Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shimbashi

Soba at Shimbashi

Soba noodles! They're all handmade, hence the appealing irregularity in shape and size. Love it!

Shimbashi
17 Liverpool St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9654-6727
Shimbashi Soba & Sake Bar on Urbanspoon

Shimbashi has been open for a few months now, and having briefly seen some positive mentions of "this handmade soba place in the city" on Instagram and Twitter, it was kinda on my radar as a potential place to try.

However, it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that it moved up to the "let's go here NOW" part of my brain! We'd caught up with a friend for seriously amazing gelati at Spring Street Grocery (blogpost to come, because I love that place!), and walking back to the tram afterwards, she pointed out this tiny little restaurant down a lane - "Hey, that's the really good handmade soba place". The vague mentions I'd read on social media crystallised in my mind - so that's where it is! - and I promptly arranged a Friday night get-together there with some friends. Yay!

Shimbashi really felt like a blast from the past, for me - I don't go to that part of the city often these days, and when we walked down Liverpool lane, I was reminded me of my 80's childhood, with Little Malaysia close by.

Shimbashi interior
The low-key Japanesey interior of Shimbashi reminded me of my high school and uni days, when I was truly obsessed with Japanese culture and used to visit places like this all the time. And yes, back in those days I dutifully learned hundreds of kanji (anyone who did the notoriously difficult IB Japanese instead of VCE will know what I'm talking about!), voraciously read Japanese magazines, and listened to my favourite J-Pop bands, The Brilliant Green and Glay, on constant repeat. I'm not quite as enamoured of Japanese culture now as I was in my teens, but I still love The Brilliant Green. And I eat soba like there's no tomorrow!

Shimbashi interior including buckwheat mill
Apparently if you come during the day you might be able to see the soba being made, which I think would be really interesting. But on the night we were there, I was content to admire the big buckwheat mill and enjoy slurping up the soba!

The offer a good range of different sakes and shochu, as well as Japanese soft drinks... including Ramune! I love this stuff - especially the funky bottle!
Ramune

We wanted to try some sake, but weren't in the mood for a big night, so ordered a bottle of sweet sparkling hoshi no nagare sake to share. (I have no idea where this rates in terms of quality, but it tasted good to me! And I was rather taken with the name: "stream of stars").
Hoshi no nagare sake
Kaaaaaaanpa~i!
Kanpai!
We started with a complimentary appetizer of horenso no ohitashi - boiled spinach, served cold with soy sauce and bonito flakes. Perfect for this warm weather!
Horenso no ohitashi
Apart from the soba, they have a range of typical Japanese starters. And when I say "typical Japanese", I mean what we in Australia would typically think of when we think of Japanese restaurant food: things like sushi, sashimi, edamame, tofu agedashi, tamago-yaki, gyoza and so on.

I think we must have gotten a little over excited, ordering three starters as well as our (generously-portioned) mains. Although the soba is clearly the star of the show, the starters we ordered were all very good too.
Sushi rolls

The sushi rolls were very fresh and had nice soft rice.

Nasu no dengaku
Normally I think of nasu no dengaku as an oily eggplant half, slathered in thick, pungent miso paste, and was surprised by how subtle the flavours were here. In fact, when they brought it out, I thought to myself: "Did they forget the miso topping?" Of course they hadn't - the miso was there, just in a very thin layer. I loved how the delicate topping of miso complimented the eggplant, rather than overpowering it. Really excellent!

Kara-age
Fried chicken, how could we not? Kara-age is one of my favourites, and these were impressively juicy and tasty.

Umai yo
So, soba. Two of our group ordered chicken soba: chicken pieces and dumplings with soba, served in a hot broth.
Chicken soba

The standout here were the flavoursome and moist dumplings - I'm not sure if they're the same dumplings as the gyoza also offered on the menu, but if they are I'll be ordering a dozen of those next time! The bonito-based broth was a little too seafoody for our seafood-avoider Sandra, so after eating the dumplings, chicken and most of the noodles, she passed it to me and I got to finish it. Muahaha!

Tempura soba
I didn't try any of the tempura soba, but I was told it was very good. And even though the fried prawns and vegetables were great, the noodles themselves were the highlight of the dish. (And when plain cold noodles outshine deep-fried prawns, you know you're onto a winner!)

Gomadare soba
I couldn't go past the gomadare soba - cold soba served with sesame sauce. I absolutely love all things sesame (especially tahini!) and this seemed right up my alley. I loved the creamy sesame sauce against the cold, toothsome noodles.

I'd never tried gomadare before, but some quick googling tells me that the sauce is available in bottles at Japanese groceries - so you could easily make a low-rent version of this delicious dish at home! Side note: this dish was similar to something I often cook for myself : soba dressed with a mixture of sesame paste, minced garlic, Chinese chilli oil with sediments, black vinegar and soy sauce. (Fuchsia Dunlop-inspired, obviously).

Table

I didn't take note of individual prices, sorry, but to give an indication - the starters were all around the $9 mark, and the mains were around $17, with my gomadare soba being slightly cheaper at around $13. Our bill that night came up to about $106 for our group of four. I thought it was expensive at first, but then I realised that this included: hand-made soba noodles, a bottle of sake, and three starters. Definitely worth it!

2 comments:

Hannah said...

Ohhhhhh! When I was in Japan, zaru soba was my absolute favourite thing, but sesame soba? That sounds even more spectacular.

Nic@diningwithastud said...

That soba looks SOOO good!