Where To Eat Soba Noodles

Lunchtime perfection in a bowl

Today, let someone else wait in line for an aggressively seasoned, über-fatty bowl of ramen. It's time to sit down and enjoy the suaver, leaner pleasures of soba.

Shigei Sugano rolls and cuts soba–the firm, chewy buckwheat noodles–each day at 15 East. He serves them tangled with spring onion and slices of duck breast rimmed with a bit of meltingly sweet fat ($26), or with a Japanese tiger prawn in a sheath of crisp tempura ($23).

It makes for the perfect lunch on dreary work days: fast but somehow luxurious, too. And unlike a heavy bowl of ramen, you won't need to cap it off with a nap.

Who knows what the weather will be like tomorrow?

Soba, which is almost better when it's served cold, has you covered. Order it chilled, crowned with a pile of salty salmon roe and raw grated radish ($19) at SobaKoh. Season the sauce with a little grated wasabi, then enjoy the ritual of dipping each bite of noodles as you go.

At Cocoron, where the tiny dining room always smells sweetly of buckwheat, try the noodles with silky sheets of yuba ($13.50)–tofu milk skin that's made in-house. At Soba Ya, get soba paired with a traditional accompaniment of sweet broiled herring ($18.50) or fried baby sardines ($14.50).

A bit of the ichimi togarashi, the bright red chile powder that often comes on the side, will rough up the broth with a powerful, throat-scratching kick, but don't let it slow you down! You want to enjoy the soba quickly, while it's still got some bounce.

15 East is known for its sushi omakase, but the beautiful soba lunch special is a gem. Shigei Sugano makes the noodles fresh each morning.

The noodles are made with buckwheat, which gives them a delicious, nutty flavor.

In the winter, soba is wonderful served hot, like at 15 East, in a salty broth with a side of prawn tempura.

Or try Sugano's classic version of soba with slices of duck and negi, or spring onion.

All the accoutrements for a perfect soba lunch, from salmon roe and tempura, to fresh wasabi and herring.

After cutting, Sugano portions the fresh buckwheat noodles.

The soba master's tools include a flat blade for cutting the dough and a duster for brushing off excess flour.

Beautiful twirls of raw soba noodles, ready for lunch service.