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Popular with fresh made Soba noodles

Popular with fresh made Soba... Popular with fresh made Soba... Popular with fresh made Soba... Popular with fresh made Soba... Popular with fresh made Soba...
By Keiko Fukuda

When a good Japanese restaurant opens, the news spreads very quickly in the Japanese community. A friend of mine who lives in Orange County told me, “A nice restaurant just opened. It is called Soba Izakaya Minami”. After that, I had a chance to have lunch with another friend who lives in Orange County, so I suggested the place. He said, “My wife said she has been there. She thought the food was good”. What a small world!

This place is located in the Laguna Hills Shopping Mall, about 45 minutes down south from where I live. Its interior provides a loft-like modern ambience, and does not look like a typical Izakaya. I visited toward the end of peak lunch hour; however, there were still several groups of customers enjoying meals. I ordered hot gobo tempura. To my surprise, the server told me that the price would be the same for any 100, 200, or 300g of soba. I thought 100g might not be enough, so I ordered 200g, which was just the right amount. If you really like to fill up, you should order 300g. This unique ordering system, and of course, the flavorful soba and crispy gobo tempura were also pretty impressive, and this place was added to my list of restaurants which I want to visit again.

On another day, I visited again to interview the owner, Ray Hattori. Mr. Hattori worked for Asahi Beer for a long time. He retired as the President of its American division. After that, he moved to Orange County, and started working as a restaurant business consultant. He explained to me that he thought he ought to have experience in running a restaurant himself, in order to call himself a consultant, and decided to launch this business by inviting in an enterprise which has been developing a large-scale restaurant chain in Japan as the partner. I asked him why a Soba restaurant, and he replied as follows:
“First of all, I wanted to have a restaurant of which Japanese people think “the taste is authentic”. Second of all, there are many various types of Japanese restaurants in Orange County, including a lot of ramen restaurants, but there are only a few soba restaurants.”

Before opening this soba restaurant, he worked as both a Lyft and Uber driver for the purpose of finding a good location, and market research. “I talked to the customers about where they were headed out to, and what they are looking for in a restaurant. By doing so, I was able to get some ideas,” said Mr. Hattori. In fact, people who use transportation services like Lyft to go to restaurants, often have drinking in mind.

Thus, Soba Izakaya Minami opened its doors in October of 2018. The reason for its open-feel, high-ceiling structure is that he wanted to give customers an image of a soba factory where freshly made soba is offered. In fact, they start the soba making machine after each order is placed. They really serve freshly made soba. They also serve udon dishes. You can take our udon, but not soba which is dine-in only. They are very particular about the freshness of soba, so you can only have soba in the restaurant.

When I made this report, it was about 6 months after the opening. Hattori-san then told me that he was already getting a good vibe. “I am so relieved to know that American customers don’t have much hesitation about soba, unlike what I had expected. Originally, I was aiming for the kind of taste that gives authenticity to Japanese, but as the result, half of our customers have become Americans. I am feeling unexpected happiness.”

Besides being a soba restaurant, they are also an izakaya at night. Because Mrs. Hattori is from Okinawa, they have a plan to gradually increase Okinawan cuisine in the menu. I am looking forward to that, too. Naturally, the beer brands they carry are Asahi, which Mr. Hattori worked for a long time, and Orion beer from Okinawa.



 その店は私が住むエリアから45 分ほど南下したラグナヒルズのショッピングモール内にあった。内装は蕎麦屋らしからぬロフト風のモダンな雰囲気。ランチのピークが終わった頃に入店したのだが、それでも数組の客が食事を楽しんでいた。私がオーダーしたのは温かいごぼう天蕎麦。驚いたのは、サーバーに「蕎麦は100g、200g、300g のどの量でも値段は一緒です」と教えられたこと。100g だとさすがに足りない気がして200 にしてみたが大正解だった。さらにお腹いっぱいになるまで蕎麦を味わいたいと思う人は300 にすれば良いだろう。このユニークなシステムと、そしてもちろん風味豊かな蕎麦とサクサクのごぼう天の印象は抜群で、「再び訪れたい店」の一つに加わった。



 こうして2018 年10 月に蕎麦居酒屋みなみを開店。天井が高い開放的な造りにしたのは、新鮮な蕎麦を提供している「蕎麦工場」のようなイメージを顧客に与えたかったからだそうだ。そして蕎麦は、オーダーが入ってから製麺機にかける、まさにフレッシュな打ち立てを出している。メニューにはうどんもある。ただし、テイクアウトはうどんも受け付けるが、新鮮さにこだわる蕎麦はダインイン限定にしている。



Soba Izakaya, Minami
24391 Avenida De La Carlota Suite A, Laguna Hills
(949) 215-5375

7 days open
#alljapannews #soba #izakaya #minami

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