If you go to the right off-the-beaten-path strip malls in Las Vegas you can find all manner of Japanese foods. Having enjoyed the soups at Monta Ramen, I decided to try a different type of Japanese noodle house.
Don’t be confused by the “Na Na” sign at 3210 South Decatur Boulevard Suite 104, Na Na Thai Kitchen has been replaced by I-Naba, a Japanese soba noodle house. I-Naba makes fresh traditional soba noodles using buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are the slender cousin of udon noodles – similar in size and somewhat heavier in texture to spaghetti. Soba noodles are served either hot in soup or cold with a dipping sauce (tsuyu). The latter (cold) is the preparation that I ordered.
I started off with what was described as a “House Made Yuzu Limeade” ($2.00), which was delicious and refreshing, but turned out to be a mild mistranslation. It’s actually a fresh made, sweet lemonade, with a little taste of fresh mint. It was decked out with a fresh wedge of lemon and I’m pretty sure no limes were harmed in its preparation. Still, a good start.
I-Naba just began serving Donburi (rice bowls), which come with a side salad and you can get a half order of soba or udon for just $4 extra. I went for the Zuke-Don ($11), which was a large bowl of sushi rice smothered in soy marinated tuna sashimi with daikon radish, carrot and ginger and more shreds of nori to the side. The rice was moist and sticky and the tuna tasted clean and fresh – if a bit salty from its soy bath. Overall it was a good, filling dish. The salad that came with it was a simple mixed green salad with a mildly spicy sesame soy dressing and a few slivers of carrot. Even though I was feeling pretty full after the salad and the donburi, I had to try the specialty of the house.
I went for a half order of “Zaru” ($4 with my donburi, full order is $8). The soba noodles were served cold on a bamboo mat with a few shards of ice underneath. There were a few shreds of nori (dried seaweed) on top, which added an earthy flavor. Served with the noodles was a cold, flavorful soy-based broth (tsuyu). Wasabi and scallion were provided on the side. I mixed in some wasabi and scallion to my broth and twirled the noodles in the broth before each bite. Since every bite of noodles had a different combination of broth, nori, wasabi and scallion, each bite had a slightly different mix of flavors. A fun and delicious adventure.
Once my noodles were gone, the friendly (and patient) waitress brought out a small pitcher with the water that my noodles had been cooked in. Sensing I was a novice, she explained that I could add the hot water to my cold broth and drink it. This made for a nice, warm “soup”, which turned out to be quite tasty. I cleared my palate with a couple last sips of my “Limeade” and a couple slices of ginger left over from my tuna bowl.
I-Naba serves up a great, filling meal, full of interesting flavors and textures for a very reasonable price.
- Go between 5:30 and 7pm and enjoy cold draft Asahi beer for just $2 a glass.
- Soba is a relatively healthy noodle, containing essential amino acids, B vitamins and antioxidants.
- I-Naba also has locations in California and Hawaii.
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