"When I go back to Japan, some people assume that I head straight for sushi bars," Sonoko Sakai once wrote in the L.A. Times. "But my favorite pastime is making pilgrimages to artisanal soba shops." Soba, which Sakai describes as "thin, earthy-looking buckwheat noodles," has long captured the writer-filmmaker's interest. A couple of years ago she traveled to Japan, where she grew up, to learn to make this traditional dish by hand.
Wednesday evening, Sakai will share her craft at Cooks County for a meal called "East Meets West." The dinner is part of Common Grains, an event series that highlights Japanese culture and grain-based foods, such as soba. Sakai will collaborate with soba maker Mutsuko Soma as well as Cooks County chefs Daniel Mattern and Roxana Jullapat to create the three courses.
First is tamago dofu -- steamed custard with uni and sprouts. Next, batter-fried monkfish (karaage) with shishito peppers. For the finale, soba: noodles made by hand with Mankan and Kitawase buckwheat, garnished with soy-bonito. Ground walnut dipping sauces will serve as accompaniment.
Diners can supplement the prix-fixe with an extra soba order, nimame (tanba black beans and sanbonto sugar), kinpira (burdock, carrots and rutabaga), or goma-ae (broccolini, baby carrots and ground sesame seeds).
Guests will pay $32 per person for three courses, or $45 to add sake pairings. A la carte items will be available too ($4-$16 each). To make a reservation, call Cooks County at (323) 653-8009.