12 November 2020
Freshly made shin-soba is soba made from newly harvested soba, or buckwheat, seeds.
“I was surprised the first time I ate soba. How can anything taste so good!?”
In the 10 years since then Takafumi Kumayama, chef and owner of Shimbashi Japanese Soba & Sake Bar has not stopped making soba.
This little shop is located in a laneway not far from Parliament Railway Station.
“Rather than being modern and trendy, I wanted to create a warm and homely atmosphere where the customer can relax and feel right at home’, Chef Takafumi explained. This is the kind of familiarity you would find in a little neighbourhood soba restaurant in Japan.
Although it has not even been four months since the doors opened, it has already attracted many regular customers.
Chef Takafumi originally specialised in Kaiseki ryori, a traditional multi-course Japanese meal when he was in Japan.
“Truthfully, at that time I had never tasted handmade soba. I didn’t place much importance to soba as a dish.”
It was a restaurant in Sydney by the same name Shimbashi, specialising in handmade soba, that opened his eyes.
Under the guidance of one of Japan’s leading soba masters Mr. Yoshinori Shibazaki, Chef Takafumi started down the path of soba making. That was almost ten years ago.
In 2003, Mr. Shibazaki opened a new Shimbashi in Singapore where Chef Takafumi worked as one of the opening staff. For seven years he was the restaurant manager and head chef, making soba and passing the skills to the local staff while also managing the eatery.
Following the huge success in Singapore, Chef Takafumi decided to return to Australia wanting to open his own restaurant. The words of encouragement from Mr. Shibazaki assuring him that ‘Melbourne is the place for the next Shimbashi’ brought Chef Takafumi to Melbourne.
“In Melbourne there is a common passion for food and people would go to great lengths to seek the perfect dish. I wanted to bring something that honours this culture and I hope that Shimbashi meets these expectations.”
Buckwheat or soba seeds used in Shimbashi are sourced from Tasmania from a field owned by a Japanese flour milling company and are grown without using any chemical fertilisers.
A stone mill is used in the restaurant to make it into flour to retain the natural flavours of the buckwheat and its subtle earthy aroma. The soba is kneaded and cooked until it has a firm, chewy texture. It is usually made twice a day at the restaurant, in the morning and afternoon.
“Even Australian customers are delighted that it is freshly made. It makes me happy that people who are not familiar with soba can come to understand what it is.”
Almost every morning Chef Taka goes to the Queen Victoria Market to handpick fish and vegetables that are fresh and in season. Right now is the best time for Tasmanian ocean trout, so you may see this on the menu when you visit.
“I’d like my customers to enjoy soba in the afternoon and a drink in the evening” said Chef Taka. Here we will introduce recommendations for two side dishes that go very well with Kirin’s Megumi and handmade soba.
Deep fried soba noodle
This sumptuous side dish of deep fried, fresh handmade soba, a big hit within a few days of it being added to the menu. Many Japanese diners start off with this dish and a beer.
Give it a sprinkle of salt while it is piping hot and start your evening with this and a bottle or two of Megumi while nibbling on this crispy noodle.
Grilled duck fillet with salt
Australian raised duck is lightly grilled without adding any seasoning. Sprinkle a touch of natural salt when you eat this and you can savor the distinct fatty flavour of the duck.
This is the perfect match when it comes to the refreshing taste of Megumi. For a twist, add a few drops of lemon.
Chilled noodle with assorted tempura
Try this freshly made, cooked then chilled soba or seiro, one of the best ways to appreciate handmade soba.
The tempura is a generous serving of prawn and in season vegetables, picked from the market on the same day and deep-fried lightly to lock in its natural flavours.
Then there is the stock, made using dried bonito shavings ordered from a specialty store in Tokyo ‘to give it the rich and full flavor’. Combine this with soy sauce and you cannot help but want to drink up the sobayu, the water that is used to boil the soba, down to the very last drop.
“Megumi is so light and refreshing that you just want to lap it up. I definitely recommend this to any beer-loving Aussie” says Chef Takafumi
This is what an artisan chef is sweating for, that shiny green bottle in his hands.
SHIMBASHI JAPANESE SOBA & SAKE BAR
17 Liverpool St Melbourne VIC 3000
TEL: 03 9654 6727
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 11.30am – 2:30pm, 6pm – 10pm, Sat – 6pm – 10pm、Sun – Closed
Translated by Sze Min Yee