When you stack New York against LA, New York has plenty going for it, for sure. We have reasonable public transportation, actual seasons, the ability to get wasted on a weeknight without much consequence, and far fewer friends begging you to come see their improv shows.
One place in which New York is beat, however, is in the raw fish over rice bowl category.
Before you say, "Uh, what?" hear me out: I know, you're used to hearing about LA's burritos and their Korean food and their outrageous chef's choice sushi dinners. But head to the west coast these days and you'll find an abundance of simple sashimi rice bowls and Hawaiian "poke bowls." You'll find them in various Japanese restaurants and in a number of competing fast casual "Chipotle of raw fish rice bowls" places, and there are even food trucks dedicated to them. They're everywhere, and they're delicious. On our last trip to LA, we ate five.
For reasons we can't quite understand, the craze hasn't hit New York yet. So when we find ourselves intrigued by the idea of eating raw fish over rice for lunch or dinner (AND WHO DOESN'T), we head to Soba-ya, a little traditional Japanese restaurant on 9th Street.
As the name indicates, the restaurant's speciality is soba, and that's very good here too. A man makes the soba fresh from a glassed-in station at the front of the space a couple times a day, and if you're lucky, you'll get to watch him do it from start to finish. So by all means, order a bowl of soba -in a soup with a bunch of stuff thrown in or cold and topped with a few light toppings. You'll be happy.
But what we keep coming back for here are the rice bowls. There versions topped with chicken or eel, but the raw fish is where it's at. The fish is extremely fresh, and for $10-$20 depending on size, also a pretty good deal.
Is it the best iteration of raw fish over rice in New York City? Who knows. Maybe not. But it's the one we find ourselves coming back to on random Wednesdays for easy, reasonable, not unhealthy dinners. Until we get on another plane to California, we'll see you there.
Given the quality of fish, any of the raw fish appetizers are a sure bet. Soy-cured tuna comes on top of grated mountain yam here. Just know it's a funky, slightly slimy texture if you haven't tried mountain yam before.
Sake Oyako Don
Our top pick, this bowl comes with pieces of salmon sashimi and salmon roe. Pretty self explanatory. Always fresh and always satisfying.
Spicy Salmon Tartar Don
If you come from the spicy tuna/spicy salmon roll with avocado school of sushi (and don't we all), here's your jam.
Chirashi Cold Soba
If you're interested in the soba side of the menu, you can't really go wrong in any direction, but if you're looking for something a little different, try this one: the cold noodles come with crispy fried sardine tempura, egg omelette, mushrooms, fried tofu, and a fish cake.