Buckwheat soba noodles is just one of those things. Waaaay less popular than ramen or even udon, you eat a serving of it and feel hungrier than when you started! But I’ve always had a fascination with it — the simplicity that hides layers and layers of complexity. The textural eating experience of the liquids meeting solids in your mouth — amazing. How the noodles act like the shittiest sponge, forcing you to dip your cold soba into the broth then slurp up fast. I love making that noise. Somehow that combination of a plain-looking plate of noodles plus a generic-looking dipping sauce can add up to something more than the sum of its parts. I really hate that overused phrase btw…but it really is apt in this case. If you can appreciate the quiet beauty of a Three Musketeers bar, then you can appreciate buckwheat soba noodles.
The first (and only) time I had handmade buckwheat soba noodles was during our last trip to LA where I took a chance on a pop-up event and was rewarded in spades. If you have the slightest interest in the challenges of making good Japanese buckwheat soba in the US, read this Lucky Peach article, Profile in Obsession: Sonoko Sakai, about the woman who made the soba noodles I was fortunate enough to try in LA.
So, with that memory of soba in mind, we finally checked out Kinome Japanese Kitchen in Kits.
Kinome Japanese Kitchen opened up in the old Dan space (right beside Moderne Burger) back in March(?) and they make their own handmade buckwheat soba noodles! AFAIK the only other place that does this in the Lower Mainland is Vansoba (aka Tama Organic Life) in North Vancouver. Now that I’ve tried Kinome, I’m tempted to try Vansoba to compare 🙂
You must read Alexandra Gill’s review of Kanome for more background. I totally have an intellectual crush on her.
Anyways, we had actually tried to dine here a few weeks ago on a Sunday night. We arrived before their opening time of 5:30pm hoping to snag a table but they were already all booked up!! WTF?! There were lots of Japanese diners that night, so I guess that was a good sign. So we went to Anna Lena that night (review here), which worked out awesome but still wanted to try Kinome, so when Sven came in from Calgary, I thought it would be the perfect time to go! He can get his Vancouver sashimi fix and we can try the SOBA!
We ordered à la carte, which ended up being kinda expensive, so in retrospect maybe we should’ve tried the omakase afterall. Ah well, next time!
This is their entire menu (aside from the seasonals). Mostly izakaya-type sharing plates plus three variations of soba.
They have classic zaru soba (which tons of other “Japanese” restaurants in Vancouver serve and is CRAP) and two other soba dishes. We ordered the bottom two. The Kamo Seiro Soba is like the soba version of tsukemen!
They also have a “Today’s Sashimi” which includes 4-5 items from their fresh sheet. BC uni is in-season NOW!!! <— you gotta click this to see the uni bowl I had the previous weekend. Shout-out to Fresh Ideas Start Here, where I bought my trays of uni from 🙂
Their seasonal menu. I haven’t been to Guu or Kingyo for a while, but I think this is in line with typical izakaya pricing.
Now, this was NOT the dessert menu — this was actually the dessert menu from the PREVIOUS time we tried to dine here but were turned away! It was slightly different than the current dessert menu:
Wicca’s eyes went BIG. She asked, “can we get two desserts?”, and I said “SURE!”
Their draught beer list consists of R&B Wheat Ale and Cream Ale. Their only bottled beer is Orion Lager, which I had at Zakkushi on Main St. and was very meh… I ordered a small glass of the R&B Wheat Ale, which worked well enough with the food. Amazing for 90s-era Vancouver, but this is 2015.
Sven ordered a MIO Sparkling Sake on a lark.
I tried a bit and liked it! A bit sweet. It’s got that rice wine quality that will always remind me of Chinese fermented sweet rice dessert (teem jao). It’s been carbonated so it lightens up the party a bit. That said, I wouldn’t order it for myself 😛
Grass Fed Beef Tataki with Spicy Radish and Ponzu. Ball of seasoned grated radish on top. Seasoned with what, I don’t know. Balanced, tender, flavourful, but could still really taste and appreciate the flavour of the beef. I think the “spicy radish” is simply “radish” (which is always a bit zingy). No complaints about this dish. At all.
Funny story about this. This is actually TWO orders of the Daily Sashimi, which goes for $30 per order. I let Sven eat this thinking it was his single order. Turns out it was BOTH our orders! Ouch and oops! So this plate cost $60 and I have no idea how it tasted. But it looked wonderful. Today’s selection was (clockwise from top): Big Eye Red Tuna, Chum Salmon Liver with Ponzu, Mackerel, Pike Mackerel, Snapper, and Octopus. Accompanied with wasabi and grated ginger. It looks like they use the typical wasabi mixed with real fresh-grated wasabi root. Real wasabi root is insanely expensive, so I applaud any place that uses it. HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS, SVEN!
I wanted to show Sven what fresh BC uni tasted like, so I encouraged him to get a side order. He said it was clean and fresh-tasting, which I don’t doubt after my previous weekend of uni.
Sea Salt Grilled Japanese Wild Pike Mackerel with another one of those seasoned grated radish balls on top. The staff said that this also goes by the name of sanma or saury. Wicca LOVES grilled fish and she totally demolished this in the neatest way possible:
Doesn’t that look like a cartoon fish where the character puts the whole fish in its mouth and pulls out something like this? In between duelling chopsticks, I was able to ascertain that it was grilled nicely, with the meat inside still moist and seasoning spot-on so we could enjoy the natural taste of the fish.
