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A Japanese Soba Specialist Is Shaking Up the Westside Noodle Scene

Plus, freebies at Fonuts, a taste of Tuscany Downtown, and more

A bamboo tray with buckwheat noodles and accoutrements at Sobar in Culver City.
Ju-wari soba at Sobar in Culver City.
Cathy Chaplin is a senior editor at Eater LA, a James Beard Award–nominated journalist, and the author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Los Angeles.

Sobar, a new Japanese soba specialist, just opened in Culver City near the intersection of S. Centinela Avenue and Washington Boulevard. The restaurant makes its signature noodles ju-wari-style using 100 percent organic buckwheat flour from Maine. “We have high chairs, high counters. People can stop by and drink some sake and then have some Japanese-style appetizers and then eat soba at the end — that’s how we eat soba in Japan,” says owner Masato Midorikawa, who trained under sushi master Shunji Nakao in the mid-aughts and currently works in advertising. General manager Steve Chang, previously of Katsuya Group, oversees Sobar’s day-to-day operations.

While the menu highlights traditional soba-making techniques, the array of dipping sauces served with cold noodles is unique to Sobar. The “soy tan tan” features soy milk, miso, and garlic, while the “tomato chile” includes heirloom tomatoes and Thai bird chiles. Also on the menu are a dozen hot soba preparations, sashimi, and various appetizers like tempura and chicken karaage.

Sobar is operating with minimal hours and staffing to start (Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.) but plans to expand opening hours and days, along with food, sake, and shochu selections, after September 7. If Sobar proves to be a success, Midorikawa plans to expand the restaurant with additional locations in Los Angeles and beyond.

Work/life balance at Ruby Fruit

Journalist Regan Stephens takes a national look at restaurants “paring back their hours to create a more sustainable schedule for their employees and draw wary veteran workers back to the business” in a recent report in the New York Times. The lesbian bar Ruby Fruit in Silver Lake is quoted in the piece and encourages staff to work only four days each week.

Freebies at Fonuts

In celebration of Fonuts’ 13th birthday, the pioneering plant-based and gluten-free doughnut purveyor is offering free Fonuts and samples of a new line of gluten-free bread at its West Hollywood and Studio City stores from Tuesday, August 22 through Sunday, August 27. The new line of bread includes a sourdough rustic loaf and a cinnamon raisin pan loaf.

Praise for Villa’s Tacos

Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Bill Addison likes what he tastes at Highland Park’s Villa’s Tacos. Addison finds the restaurant “singular and special” and recommends the queso taco with dark meat, the mulita with chorizo, the jiquilpan salsa, and more.

A slice of Tuscany in Downtown

Italian restaurant Rossoblu is serving a Tuscany-themed prix fixe menu on August 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lambrusco garden for $95 per person. The four-course, wine-paired menu includes antipasti (housemade finocchiona salame, Chianti “tuna, black crostini, scarpaccia frittata), primi (ribollita soup, pici with wild boar ragu), secondi (grilled Fiorentina porterhouse), contorni (heirloom beans, insalata mista, tallow-roasted potatoes), and dolci (biscotti with vin santo, chocolate and olive oil cake). Reservations are available on OpenTable.