On my way to Carnegie Hall last wee I stopped in for dinner at SOBA NIPPON at 19 West 52nd St. (www.sobanippon.com) (they also have a Japanese restaurant at 155 E 52nd called NIPPON) where I was totally taken by the simplicity and great food. The décor is indeed basic with a "bamboo" wall of poles which curves over part of the room to create a canopy with twinkling lights. Screens separate the booths for privacy and one wall has a giant photo of the buckwheat in bloom at the farm in Quebec where the wonderful grain is grown and then made into noodles solely for these restaurants!
I started with a SEAWEED SALAD which while priced at $10.00 was a bit small yet the best I have ever had. There were four different kinds of seaweed in green, black and red(!!) with miso dressing in an Asian style with mustard in it for sure. Sesame seeds dotted the top and a cherry tomato was halved. I just wish it was bigger as it was SO good. I ordered a glass of Junmai Saki "OYAMA" from Yunagata that's was dry with a spicy finish in the mouth. This was nice with the seaweed and ideal with my main course of, of course, SOBA! I chose the TAN TAN TSUKEMEN which are the housemade buckwheat soba noodles from outside Montreal on a spicy thick pepper-laced broth with minced beef, mushrooms and scallions. It was what I would call gutsy and curry-like. Bamboo shoots and greens abounded and the entire huge bowl with the seaweed, two glasses of sake and dessert came to $58 without tip!!
I loved these noodles so much I decided to try the SOBAGAKI DANGO for dessert which is a soba cake filled with sweet red beans. The cake was doughy and soft like a dumpling and the filling was like jam with red bean powder on top of the whole thing. It was novel and okay, but very heavy. Green tea arrived complimentary and I even got a refill! The service was good and the owner came over several times with many thanks for me as well. I was impressed and will head back again!