Summer is an unforgiving time for people who love carbs, especially pasta. After all, cooking noodles means boiling water, which can quickly overheat your home. Even going out to a restaurant for noodles can overwhelm. You might not really enjoy a heavy, hot pasta dish when it’s already a warm day outside.
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for temperatures to drop to get your noodle on in San Diego. You can head over to any number of eateries that feature a popular Japanese dish known as cold soba noodles.
Japanese food remains quite trendy, so you can find everything from sushi bars to Japanese fusion tapas restaurants in San Diego. A number of these establishments will also serve up chilled soba noodles, often with a crisp, flavorful sauce.
Soba noodles, for those who have never tried them, are dense but soft. Made from buckwheat, they have an inviting brown color. They also have all eight amino acids, making them a great source of plant protein and an ideal complement to other grains, like white rice.
For centuries, people in Japan have enjoyed soba noodles that are cooked and then chilled. Later, people enjoy the cold noodles with a garnish of seaweed and a dipping sauce made from dashi (a fish stock that gives an umami flavor), sweet soy sauce and mirin, or rice wine.
Some places add vegetables, while others serve chilled soba noodles with tempura (battered and fried chicken, shrimp or vegetables). Whether you’re trying it for the first time or have an established taste for soba, we’ve hunted down four places to try these tasty, cold noodles.
Location: 5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite G (map)
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For those craving carbs in Clairemont, Okan Diner has several great options. The menu features a host of fun choices for noodles, from hot noodles and soups with udon or soba to chilled noodles and specialty rice dishes.
One of their more popular offerings, Seiro, is a chilled noodle dish served with hot dipping sauce, mushrooms, green onions and your choice of meat. You can also pick udon noodles, soba noodles or half and half.
If the seiro doesn’t appeal to you, there are other options. Their zaru cold noodles, available with soba or udon as the base, come chilled with a cold dipping sauce. You can add mixed tempura for another $5. If you prefer a full meal, try their Neba Neba Cold Noodles. This dish features grated yam, a poached egg, fermented soybeans called natto and mekabu seaweed.
For your less adventurous friends, there are more common staples on the menu, such as freshly made sushi rolls. They also have some creative and tempting appetizers, including salads, teriyaki chicken wings and even fried squid legs. They serve ramen bowls, too, with several different soup bases and add-ons available.
Wa Dining OKAN
Location: 3860 Convoy Street, Suite 110 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m., to 10:30 p.m., Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10:30 pm., Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
A popular option in Kearny Mesa, Wa Dining OKAN has an excellent, authentic menu sure to delight both Japanese-obsessed foodies and newbies alike.
The chilled soba options run from basic to fancy versions with tempura. You can order chilled udon or soba with a dipping sauce. They also serve their soba chilled with grated yam or tempura. If you prefer a warm noodle dish, they make stir-fried udon, soba soup with roasted duck, and udon noodle soups with duck, chicken or fried tofu.
Their menu features tempting appetizers, like a cold steamed egg custard, marinated tuna and avocado spring rolls, pan-fried pork dumplings (that they make fresh in house) and even deep-fried baby octopus. The salads include a chilled tomato salad, a standard leafy green salad, and a spinach and radish salad.
Don’t overlook the options from their grill, either. They serve everything from chicken thigh skewers to roasted duck and beef tongue steak on skewers. For vegetarians, consider the shitake mushroom skewers. Their menu also has a number of fun rice fishes in broths, steamed rice, rice balls and a tuna and avocado bowl. Keep an open mind and you’re sure to find something exciting and fresh that delights your taste buds.
Location: 4633 Convoy Street, Suite 101 (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Chopstix is a Kearny Mesa eatery that bills itself as one of the best Japanese noodle locations in the city. One visit here is likely to convince you to agree with that statement. The menu is also great for those who like culinary adventures that don’t break the bank.
They have four different chilled noodle dishes, each of which comes with your choice of soba, udon or egg noodles. Their Hiyashi noodles include seaweed, egg, cucumber, corn, imitation crab, chicken and bean sprouts with noodles in dressing made with vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Their Ten-Zaru noodles feature three pieces of fried shrimp tempura and a chilled dipping sauce.
The Zaru noodles have the same dipping sauce and a garnish of seaweed instead of fried shrimp. Finally, the Tororo Zaru noodles feature shredded yam (which they call Japanese mountain potato).
The menu also features more than dozen other kinds of broth-based noodle dishes, from freshwater eel and mushroom to a beef curry. They make a few kinds of sushi, and serve deep-fried and breaded pork, squid and chicken, too. They round out the menu with a host of rice dishes, all of which come with a miso soup and a salad.
Location: 928 Fort Stockton Drive (map)
Hours: Closed Monday, Tuesday – Sunday: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Looking for dinner or a late night noodle fix? Izakaya Masa has you covered. This place doesn’t open for lunch, and they serve food until after midnight, making it a great place to stop for a pick-me-up after an evening out with friends.
They offer two basic takes on the traditional cold soba noodle dish. You can enjoy cold soba or udon with a dipping sauce or with sauce and mixed tempura. While the options don’t overwhelm, they do a great job serving up this classic dish. It’s an ideal complement to a cold drink or a plate of mixed sushi.
You can enjoy your chilled noodles with plenty of other Japanese dishes, such as teriyaki meats served over rice, chicken or pork curry over rice, or even rice served in a variety of traditional broths, including ume plum and classic seaweed.
You can keep the party going here, as they serve beer, wine, sake and cocktails. You can order up interesting Japanese takes on cocktails based on the liquor Shochu, a Japanese vodka. They make sushi, too, including sashimi, rolls and specialty rolls. You can order a number of great appetizers to start things off, like tofu steak, eel teriyaki or even pan-fried pork dumplings.