Ramen may be the new it food in NYC, but don't you hate it when your noodles and toppings are overrun with broth? Enter Sorba--a new noodle bowl concoction brought to you from Japanese Iron Chef Yuji Wakiya and his new Flatiron restaurant, Koa. The concept of sorba focuses on presentation in a large bowl, handcrafted noodles made from soymilk imported from Japan, and a shallow amount of broth meant to supplement the noodles and toppings, and not the other way around. In addition to sorba, Koa features many traditional Chinese dishes executed with a Japanese flair. I was invited to try the just opened restaurant this past weekend with the boyfriend and would heartily recommend that you check it out!
After being greeted by co-owners Keiko Ono Aoki (of Benihana fame) and Tora Matsuoka, we were seated in the front dining room, which is wrapped in rich wood and decorated with elegant white leather chairs and hanging rope "noodles." The back dining room is designed around a large square bar and features giant iron birdcage chandeliers and hanging tree branches. Tora introduced us to the restaurant concept and designed a menu for us featuring Koa's signature dishes and of course, sake.
We started with the yuzu crispy shrimp with sweet & spicy yuzu pepper cream sauce ($14), crispy crabmeat wontons with coconut chili powder and sweet chili sauce ($10), vegetable spring rolls with sweet miso sauce ($9), and the Szechuan salad ($12).
|Crispy crabmeat wontons ($10)|
|Vegetable spring rolls ($9)|
|Yuzu crispy shrimp ($14)|
|Szechuan salad ($12)|
The yuzu shrimp was our favorite of the appetizers--tangy, succulent, and crunchy with a late, late kick. It was definitely nice to have a glass of light sake on hand to wash things down with. The Szechuan salad will not be for everyone. It is made with traditionally Szechuan peppercorns that create a tingling, numbing sensation on your tongue as you eat. It is a very different, yet fun, experience. The spring rolls were good but fairly typical and the wontons were great, creamy on the inside but fried to a perfect crisp.
Next up cocktail-wise was the Yu-Gin with Bulldog gin, yuzu juice, cucumber, shiso, and tonic water. It was a refreshing accompaniment to our second course of steamed Chilean sea bass with
broccoli ($29). This was a dish, Aoki explained, that showcased the clean, simple Japanese technique on a typical Chinese dish (which would normally be covered in sauce). Koa's version focused on the freshness of the fish and sprinkled it with some flair--ginger scallion sauce, flecks of bell pepper, and crispy sticks of fried creamy. This was a winning dish for sure.
|The Yu-Gin and the front dining room of Koa|
|Steamed Chilean sea bass ($29)|
Next, Tora brought out Koa's signature sorba dish, the soymilk dan dan with ground beef and soymilk broth ($23). If you've ever tried a traditional dan dan noodle dish before, you know the feeling of not being able to stop eating because the second you do you realize how on fire your mouth is, but for some masochistic reason, you go back to slurping. This dish is somewhat reminiscent of that, but much, much milder. That's thanks to the soymilk. The story goes (as we were told twice), that the Iron Chef came to the US and tried the 6 different soymilks available here and spat them all out in disgust. So Koa imports a special brand from Japan which enables dishes like the soymilk dan dan to be very balanced and really shine.
|Soymilk dan dan sorba ($23)|
|Lady M cocktail|
Koa just opened for weekend service so it was pretty empty when we were there (usually a red flag for me), but I'm sure with word of mouth and a few adventurous ramen lovers looking for something a little different, this will soon be a tough reservation to snag. Check it out and let us know what you think.