Back to the good broth

Zaru-soba: “Buckwheat noodles served on a bamboo rack in a lacquered box, soy sauce base dip comes in a small cup on the side” ($5.95). Now, I love well-described menu entries, but give me something to work with here, OK?

I mean, what kind of cup houses the soy sauce base dip? Porcelain, ceramic, perhaps, or plastic? Is it decorated with blue fish, village scenery or cranes and bamboo trees? I want to know what I’m getting here, because if the food component of my meal consists only of noodles and soy sauce, then I want to make sure I’m at least getting a top-rung selection of furniture and accessories to go with it, you know?

Well, tempted as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to go for the zaru-soba because I was hyper-hungry at the time, and the hiyashi-chuka ($6.50) entry mentioned only edible items, so I figured it a safer bet. Although confined merely by one large bowl (white ceramic, though lacking decoration), the dish of cold ramen, cucumber, roasted pork, bean sprouts, shrimp, egg and fish cakes expertly reversed the argument of my growling stomach and sent me in search of the nearest empty couch when I’d finished. I don’t imagine there’s much else to add about the dish; if you just imagine mixing up a big mess of the above-mentioned ingredients and then drizzling some soy/rice vinegar concoction over it all and having your way with it, you pretty much get the whole picture. Which is supposed to mean it’s really good, OK?

But what’s weird is that I came to Edokko wondering about their noodle soups, then didn’t order one. If I can backtrack a bit here, I’d been remembering when Edokko was in that little shack on Broadway by the Hong Kong Café, and how I used to go there all the time and eat their great udon and/or ramen soups and how all of a sudden the soups started to suck and be flavorless, and then not long after, the place closed down and disappeared. So I was wondering if they had remembered how to season their broth, and had thus reopened, albeit in a different location.

I did come to my senses and went back to try Edokko’s noodle soups, because that’s really why you go there; the wide variety of noodle soups, about 29 of them, are what distinguish Edokko from the other Japanese restaurants in the area.

Well, I’m pleased to say that it seems the good broth is back. They have three basic soup stock flavors: shoyu, shio and miso, which translate respectively as soy sauce, salt and soy bean paste. After that, it’s up to you want kind of (food-based) accessories you want to add to the basic noodles and broth formula.

In the old days, I always used to go for the “challenge ramen” ($6.95), the spicy one with chicken and veggies. Interestingly, Edokko has five degrees of heat listed on the menu: medium hot, hot, very hot, super hot and crazy hot. I’ve always wondered if they really have set measurements for so many degrees of heat; can someone really differentiate between crazy hot and super hot? Well, I took the challenge again and asked the waitress how hot “very hot” was, to which she replied, “very hot is not very hot.” I actually didn’t want it very hot, so I said, “That sounds good, I’ll have it very hot.” And it really wasn’t very hot, but perhaps more importantly, the broth was well-seasoned, somehow both light and rich at the same time, and, really, if you’ve got a good broth, and the noodles aren’t overcooked, all you need are some chunks and morsels of various veggies and meats and you really can’t lose.

The only thing left to add, I think, is that the new Edokko has a larger menu than the old, including a full sushi menu and an extensive collection of classical Japanese standards, which I’ve no doubt are prepared, like their soups, with respect and precision.