Ramen Bushi-Do: Noodle Making at Its Best

I think it’s fair to say that the ramen craze in the Seattle area started not in Seattle, but on the Eastside, on the other side of Lake Washington. Sure, there were several restaurants that served ramen before Kukai (now Kizuki) opened its doors in Bellevue, preceding the arrival of Jinya and Santouka within months of each other, also in Bellevue. But, 2013 was the watershed year when ramen became hot locally and generated enough traction to spawn ramen shops throughout the region.

Hot on the heels of the expansion comes the first ramenya in Issaquah, Bellevue’s neighbor to the east. Ramen Bushi-Do has been quietly doing business as a soft opening, serving only 20 customers per day to iron out kinks and get honest customer feedback, until it officially opens for business on July 1. The operation is run by the folks who own Dough Zone, also of Bellevue (and now, Redmond), that rivals Din Tai Fung for its outstanding dumplings, including superlative xiao long bao. To get things on the right footing, several chefs went to Japan to get instruction from a ramen master, who was also retained to guide Bushi-Do’s development. Furthermore, a noodle-making machine was brought back from Japan and installed in back of the restaurant where fresh noodles are made daily in the morning. This is a rare practice because most ramenya, including highly praised ones in the U.S., more than likely get their noodles custom-made by Sun Noodle (Honolulu, L.A., NYC). For this, Bushi-Do deserves a pat on the back.

Noodle-making machine

Noodle-making machine

To improve texture, one of the master’s recommendations was to use soft (purified) water in the noodle-making process, which the restaurant does. Our party of four, even though we each ordered different ramen using different sizes of noodles, was enthusiastic, the noodles having a springy and firm texture that we all thought was outstanding.

The wait staff was plentiful and enthusiastic, if not particularly knowledgeable in our case. Additional training is clearly needed. There was also a flub in my order.

Our very good appetizer of steamed spinach (horenso no miso ae) was different from most presentations, little mounds of spinach mixed with toasted sesame seeds, dressed with miso sauce and surprisingly topped with a slice of tomato (heirloom tomatoes on the menu).


Spinach appetizer

This was the first indication that the kitchen wasn’t going to just follow convention. Case in point, one of the cold ramen is topped only with fresh seasonal fruit, the first I’ve ever seen prepared in this manner, though the concept doesn’t personally appeal to me. Another is Curry Tsukemen, which one of our party ordered and really enjoyed. Thick-cut whole-wheat noodles are dipped in a tasty curry broth, a non-traditional pairing, kept bubbling over a Sterno burner. Accompaniments included pieces of pan-fried salmon, chicken and pork, one shrimp battered and fried, seasoned egg (ajitsuke tamago), grape tomatoes and broccolini. To me, the proteins didn’t seem to have been prepared with the same care as the noodles and broth.

Curry tsukemen

Curry tsukemen

Curry dipping broth

Curry dipping broth

Another of our party chose Shio Ramen. This preparation was the weakest of the four we ordered. Despite the great noodles, the broth was thin and the toppings were not to her liking, wedges of tomato and orange, when she would have much preferred savory ones, like a square of nori and menma. In addition, the chicken pieces were dry and chewy.

Shio ramen

Shio ramen

My wife’s Tonkotsu Miso Ramen had the thickest broth among all our ramen, a combination of tonkotsu broth and white miso, the latter lending the bowl a slight sweetness and fermented flavor. Medium-cut noodles were topped with very finely sliced green onions, soft-boiled egg, corn and broccolini. The pork sample she gave me had an off-taste but the others were fine.

Tonkotsu miso ramen

Tonkotsu miso ramen

My tonkotsu broth was quite milky, the result of long simmering, but pork flavor was milder than I like, still a good ramen accompaniment. My noodles were thin-cut and, like everyone else’s, excellent. Mine was the only bowl to have menma, which is house-made and tasty, a shame that it wasn’t standard with other ramen. Other toppings included wood ear fungus, egg, green onions and finely shredded daikon. The egg in all our cases was nearly properly cooked with a semi-congealed yolk but the complex marinade flavors of soy sauce, sake and mirin was barely noticeable. Kizuki makes the exemplary egg locally.

Tonkotsu ramen

Tonkotsu ramen

Ramen Bushi-Do obviously wants to make its mark first and foremost with its great noodles. It also is serious about broths. The kitchen’s experimentation with unusual toppings may not agree with traditionalists’ palates but I imagine many customers will find them likable. The head chef is bold, I’ll give him that. The test menu did not give diners any choices for adding or substituting condiments. And I found the prices to be on the high side for ramen, topping out at $12.50 for both tonkotsu and miso broths, exceeded only by Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. If there’s any area that the restaurant needs improvement, it’s the meat/seafood proteins that accompany the noodle bowls. We’ll give them a little time to work out some of their service issues and to settle on a menu before passing final judgment.

