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Food

Tokyo Soba, Tanjong Pagar: “A review I hesitated to write.”

Last Updated: December 22, 2020

Written by Felicia Koh

I’ve been a regular at Tokyo Soba since they relocated to Tanjong Pagar and it took me some time before I decided to pitch this particular place to my editor for a review. 

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I’m not trying to be selfish here; it’s just that Tokyo Soba has been my go-to restaurant for meals alone. A place where I often seek solace amidst a hectic workday and I’m afraid that a review might invite a snaking crowd to my disadvantage. 

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But with the whole COVID-19 pandemic and never-ending news of F&B establishments closing down, I fear for the fact that one fine day, eateries that I hold close to heart will vanish forever. To ensure their survival, I would do anything within my ability as a food writer to help them stay afloat. 

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An offshoot of Japan’s Yomoda Soba, Tokyo Soba sits as a hole-in-the-wall eatery with an intimate bar-like setting housing less than 20 diners along the side of Icon Village. With its limited seating, this is one of those places that will have you in and out the door in 15 minutes. Even if there’s a queue, it will probably last a few minutes tops. 

The motto: eat and be done. 

What I tried

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Placing your orders at Tokyo Soba is a simple task. Head to the order kiosk, pick the topping of your choice and choose between two noodles—soba or udon—prepared either in a cold or hot broth. 

Noodles here are not your average store-bought selections. Every strand of soba and udon are freshly prepared daily in a noodle room hidden within the unit. Made with special buckwheat flour imported from Japan, Tokyo Soba’s dishes often shines the limelight on their noodles, supplemented with both authentic and modernised toppings to complete the dish.

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Exuding intoxicating wafts of sweetness was the Beef Sukiyaki Hot Soba (S$16). Here, the broth comes in a lovely shade of rust filled with soba noodles laying bed to a generous portion of beef slices, a lawn of finely shredded spring onions and a handful of kelp. 

The buckwheat noodles made for hearty mouthfuls with a tinge of nuttiness that beautifully complements the intense, clear broth of dashi and soy. What stole the show for me were the thin slices of meat that were surprisingly tender and rich in its deep beefy flavour. 

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Just by looking at that golden ratio of fat-to-meat got me salivating once again and in this cold winter-like rainy weather, a bowl of hot soba spells perfection. 

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The Pork Cutlet Hot Udon (S$16) was a bowl that required my immediate attention the moment it was placed on the table. In between shots, I found myself clamouring to slurp on the noodles as the broth was drying up and my udon was expanding by the second. 

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Don’t expect your regular thick, chewy udon at Tokyo Soba. The uniqueness of their udon lies in the fact that they are thinner, resulting in noodles that are more delicate and softer in texture.

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Whilst the pork cutlet was a sizable piece of exquisite looking meat, it failed to impress as it was a tad bit too dry for my liking. There wasn’t that shattering crunch I expected which was a letdown considering how beautiful it looked. Well, we certainly can’t judge a book by its cover, can we?

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I countered my dissatisfaction with the Prawn Tempura Cold Soba (S$14), a dish I know will never disappoint as this has always been my pick whenever I visit Tokyo Soba. In the humid Singapore heat, the cold soba never fails to win my heart not only for its al dente texture but also its profound earthiness. 

Often, my only gripe is for the noodles to be colder—give me a brain-freeze, bring it on. I would kill for it anytime in 31°C weather. Then again, this is a small issue as I’ve been heading back year after year for that same order of cold soba noodles, nonetheless. 

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Frying impeccable tempura is an art, and Tokyo Soba managed to nail this artistry to near-perfection. The prawns were delicately crisp yet light and airy; almost to the point of disbelief without any greasy, unpleasant aftertaste.

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If you are looking for an appetiser to go with your noodles, I highly recommend the Kawa Ebi Karage (S$6.50). It is a large platter of sakura shrimps that have been deep-fried in their lightly salted shells. Pair them with a mug of ice-cold beer for a magical combination you will surely not want to miss.

Final thoughts

The lack of space and the rapid canteen-style service means that Tokyo Soba is not a place to linger. But at this price point, there’s no need for a leisure sit-down experience. This is one of those rare reviews I’ve hesitated to write, but in some way or another, I hope I have done my favourite soba place some justice with my words. 

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I agree that not all their dishes are perfect. But to me, Tokyo Soba just needs one sincere dish to keep me coming back. I’ve certainly found mine and now, it’s your turn to explore their menu. Hopefully, you will find a dish that will open your eyes (and stomach) to the beauty of this humble place. 

Expected Damage: S$10 – S$16 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Tokyo Soba

12 Gopeng Street, Icon Village, #01-16, Singapore 078877

Price
Our Rating 4/5

Tokyo Soba

12 Gopeng Street, Icon Village, #01-16, Singapore 078877

Telephone: +65 6410 9353
Operating Hours: 11.30am - 2.30pm & 5pm - 10.30pm (Mon to Fri), 11.30am - 10.30pm (Sat & Sun)
Telephone: +65 6410 9353

Operating Hours: 11.30am - 2.30pm & 5pm - 10.30pm (Mon to Fri), 11.30am - 10.30pm (Sat & Sun)
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