The $18 Salad at Soba Nippon

Here is a story.

Lisa, long ago, told me a tale of her mother and her going to lunch near her office. Her mother wanted to go somewhere with a waiter, so they stumbled into an Asian restaurant that served an $18 salad.

“An $18 salad!” declared Lisa. “That is outrageous!”

But her mother persisted. They both ordered one. Lisa was nervous.

Afterwards, Lisa contacted me and told me it was “the best salad ever.” Or something on that order. She loved that salad. She worshipped that salad. She spent nights quivering with sorrow and sadness that she’d never eat that salad again.

Ok, I’m exaggerating. But she did speak very highly of that salad. And yesterday, I decided to meet Lisa for lunch near her office.

“Well,” she said, “we can go to this sandwich place or go to this salad place. They’re not fancy but they’re warm and they have seating.”

I processed this information and responded thusly: “What about that salad place you went to with your mom?”

“ADAM!” screamed Lisa. “THOSE SALADS COST $18!!!”

There was a pause.

“Well, I know,” I said. “That is very expensive. But I run an internationally renowned food website called The Amateur Gourmet and I’m sure my readers would love to hear about this $18 salad. Plus, grandma gave me Hannukah money and I can treat.”

She processed this information.

“Well,” she said, but appeared nervous. What if I take him there and he doesn’t like the salad, her thoughts seemed to read.

But there we went. It was called Soba Nippon. Here’s a picture:

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In we went and got our menus. There, smack in the middle on the left side, was the $18 salad. There was $18 salad with tofu and $18 salad with chicken. Lisa ordered the former and I ordered the latter.

The waitress brought us “free” Miso soup. (Well, “free” except that the salad cost $18, so it evened out.)

Here is Lisa enjoying her soup:

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I enjoyed the soup too, it being -8000 degrees yesterday. And the bowl was deceptive—it looked like it held just a little soup, but there was lots and lots of soup in it.

“Save room for your $18 salad,” warned Lisa. (Ok, she didn’t really say that—but I’m building dramatic tension.)

Then a large cymbal crash and our bowls were taken away and a gong sounded and our $18 salads were placed down before us.

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Looks terrific, no? But worth $18?

I tasted. It was terrific. The dressing had a gingery mustardy kick. The balance of flavors was awesome: carrots, lettuce, chicken, some black dried substance and then beneath it all soba noodles. The soba noodles are made in-house and are what Soba Nippon is famous for.

“So? So?” begged Lisa.

“Well,” I said, “I am really enjoying this salad.”

I was really enjoying this salad.

I kept eating and eating as the time wiled away. So did she.

“You have to finish it,” she pushed. “It’s an $18 salad.”

So I kept eating untnil it was gone. Then the check came. Both salads cost–GASP!–$18.

“Lisa,” I said confidentially, “you and I are friends, right?”

“Yes,” she said nervously.

“So I can be honest with you?”

“Yes,” she said, thoughtfully. “Yes you can.”

“I really enjyoed that salad–” I started.

“But it’s not worth $18,” she finished.

“No, I don’t think it is.”

A pause for reflection.

“Are you sad you came here?” she sniffled.

“No, no!” I said, “I am really glad I came here! I mean I really enjoyed my salad and this whole experience. I’ll never forget it. I just don’t think I’ll come here again.”

Lisa nodded. “I agree, Adam,” she said. “No salad is worth $18.”

And that sentiment, my friends, concludes our narrative.

11 comments

  1. Aw! I thought it might have had lobster. Or even Shrimp. An $18 lobster salad would have been a bargin

  2. Hi, I am one of the loyal readers of your internationally renowned food website. I am curious about the $18 salad. Were other items equally outrageously priced? Why is the salad $18? It must be one of those once-in-a-lifetime salads.

  3. According to the listing on menupages (http://www.menupages.com/screenmenu.asp?restaurantId=3632&urlScreen=MW151.html), in theory he could have had the large $18 beef salad, but the tofu and chicken salads are $14 and $16, which is still expensive for a salad, but since they have small versions at reasonable prices, my guess is that the large $14-18 are “big salads” perhaps sharing portions?

    In any case, while the AG’s salad was probably not $18, it still is an interesting post.

  4. Hey – this is THE lisa. i was there. my tofu salad cost $17.80 and adam’s chicken salad cost $18.60 (or maybe $18.90. I’m not 100% on that, but i AM 100% sure that it was over $18). menupages is full of lies. and also, they were pretty big salads (only sharing portions if you added something else to your meal), but there were no listed options for smaller salads. we had NO CHOICE.

    in other news, there were several more reasonably priced dishes on the menu, though being a vegetarian, my options were fairly limited (hence the original $18 salad).

    i just thought i’d set the record straight. it was SERIOUSLY $18. no doubt about it.

  5. I ate a $1.75 loaf of chestnut bread from Chinatown for dinner. Mmm mm good [rubs belly], although less nutritious than dirt. But now I want to try the $18 salad even though that sounds ridiculous. Or walk out with $18 and buy many loaves of sweet sweet bread…

  6. I hope this doesn’t sound like it’s coming out of left field as I realize that tuna nicoise salads are typically pricier than most salads, but L’express in NYC makes what I have decided is the Best Tuna Nicoise in the entire world. So much the “Best,” in fact, that I am willing to pay the $18 for the salad. And I do come from the school that salads shouldn’t cost $18.

  7. I am a huge fan of the soba salad at Soba Nippon, and I would pay $25 for it. But I always get it with tofu, because I think chicken is gross. I would not pay fifty cents for the chicken soba salad.

    Anyway, at soba nippon you should go on a hot day and get the cold noodles, just the zaru soba, no stupid tempura or radish or – gag- chicken. You will eat it, and love it, and you will be disappointed if you ever order soba from anywhere else again. After Soba Nippon I ordered soba at En Japanese Brasserie and it was so gummy I should have sent it back.

  8. OK. I admit it. I’ve had the $18 salad several times (but that’s because I work across the street so I’m lucky enough to be able to have business meetings there so my company pays).

    I usually have the tofu because the chicken is cold and I don’t like cold chicken. I have to say it is HIGHLY addictive and I sometimes dream about it. If anyone has a power lunch in midtown I suggest the $18 salad. And BTW, there is sushi too. Although I’ve never had it, people seem to like it.

  9. $18 salads are nothing in midtown or times square area. At Lindy’s or similar times square area diners, $20+ sandwiches abound, and we’re just talking about regular ‘ol diner sandwiches, nothing fancy.

  10. It’s not even a “salad” really, but an entire meal. $18.00 isn’t that bad when you think of it as $18.00 for a lunch in a delicious restaurant in midtown, and for an expense-account-business lunch especially that’s on the low side.

    I had a 19.00 shrimp salad at PJ Clarkes the other day (I didn’t want a burger) and it didn’t even taste good. That’s an outrageous rip-off but the delicious homemade soba noodles with tofu (or chicken) vegetables and soup really isn’t.

  11. It’s not even a “salad” really, but an entire meal. $18.00 isn’t that bad when you think of it as $18.00 for a lunch in a delicious restaurant in midtown, and for an expense-account-business lunch especially that’s on the low side.

    I had a 19.00 shrimp salad at PJ Clarkes the other day (I didn’t want a burger) and it didn’t even taste good. That’s an outrageous rip-off but the delicious homemade soba noodles with tofu (or chicken) vegetables and soup really isn’t.

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