There are certain times in life when it just pays to pay more - buying a mattress, upgrading an international flight, springing for ultra-plush toilet paper, etc. You’ll obviously have to dig a little deeper into your pockets, but ultimately, you’ll get what you paid for. A bowl of soba noodles isn’t an obvious inclusion in that category. Kazan in Beverly Hills, however, has something to say about that.
The upscale soba shop on La Cienega is expensive - a single bowl of noodles starts at $25 - but no matter how blood-curdling that number might be, the experience largely backs up the high price point. And that’s a testament to just how tremendous the food actually tastes.
La Cienega’s “Restaurant Row” is a strange place, dominated largely by high-end national chains, iconic LA staples, and a bunch of filler restaurants you never need to go to. Kazan is completely different from all of that. The small, modest space feels like a true neighborhood noodle bar, and sits in sharp contrast to the block-sized destination restaurants that surround it. While most of Kazan’s neighbors advertise themselves with extensive valet lines and awkward step-and-repeats, the only thing you’ll notice outside the tiny brick storefront is a glowing “Pinnacle of Noodle” sign hanging in the window. We’re not going to lie - that sign, in all its cheeky glory, is the reason we decided to try Kazan in the first place. And we’re glad we did, because our proceeding meals proved there’s something really special happening here.
Is Kazan the true pinnacle of noodle? Probably not, but it does get a lot closer than you’d think. Of the eight bowls currently on the menu, the #1 is easily our favorite, and frankly, one of the best bowls of soba we’ve ever eaten in LA. Thin, house-cut noodles in a truffle-and-soy-based broth loaded with chashu pork and pork-filled wontons - there’s a lot of elements in play here, but it works, because each ingredient holds its own. The light, chewy noodles are the stars of the show, but if the pork chashu or wontons were offered as their own dishes, we’d order them every time. The broth, deeply rich and fragrant from the soy and truffle, is the kind of thing that’ll jolt your entire body into an existential state of happiness after a single slurp. And we’ve spent a lot more than $25 trying to find that.
As far as the other bowls at Kazan go, nothing quite reaches the stratospheric levels as the #1, but there are still plenty of excellent things to order. We love the #3 bowl - with its buttery, cream-based broth and thick, chewy hirauchi noodles, it reminds us of the kind of soup we ate as kids on sick days. The intensely spicy #7, a.k.a. the “Lamb in Lava” bowl, comes with perfectly cooked lamb chops and provides an ideal break from the umami-laden richness elsewhere on the table. If you’re vegan (or feel like being one for the day), the kelp-and-mushroom-based #8 is definitely the lightest bowl on the menu, but still gives you that rainy-day savoriness you no doubt came looking for.
There will inevitably be some mumbling and grumbling at your table when the check arrives, but the fact is, high price points are nothing new in Beverly Hills. However, excellent, accessible lunch spots with dishes you can’t find anywhere in the neighborhood are. And that’s worth the price of admission alone.
If we were reviewing Kazan solely on this bowl of soba, we’d give it a 9.0. With chewy, house-made noodles, chashu pork and wontons that deserve to be their own entrees, and a truffle-and-soy-based broth we’d drink out of a pint glass, it’s one of the most unique and memorable bowls of soba we’ve ever eaten. This needs to be considered one of the most essential dishes in Beverly Hills.
When we’re sick - or simply sick of life - you will find us eating this cream-based bowl of soba. It’s filled with the exact same chashu pork and wontons as the #1, but with a buttery broth that will quickly inform your soul that everything is, in fact, going to be OK.
We love this bowl simply because of how wildly different it is from everything else here. Nicknamed the “Lamb in Lava,” its dense broth is spicy, fragrant, and easily the most intensely flavored on the menu. Throw in the three perfectly cooked lamb chops simmering in the middle, and you’ve got another drive-worthy bowl of soba on your hands.
Soba is the clear star of the show at Kazan, but if you feel like throwing in one of their starters, go for the shrimp tempura. Yes, $15 is a lot for a plate of fried shrimp, but at least they’re large, and more importantly, delicious.
If you’re vegan, you’re going to absolutely love this kelp-and-mushroom-based soba. If you’re not vegan, but just want to be a little healthier today, you’re also going to like it.
This one is similar to the #1, but with a full chicken leg instead of pork. And by similar, we mean equally delicious.