I still have yet to perfect an acceptable slurp for when I eat soba. I blame the Cotillion classes, an unfounded fear of soy-colored droplets splattering upon my shirt (in slow-motion, of course, like from a scene in Outbreak), and the lack of deliberate practice. Soba-ya, a small restaurant in the East Village, was the perfect place to gain more experience in the art of noodle-slurping.
The restaurant’s light wood tables, shoji screen, and concentrated layout reminded me of a noodle shop along Teramachi Street. The clientele here was mostly Japanese, with a few non-Japanese speckled throughout: I took this as a good omen, a signal to the restaurant’s authenticity.
Soba-ya imports its buckwheat flour from Nagano and cuts its noodles daily. The soba-zen (the soup) is made with high quality dashi and soba-ya infuses it with Higeta soy sauce, a naturally brewed gourmet soy sauce. (Soba-ya is the only restaurant in the United States which uses Higeta.) The soba-zen is then stored in a cool dark place for a few days to let fermentation do its magic.
My wife had the Zaru, the plain cold noodles with Nori seaweed and dipping sauce. I had Ikura: warm noodles, salmon roe, and grated radishes. We tried but did not achieve the perfect slurp - you have to be quick and decisive and any hesitation dampens the effect. But we were not too concerned and were just happy we were able to eat such wonderfully simple soba. But I will certainly return for more practice.