Grass Fed Organic Grilled Beef Tongue with Salad. Another great izakaya-style dish. Tongue had that tender, chewy yet slightly crunchy texture that I just love. Sliiight livery-ness too — if you’re a beef tongue lover, you know what I mean. Seasoning was spot-on with this dish too. We could taste the full flavour of the tongue with the salad accentuating the beef.
Simmered Fresh Wild Sea Eel Pressed Sushi. Soft, almost melty anago. The black things on top looked like peppercorns but weren’t. I have no idea what they were. I loved the accompanying celery-like pickled things. Really great contrast with the sea eel. Eat, cleanse, repeat.
Grilled Mullet Roe Rice Ball in Clear Dashi Broth with Mitsuba and Seaweed. FYI mitsuba is a wild Japanese parsley. This shot is actually the cross-section cuz someone doesn’t know the foodie Instagrammer rules and dove in before I could take picture :P. There were some dishes this night that didn’t please everyone, and this was one of those dishes. Sven and Wicca didn’t see the point but I adored this dish. I got a lot of smoky grilled rice ball aromas and flavours, and when eaten with the dashi broth was just wonderful. Comforting with a twist. However, I didn’t see or taste a ton of mullet roe, but as a dish it was lovely.
Wild Black Cod & Burdock Karaage with Ume Shiso Tartar. Wicca loved this dish, especially the crunchy burdock. I like it a lot too but I didn’t get that insane butteriness that black cod has, so that might be due to the cooking method or the fish itself. In any case, I still really enjoyed this dish. Still well worth ordering if this sounds appealing in any way. However, I could not taste any ume nor shiso in the tartar, which tasted like a straight-ahead tartar sauce. Still, the effect of this dish is like a deluxe fish ‘n chips, so still a win.
Cross-section porn. Strong crispiness on the outside with moist fish on the inside.
Chopped Kale & Prawn Kakiage Tempura. Looked and tasted like an Indian pakora. It is by nature an oily dish but the level of residual oiliness didn’t bother us at all. Tasted like fried kale chips meets pakora.
Can you imagine eating this crispy fried oiliness which when you chew gives way to a mouth-coating deliciousness? With chunks of prawn?
Ok, here comes the soba! They serve the soba towards the end of the meal, sorta like how they serve noodles and rice near the end of Chinese banquets. Actually, that’s not true. At Chinese banquets the point is to stuff you to the max or give you enough leftovers to take home. Here, it’s a somewhat sensible portion of freshly-made soba noodles that you calmly enjoy in a Zen state of mind. Totally different from a Chinese banquet :P. Anyways, this is the Kamo Seiro Soba with Warm Duck Dipping Sauce. Here’s the noodle part, which is served cold on a bamboo mat. The noodles don’t have that darker colour which you might’ve seen in some supermarket dried soba noodles or other restaurants in Vancouver. However, the flavour and texture was superior. It has a flavour, body, and firmness that I haven’t had in Vancouver before. I would say that the taste and texture was different from what I had in LA, but still very good. Different flours and process involved, so I think of it as a unique made-in-BC buckwheat soba. I was impressed with the amount of delicate firmness they were able to create in this noodle. NOTE: you must eat it fast before it gets soft!
Here’s the Warm Duck Dipping Sauce that goes with the Kamo Seiro Soba. Contained three succulent slices of tender duck. This dish is a bit pricey at $16.50 but worth it. I would order it again. Wicca preferred the other soba dish (below) but I enjoyed this one immensely. I can always enjoy the tender, delicate flavours here, then fill up next door at Moderne Burger afterwards 😉
Akakusa Soba with green onion, tempura bits, radish, seaweed, and sesame. It comes to the table dry (and cold) and you add the (cold) broth before you eat. Wicca loved this one, which is amazing because it has all the qualities that Wicca hates: cold noodles, green onions, mild and restrained flavours. But somehow altogether, she loved it! I must give her credit for eating onions (which she hates so so soooo much). Sven didn’t seem thrilled with any of the soba. I think he was still fantasizing about the uni.
Green Tea Ice Cream Parfait with Crispy Mochi and Soba Cookie. This was a letdown. The green tea ice cream was icy and lacked matcha flavour. The mochi was doughy and starchy and could’ve been better. The soba cookie could’ve used a bit more sweetness cuz it tasted like something you’d eat cheese with. Wicca thought the portion was meager. But I did appreciate the interplay between the red bean paste and the ice cream. After the great food, this was a minor disappointment.
Baked Sweet Potato Pie with Red Bean Ice Cream. Wicca loved this one! That “Japanese-level” of sweetness was perfect for her. The graham cracker crust went really well with the sweet potato (NOT yam). She said that this was better than the whole dessert platter at Octopus Garden (review here) but I thought, “whoa, hold on there…are you sure you mean what you’re saying??”
I usually don’t post the bill, but this time it sorta means something cuz it shows how things can get away from you. This worked out to ~$77 per person (with minimal drinks plus tax but before gratuity), so this is really an expensive anomaly for us. But we were plenty happy to take our out-of-town guest out to experience this, so looking back at the quality and flavours, it was worth it. It just goes to show that to get this kind of Japanese food cooked by Japanese people in Vancouver is still a somewhat expensive proposition. I would totally come back for that duck soba, but that’s just me 🙂