Is It Any Good?

Looking for a place that only does Soba Noodles? Willing to go Downtown to get ‘em?

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It was while I was pounding away at a couple of reviews last night. I was at my laptop. I was showing myself clips of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, like I always do. I’m watching the Tokyo Episode from August 2008. And there before my eyes is Masaharu Morimoto, famous for Iron Chef and Iron Chef America, waxing poetically about the virtues of Soba Noodles.

And suddenly, you know what? I want some Soba Noodles.

But there’s the thing. Getting Soba Noodles in Los Angeles isn’t exactly hard. Most of the general purpose Japanese places in town serves them. Heck even a few Korean places I know serve them. In fact, the very first place I had Soba noodles (oh what a neophyte I was) was at my local Korean place.

Is there a place that specializes in Soba Noodles?

Well, yes there is…but it’s all the way the hell in Downtown (that nest of vipers and thieves).

Yes, I’m still bitter about the 300% Parking rate hike from one night to the next AT THE SAME PARKING LOT.

Gentaro Soba seems to be just what I’m looking for. A place that specializes in Soba Noodles. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I was going to have to drive to FigAt7th (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) to get at them.

Now, this should come as no great shock to you, but FigAt7th can get a wee bit crowded at Lunchtime, as virtually every Angeleno comes down from those incredibly tall Office buildings to get themselves some lunch. I’m getting 99.9999% of them came to FigAt7th the day I chose to be there.

Lucky Me.

The first trick was the navigate the Parking Structure. No great shakes there, then find the place…and by “Find the place” I mean find FigAt7th. I’d worry about Gentaro Soba in a minute.

But like all first time adventures, I finally found my way there.

Gentaro Soba is, of course, in the FigAt7th Food Court, aka the “Taste Hall”.

The Taste Food Hall where Gentaro (and Flying Pig) are.

Now, I know Food Courts are the banes of most people’s foodie existences. Hell, Tony himself has made quite a lot of hay ripping American Food Courts to shame in favor of their more enlightened, more egalitarian Asian cousins, the Hawker centers. I will say that Food Courts in more upscale neighborhoods are improving quite a bit. They’re still not quite at Hawker Center levels, but they’re getting there. The fact that places like Gentaro Soba are there, and not say…a McDonald’s or a Subway I take to be a good sign.

That’s not to say Gentaro Soba is perfect. It was a nice meal. It was tasty, and things tasted generally right.

But you’re going to have to navigate this mall (which is chaotic). To get to the mall, you’re going to have to navigate this city (which is also chaotic, and under construction). It takes a lot of energy to get here. Let me tell you about the meal, and you can decide if it’s worth all that energy to get here.

 

WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Okay, I wanted Soba, I aimed for Soba, I got Soba.

In this case, I got the Zaru Soba, which is a basic bowl of Cold Soba, with green onions, sesame seeds, seaweed with a side of spicy dipping sauce. The Soba was of a lighter variety (The restaurant says Soba comes in Light and Dark varieties), who knew? The noodles felt right, but didn’t carry the same nutty flavor I’m used to from Soba (that I tasted at Ebisu).

The Zaru Soba at Gentaro Soba, Downtown.

The Noodle Base Gentaro Soba serves with their noodles is pretty good. It’ll quickly get inundated with the sesame seeds they sprinkled on the Soba, even some of the dried seaweed. It’s spicy, and has a nice, slow burn to it. Very tasty. You know what to do, get a bunch of noodles in your chopsticks. Dip in the sauce. Slurp. Enjoy. Repeat.

But I also saw the Karaage Fried Chicken on the menu, so I grabbed it as well. The Chicken itself is straight ahead, what you’re used to seeing about of Karaage Chicken. It’s also pretty damn good. Not the best ever, but…not that far off.

The Karaage Fried Chicken at Gentaro Soba, Downtown.

The only thing that was a bit…different, and to be honest, a bit Americanized, is that the served the Chicken with a spicy dipping sauce of its own. Made the whole thing feel like I’m eating Japanese Chicken Nuggets, but with the dipping sauce or without…I was happy. Really @#$%ing happy.

I also partook of a Iced Green Tea. Now, he’s a major letdown for eating at a Food Court. You get what’s basically a medium sized drink. If you want refills, I’m…not…sure what you do. Most Ramen places I got to are only too happy to refill your Iced Green Tea. I’m not saying Gentaro Soba won’t do it either, but you might have to get back in what’s a pretty long line to do so. Not fun.

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Okay, navigating FigAt7th is like navigating an upside down cake. Everything seems reverse. Food Court is on the lowest level. Parking’s upside down (we’ll get to that in a second). And it’s crowded and busy as all get out. Good luck finding a table.

 

PARKING: Okay, FigAt7th has a…unique parking situation. It shares it’s structure with a number of other Office complexes around it. You can park for the facility at Levels P1, P2 or P3. You’ll enter at Level P7, and the have to spiral downward to P6, P5, P4, etc.

Got it? You enter in at the top and work your way to the bottom, where you can park.

Once you do park, you really have to walk up the hill to the elevators.

For example, I parked on P3, and had to walk up to P4 to hit the elevators that would take me down to P1…where the entrance of the mall is.

There’s a visual guide on the wall that will explain all this, but despite all this, despite how unusual the structure is, and how odd it is to get to where you’re going…Parking with validation is ridiculously cheap. I bopped in and out for lunch, paid a buck.

That’s right: one dollar.

Outstanding.

Pay the machines by the mall entrance. Hit your car. Slide the card in, and right there…you’re at the mouth of the 110 Freeway. Hang a right and you’re on your way home.

That part was awesome.

 

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Gentaro Soba
735 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Tel: (213) 622-0020

Hours:
Monday-Friday: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday-Sunday: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

The Zaru Soba and Karaage Fried Chicken at Gentaro Soba, Downtown.