Ramen Bushi-Do
5625 221st Pl SE, Ste 120
Issaquah, WA 98027

Tiger Swallowtail

There seem to be more butterflies this year, a result of our mild winter and warm spring perhaps. I was recently taking a photograph of a common foxglove plant (Digitalis purpurea) in the Cougar Mountain Regional Park when a tiger swallowtail suddenly appeared.

Steamed Miso-Ume Chicken

My mother used to make this dish using only chicken. The sauce is an intriguing combination of miso and umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum). Because it’s a steamed dish, it uses no vegetable oil for cooking, only a splash of toasted sesame oil at the end. I’ve changed the recipe years ago to include tofu and vegetables. The main character of the dish remains unchanged, a complex savoriness with a touch of tartness that goes great with steamed white rice.

misoumechicken - 1

Uncooked miso-ume chicken in bamboo steamer

Steamed Miso-Ume Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

I use two bamboo steamers, each about 10″ in diameter, that can be stacked one on top of the other. The mixture fills two large shallow bowls, which must fit inside each steamer basket with at least ½” clearance all the way around. If you can’t find whole umeboshi, use umeboshi paste instead (such as the Eden brand), about 2 teaspoons. The paste will be thick but dilutes after steaming.

3 tbsp. red miso
4 seeded umeboshi, mashed into a paste, or 2 tsp. prepared umeboshi paste
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1 carton firm tofu, cut into 1″ x 1″ x ¼” pieces
2 carrots, peeled, trimmed, sliced into ¼” x ¼” x 2″ pieces
1 c. green beans, sliced into 2″ pieces
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
¼ cup each of sliced green onions and chopped cilantro

1. Stir miso, umeboshi, sugar, soy sauce and garlic in a large mixing bowl until well combined.

2. Add chicken, tofu and vegetables to bowl and toss gently with spatula.

3. Divide mixture between two large shallow bowls and set each into a bamboo steamer basket.

4. Bring 1″ of water in a 12″ skillet to a boil, reduce heat to medium, set steamer with lid on top and steam for 15 minutes.

5. Remove baskets from skillet. Gently stir contents of each bowl, reverse their positions in the stack, and set steamer on top of skillet for an additional 10 minutes.

6. Remove baskets from skillet. Remove bowls from steamer baskets. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of sesame oil between the two bowls. Sprinkle with scallions and cilantro and serve with hot steamed white Japanese rice.

Nosh: Seattle’s Best Fish & Chips, Bar None

It was a year ago almost to the day that my wife declared the fish and chips served by Nosh as the best ever she’s had in the States. When I sampled the fish, I couldn’t have agreed more. The thing is, Nosh is a food truck and the venue was the Crossroads Food Truck Snackdown. Since then, accolades have been piling up for Nosh, including an endorsement by the Seattle Times as the best chippy in town. Similar praise came from other publications.

Today, we happened to be in the Westlake Center area in downtown Seattle when we saw Nosh among a few other trucks in the plaza outside.

nosh - 1

The fish and chips is made in the British-style, which as far as I can gather means mild white fish coated in a light, thin batter made from flour, beer, water and seasonings and served in a newspaper cone over thick-cut fries.

Nosh’s batter, made with a local microbrew’s pilsner, is very thin and crispy, sprinkled lightly with sea salt, a far cry from the thick and oily batters that are more common these days. The star though is the almost foot-long Pacific cod that flakes apart so easily and is so moist that it seems caught only hours before. Couple the fish with an excellent tartar sauce and perfectly cooked, thick-cut fries that likely have been double-fried. A side of very good minted peas is also included. The fish and chips (☆☆☆☆) are decidedly superior to what I’ve had at any other restaurant, stand or truck, including Ivar’s, Spuds, Wally’s and Nordstrom Cafe. The only thing faux about the entrée is the ‘newspaper’ in which it’s served, a clever reproduction on parchment paper.

Nosh has Seattle’s best fish and chips—bar none.

(Update: 6-13-16) With fish and chips so good, it would be easy not to order anything else. Nosh shows up in Bellevue every Monday at the downtown Barnes & Noble parking lot. (Validated parking for 1 hour.) At the noon hour, every truck in the pod was busy with customers, some who drove here, most who walked over from their nearby workplace. Even when Nosh’s line is ten deep, it doesn’t take long to get your food. Obviously, the two-person crew inside has the process down pretty well. Today, I decided to give another entrée a try—meatloaf sandwich. I’ll say this, if it weren’t for the fish, this sandwich could easily bring Nosh accolades on its own. I have yet to try Seattle fried rabbit and roasted bone marrow, Nosh’s other unusual menu items.

The meatloaf is a tasty combination of pork and beef. The patty is somewhat soft, which I would have preferred to have a little more toothy substance. But it’s paired with sweet roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, arugula, dressed with aioli and served on a toasted potato roll. What great flavors! The side of braised red cabbage is quite good, too. This is an a very good sandwich (☆☆☆½).

Nosh's meatloaf sandwich

Nosh’s meatloaf sandwich