Monday, February 28, 2011


SP's birthday was this past Saturday. In mid-February, SP's Big Burrito Birthday Coupon arrived in the mail. The coupon is just too good to pass up: up to $30 off an entree. With that offer, it's a given that we'll be celebrating our birthdays with a meal at a Big Burrito restaurant. But which one? Usually we opt for Eleven or Casbah. But SP felt like something new - so he chose Soba.

Our reservations were for 5:30 pm on a Sunday. Why so early? We wanted to go to Te Cafe after our dinner since we hadn't been there in quite some time. And, it was a 'work night.'

In a sign of the approaching spring time (which can't get here fast enough for me), we arrived when it was still light out! We were seated right away. I was seated facing the windows:I'm not sure if I like the hanging string kind of look, but... I'm not an interior designer! I prefer to either have a clear view out a window, or no view, not a partially obscured view. To my right was a wall of stones and behind that, off to the right in the photo, is bamboo.It's very dark and cool when you first enter the restaurant, almost as if you're suddenly underground, and there's Asian-y decor (like Buddha figurines, bamboo walls, etc.) and then when you enter the dining room, it's brighter from the windows and you don't feel underground anymore. Off to my left was the waterfall wall. The darkest tiles show where the very light waterfall cascades down the wall. The chairs are chocolate brown, one of my favorite colors, and there are softly glowing orange-ish glass candle holders on the tables.In keeping with the cool, dark, watery/rocky kind of feeling, the chopstick holders are small black rocks. Unfortunately, mine was very round and I could not get my chopsticks to rest atop the rock. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time attempting to get them balanced on top while reminiscing about my time in Japan and the numerous times I was asked by my junior high students if I could pick up M&M's candies with chopsticks (yes, I could back then).SP's chopstick rock was a much better shape for balancing chopsticks.

I was excited to see a viognier on the wine list. That has quickly become my favorite wine but our liquor store carries only 2 'meh' kinds (or at least that's all I saw when I looked) so I always look for it when we are out. This particular one was from Lodi, which is the same region in which other viogniers I've enjoyed are grown. SP was excited to have some ozeki nigori (unfiltered) sake. I've never much enjoyed sake, but he likes it a lot. It looked a bit like he was drinking milk!

Soba is an Asian fusion place. It features a lot of flavors I do not enjoy. Let me recap some of the flavors/food which I do not enjoy: raw fish, chili, garlic, miso, seaweed, cilantro, tofu, corn, coconut, beans, pineapple, curry. Now take a look at Soba's menu and you'll find that it is not the easiest place for me to find a dish I'll enjoy. The menu is chock full of very friendly SP flavors, and that's why he chose Soba, and it was his birthday, and I try to be a good wife, but I think I would have needed the entire bottle of viognier to choke down anything with tofu or cilantro or coconut while anything with chili or garlic would upset my stomach.

I decided to have a medley of 'small plates' for my dinner. First up, Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (sweet miso sauce, lemon aioli, seaweed):SP shared this appetizer with me. He ate the seaweed salad and part of one of the crab cakes. I carefully scooped my crab cakes off the sauces. The crab cakes were very crabby. I don't think there was any filler besides some chopped scallions.I did try the sweet miso sauce. There was not a lot of it, and it wasn't overpowering; it tasted OK. The aioli was very tasty, but I didn't scoop it all up because aioli contains garlic.

SP started with an order of Seaweed Salad (Hawaiian seaweed, yuzu-mustard vinaigrette): He certainly got to enjoy a lot of seaweed! He said it was very tasty. Definitely not my thing - I tried enough seaweed during my 2 years in Japan to know that I just don't like the stuff.

For his entree, SP chose Roasted Duck Breast (celeriac, sweet potato, brussels sprouts, confit, arugula, miso duck jus):He really enjoyed the duck. Our server said the chef recommends the duck be cooked medium, and SP agreed that sounded good. It looked to me to be a wee past medium, but then again, I'm not very good with raw-medium-well distinctions. SP ate everything on his plate.

I ordered 2 other 'small plates' to complete my meal. One was Mushroom and Spinach Dumplings (red pepper dipping sauce):These were steamed. The dumpling dough was so tender, not tough or gummy like some dumpling dough. The dumplings and sauce were very, very good. There was a bit of heat to something, maybe the sauce - ? It could also be that one of the tiny, crunchy things inside the dumpling was actually a wee cube of ginger, which can taste kind of spicy/add a kick, for me. We couldn't decided what the crunchy little things were - ginger? Bamboo? I feared for a minute garlic, but after sniffing, I ruled that out!

I also ordered the Pork Dumplings (sweet vinegar dipping sauce):It was an evening of dumplings! The pork dumplings were fried. They were so good! The sweet vinegar dipping sauce was very tasty. I flipped that dried chili thing out right away and happily, it didn't seem to contribute much flavor/spice to the sauce.

For his birthday dessert, SP decided on Blood Orange Panna Cotta (candied kumquats. whipped coconut gelée, ginger-almond tuile):Isn't the candle cute?! Here's a closer view of the dessert:I tried a bite of the panna cotta with a bit of candied kumquat and it was very tasty. Smooth, cool, firm, lots of orange flavor. The tuile was tasty, too. I avoided the coconut and that azuki crud.

Surprise, surprise. I opted for the dessert of chocolate, coffee, and caramel flavors! Chocolate Vietnamese Coffee Torte (dulce de leche cream, chocolate sesame cookie, Vietnamese coffee sherbet):This was very good. I didn't even mind the sesame flavor! Sesame flavor is OK to me, but I was afraid it would ruin an otherwise good cookie. But the sesame taste wasn't as strong as I expect from sesame and in fact, much to my surprise, it really kind of complimented the cookie flavors!

I had dined at Soba before, but that was a very, very long time ago. Like 9+ years ago. I personally would have preferred Eleven or Casbah BUT that is only because of my personal flavor preferences. Asian, Asian fusion, it's not really my thing. SP, who does really like Asian flavors, really enjoyed his meal, and for a different atmosphere and change of pace from our usual, this was quite nice.

As expected and as has always been our experience at a Big Burrito restaurant, the service was very good. We didn't feel rushed. There were no long lapses in between plates of food. It was a really nice birthday dinner! After the birthday coupon, our bill (including tax & tip) was a tad over $100, so it's a special occasion place.

We also were pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a Soba parking lot next to Soba. It is to the left, and it is small, but it helped make parking a little easier since we were expecting to have to park along the street or in a public lot and then walk to the restaurant.

After dinner, we went to Te Cafe and relaxed with some tasty tea. I tried a new kind: pomegranate clementine. It was quite good. SP had a white tea. We also bought some more loose leaf tea since our supplies are dwindling.

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  1. Looks like a delicious meal was had by both of you, even if you did have to comb the menu for options. I love the idea of a red pepper dipping sauce. I'm going to have to try that next time I make dumplings.

  2. The first time we went to Soba it was still "Soba Lounge" and the next day it burned down. We've been back once or twice since and have always enjoyed it, though it's never our first choice when using our bB b-day coupons. Kaya is our favorite, but Mad Mex typically is our b-day destination for logistical reasons.

  3. That's a long list of "won't do's" for a food blogger...