, my husband. In particular, my husband, a Japanese native, enjoys Yabu-chan (as he lovingly calls it) for their quality fish, authentic taste. soba noodles and delicious Japanese cuisine.
We have many memories of Yabu's food that blend into memories shared of our life together. Moments that only we can remember fondly. I recall the time we first went to have lunch at Yabu; we had just begun dating, and it was an overcast day. We had made love all that morning until, we realized, it was lunchtime, and we were quite hungry. I had known of Yabu, so I suggested we go have lunch there. I ordered a dish I would have never chosen if I wasn't trying to impress my new beau: Sake Ikura don, cooked salmon meat flake and marinated salmon roe over sushi rice. I was yearning for some soba noodles, but I didn't order them for a few reasons. I am not a native Japanese person, and so I don't make any noise when slurping noodles, as is the polite custom. Secondly, when I do slurp noodles, quietly, I get broth all over my face and clothes. Endearing, I am sure, but I was shy about my noodle skills.
We also ordered nasu miso, stir-fried eggplant with homemade miso sauce, and cold tofu served with Japanese style toppings like scallions (naganegi) ginger and horseradish. Since my order was a "set meal" it came with side dishes. This was our first lunch there, so long ago, it is surprising that I recall the lunch, where we sat, and the nourishing feeling of the food itself. But Yabu evokes many pleasant memories.
I also remember dinners there with our children, his family visiting from Japan, and our baby daughter's first meal at five months old. Perhaps we were adventurous parents, but with a bamboo baby spoon, we fed her Yabu's homemade Chawan Mushi.
Chawan Mushi is a savory egg custard, made with chicken, ginkgo nut and whitefish. The Chawan Mushi comes out steaming hot in a small ceramic bowl with a lid. We took some time in cooling off the custard for her. That first spoonful to her mouth, how she lit up, her face full of pleasure, her first taste of this savory custard cooked with broth. Soon after, she only wanted Chawan Mushi, and we had to learn how to make it at home. She also loved the inside pieces of Nasu Miso, which we, as doting parents do, peeled off the outer eggplant skin, and fed her the soft eggplant with our chopsticks, bite by bite. Of course, miso soup was another favorite of hers at Yabu. Before we knew it, we were dining at Yabu with all of our children (my two children from previous marriages, and his son from his previous marriage). Yabu quickly became our family's dining room.
Kinpira Renkon... lotus root...
Tonight, we dined at Yabu alone. It was a rare occasion to enjoy a peaceful meal without children clambering close by, or asking for a highchair, just the two of us. We were there early in the evening, to enjoy our favorite Yabu dishes. The soba, most importantly. I had a slight sore throat, perhaps caught from one of my children, and my energy was low. A big bowl of nourishing, healing soba at Yabu was sure to have the magical capability of making me feel better again.
My husband ordered Kumamoto Oysters...
And I ordered the Jikasei Tofu (Yabu's homemade tofu)...
And the Yasai Tempura...
For my main dish, I ordered the Tamago Toji Soba (hot), which wasn't my usual Kitsune Soba sweet fried tofu with scallion, spinach and fish cake. My other standard soba favorite is the Kinoko Soba mixed Japanese mushrooms with scallion, spinach and fish cake. I have loved the other soba bowls, like Sansai Soba, mixed wild Japanese vegetables, spinach and fish cake, and the buttery tempura flakes of Tanuki Soba, which is simply tempura batter flakes in the broth with the soba noodles.
The Tamago Toji Soba, a beaten egg mixed into the soba broth, with spinach and fish cake, was my meal. On our table was a dish of Kinpira Renkon, stir-fried lotus root with Japanese chili and sweet soy sauce. Yasai Tempura (vegetable tempura), and the Yabu homemade tofu, steamed and made with "Wari shoyu" broth. My husband had his Yabu combination with zaru soba and fresh sushi. How happy could we be? Can't beat it. It's really our most favorite meal.
The Zaru Soba (cold soba) and sushi is served with the Yabu combination...
Which is perfect simplicity.
The authentic taste of buckwheat noodles handmade at Yabu...
A delicious Japanese dinner.
We also shared Otokoyama Sake, served cold. This is our favorite cold sake. Sake can also be healing. When shared during a meal at Yabu, the results are not drunkeness, but a clarity and elation due to its refined elixir of rice mingling with the higher vibration of the cuisine. I am quite serious about this. Yabu's food is healing. I have almost proven this as fact. Each time I have not been quite well, catching some cold or other illness, a large bowl of the soba and broth, along with Otokoyama sake and kinpira renkon, has suddenly, overnight, made me well again.
After our elegant and soul satisfying meal, we had hot hojicha tea. The hot tea after the meal. Agari... now the magic of Yabu-chan is in effect... a heavenly meal...
11820 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90064 Tel. 310.473.9757