Vegetarian Friendly Factor –
Vegan Friendly Factor –
Family Friendly Factor –
As part of the journey of discovering vegetarian and vegan dining options in Singapore, this week EatRoamLive features the Japanese Restaurant Shimbashi Soba. Situated conveniently in the basement of Paragon, this restaurant has a special menu catering to vegetarians (and some vegans), that promises quite a treat. *Note: Please note that Shimbashi Soba classifies the menu as vegetarian and not vegan, since refined sugar and rice wine are used. However, the menu is devoid of eggs, dairy and meat and might be suitable for some vegans. For more details on menu ingredients, read on.
Japanese cuisine has evolved over centuries upholding traditions, and weathering social, economic and natural changes. Their staple food continues to be rice and miso soup with accompaniments – pickles or fish/vegetables cooked in broth. Traditionally and interestingly, the Japanese had shunned meat and stuck to a seafood diet for the longest time, till modernisation happened and meat based dishes were introduced and gained popularity.
In all this, where is the vegetarianism you may wonder? That is exactly what we went to discover at the Paragon Mall, on that rainy evening. The Operations Manager, Ms. Harumi Kawai welcomed us warmly, settled us down for the meal and made sure we were comfortable. On closer review, I realised this was the norm at the restaurant and the staff were extremely attentive and quick in making sure the guests were comfortable.
The Concept of Santate
Though rice is a staple food, Soba and Udon are two iconic noodle varieties that form a part of the Japanese meal during festivities and family gatherings. Of the two, Soba is the healthier and more versatile, as it is made out of buckwheat flour and can be eaten hot or cold.
Shimbashi Soba prides itself on being the only Japanese restaurant importing fresh buckwheat from Tasmania. They follow a 3 step process for the preparation of these noodles or Santate as it is called in Japanese:
- Freshly milled – Just the right amount is milled every day to ensure freshness, the fragrance and chewy texture.
- Freshly made – Kneading and slicing are important steps to make sure the freshly made soba has a crisp solid taste.
- Freshly cooked – The final process involves throwing the noodles in boiling water, taking them out when cooked and then dropping them in cold water.
Special Care for Vegetarian Fare
The kitchen is open, so you can look at the mill and the process being followed to make your tasty bowl of soba. Harumi San also highlighted the following points about the vegetarian menu, which make you realise that Shimbashi Soba is really serious about catering to the vegetarian customers.
- For vegetarian Soba, all soup stock is made from Konbu (kelp) seaweed and soy sauce instead of bonito and mackerel flakes.
- Vegetarian dishes calling for frying are deep-fried in a dedicated deep-fryer using oil suitable for vegetarians, and kept separately from non-vegetarian items.
- The vegetarian menu contains no meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products or honey.
- The vegetarian menu is also free from onions, garlic and spring onions.
- The vegetarian menu hence, might be suitable for some vegans and even Buddhist vegetarians.
- However, refined sugar and rice wine are used for cooking dishes in the vegetarian menu, so it might not be suitable for some vegans.
Tempura, Soba & More
We enjoyed a variety of dishes that evening. Here is a quick summary of what we tried and loved.
Yasai Tempura (S$11.80) was a treat to begin the meal with. Shimbashi Soba’s tempura is an assortment of fresh garden vegetables including the uncommon lotus root, dipped in thin batter and deep fried, served with soya sauce. The crunch of the vegetables, coupled with soya sauce was a great combination and ensured the plate was empty in no time. We had the Multigrain Rice to go with the Tempura. The Multigrain Rice (S$4.20) comes with a side of Japanese pickles.
If you are looking for healthier non-fried options, they also serve the Vegetarian Avocado Salad. Another appetiser on offer is the Vegetarian Agedashi Tofu (S$7.80).
We tried all the 3 Vegetarian Soba options they serve in main course and each of them was quite distinct, with unique flavours.
Vegetarian Chikara Soba (S$18.80) has hot soup noodles served with rice cakes, fried bean curd, mushroom and sea weed in a soy sauce based broth. I loved the chewy texture of rice cake and the noodles however the sea weed was a slight dampener personally as I don’t enjoy its strong flavour. You can ask for this to be omitted.
Vegetarian Tofu Yasai Soba (S$17.00) is again another hot soup based soba with tofu, mushroom and garden vegetables and definitely my favourite in the hot category. The crunchy vegetables coupled with the slurp of the noodles and the tang of soya broth was an excellent combination and I happily slurped my way to the end of the bowl.
Next came the Vegetarian Salad Soba (S$17.00), which was a fabulous surprise. Chilled soba served with an oil based sauce and topped with salad, it was a delightful treat. Just perfect for the hot evening, this soba combines the flavours of the vegetables in dressing complemented perfectly by the chillness of the soba – an absolute delight.
Moving on to Desserts, they’re very unique and innovative, yet traditional.
Matcha Mochi Kinako Sauce (S$4.80) is green tea flavoured jelly served with soya bean powder and doused in gula melaka syrup. A treat for green tea lovers, this cold jelly is smooth and light on the tummy.
The other dessert on offer is the Mizu Manju (S$5.80), which I enjoyed even more. It is a Japanese jelly formed with a thin layer of flour stuffed with the paste of the day. The filling for Mizu Manju varies daily using pastes such as red bean, sesame or black bean, to name a few. We had Mizu Manju stuffed with sesame paste. The dessert was an absolute delight and reminded me of a similar Indian delicacy called steamed modak.
Shombashi Soba serves a variety of drinks; alcoholic drinks include beer and sake and non-alcoholic ones include juices, ice tea and floats. We chose to try the Soba Cha which is roasted buckwheat tea filtered and strained (it is caffeine free). Its distinct flavour complemented the meal perfectly and ensured I reached out for more than one serving.
All in All, a Unique Experience
Let me mention again that it was heartwarming to see the efforts made by the management to encourage vegetarians and vegans to try out and enjoy Japanese cuisine, with substituted ingredients in their broths and dishes. They do follow a higher pricing – a meal for 2 would cost around $70-80 for drinks, starter, main course and dessert – I do however, feel that it is a reasonable price to pay for the fresh and healthy ingredients that they use for each meal.
Shimbashi Soba has two outlets – one at Paragon and one in Great World City and both are packed during weekday dinners and weekends. So, make sure you get there early to beat the rush – and be informed that they accept reservations only for weekday dinners.
On the whole, the Shimbashi Soba dining experience was a unique dining experience – an eye and taste bud opener to a cuisine that I had been wary about trying before (being a vegetarian). The flavours are unique, the meal is healthy and above all you are left with that perfect feeling of a happy tummy. Bon appetite or Douzo Meshiagare as they would say in Japanese!
Shimbashi Soba: 1 Kim Seng Promenade, #B1-01 Great World City, Singapore 237994. P: +65 6835 9052. Shimbashi Soba: #B1-41, Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238859. P: +65 6735 9882
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Preethi is currently juggling two hats – mastering the art of zen raising a resilient, naughty and adorable young adult (aka her 3-year-old daughter) and working as a HR Marketer for a leading Technology MNC. Foodie, music lover, ardent toastmaster, travel buff and a motor mouth by choice is how we describe Preethi Bashyam Sriganesh.