The Eat Sheet: Common Grains' Sonoko Sakai Takes THR's Taste Test

The former foreign film sales agent-turned-artisan soba maker talks dashi broth, sumo tangerines and where to get great sushi in Shibuya.

Sonoko Sakai has been a Japanese film agent and producer, as well as a buyer for three of the country's leading companies: Kadowaka, Gaga and Nippon Herald. Now she runs Common Grains, a culinary event series of panel discussions, milling demonstrations, movie screenings and rice and soba noodle workshops. The next soba workshop takes place on Sun., Mar. 11, at the Japanese American National Museum.


Current Fixation
"Being a soba maker, I am always interested in cooks and chefs that work with flour. Roxana Jullapat's buckwheat bread at Cooks County is delicious. She uses Anson Mills aromatic buckwheat flour. The crust is thick and crispy and the bread is chewy and aromatic. Roxana's desserts are to die for, too.  I love her oat date sticky pudding, satsuma tangerines and Okinawa brown sugar gelato. Last time I was at Cooks County, I ordered the entire dessert menu with my friends."

Known For Cooking
"I make soba noodles by hand. The ingredients are simple: just fresh stone-milled buckwheat flour and spring water. I recently bought a stone mill, so I am adding some hand-milled buckwheat to my soba. Milling is meditative. Kneading is therapeutic. Eating handmade soba is nourishing and satisfying. It’s like eating fresh fruit."

Destination Dinner
"When I’m back in Tokyo, I always go to Hosokawa in Ryogoku for artisanal soba and Beniike for sushi in Shibuya."

Go-To Take-Out
"Gjelina in Venice has excellent scones and open sandwiches to take out."

Adventurous Bite
"The pickled silk larvae I ate in Nagano, Japan, during the shooting of the film Silk."

Simply Won’t Eat
"Cup Noodles ramen."

Favorite Snack
"Sumo tangerines."

Dietary Regimen
"Miso soup and toast for breakfast. I make dashi broth from scratch and keep it handy. All I need to do in the morning is add the miso paste, chopped vegetables, tofu and seaweed to make the soup."

Pet Peeve
"Menus that are printed with small letters."

Big Wish
"A good bakery near my house in Highland Park."

Guilty Pleasure
"Toraya’s yokan (sweet bean cake) with green tea."

Last Meal
"Teuchi (hand cut) soba."