Noodle Soups at Pestle Rock (Seattle, WA)


Guay tiow lao

Guay tiow lao

I’ve eaten at Pestle Rock twice before, having come away impressed both times. The occasion of having lunch with my daughter marked my third visit.

What caught my eye was a noodle soup dish called Guay Tiow Lao, which I presumed from its name was Laotian in style. How it’s Laotian in influence I have no idea, let alone if my assumption was correct in the first place. Regardless, the broth was extremely briny from shrimp paste, a stinky seasoning whose ammoniated odor can overpower a kitchen. The shrimpy flavor got tamer as I ate more. The soup contained thin rice noodles that were silky and had good texture, small slices of pork spareribs with tender meat that you have to free up between pieces of bone, tomatoes, and garnished with sliced mustard greens and fried shallots. Overall a good enough soup but one that I wasn’t overly fond of because of the shrimp paste’s strong flavor.

My daughter ordered the khao soi noodle soup that was as good as I remembered from a previous visit.

Khao soi noodle coup

Khao soi noodle soup

Pestle Rock
2305 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107
206.466.6671
 

The Bomb at Ton-Chan (San Gabriel, CA)—CLOSED


Before the crush of food preparation for osechi ryori, five of us headed over to Ton-Chan for lunch. A previous review of it is here. Instead of the usual Sapporo miso tonkotsu ramen that others ordered, I went for one appropriately called The Bomb, basically a miso tonkotsu ramen with spicy ground pork. As noted before, the addition of chile paste, optional with all three kinds of tonkotsu ramen (shio, shoyu and miso), is a modern introduction to appease the public’s growing appetite for spicy dishes. The Bomb is another departure, a synthesis of Japanese and Chinese styles. Even without adding the chiles, the ramen is lustily hot, though not anything approaching Ton-Chan‘s six-chile noodles. The same rich tonkotsu broth is here, along with slices of baby bok choy, slivered green onions and half of a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg (firm whites, runny yolks) that Ton-Chan does so well. In short, this is a tasty alternative to the standard soup noodles.

The Bomb

The Bomb

Ton-chan (**NOW CLOSED**)
821 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
626.282.3478

Lunch at U:Don (Seattle, WA)


Niku-udon-oroshi udon with a side of tempura shrimp

When foodies talk about Japanese soup noodles, they usually think of ramen, arguably the most popular kind found all over Japan. Not as well known outside Japan is a different type of soup noodle, also of Chinese origin, that is widely popular, called udon. The wheat noodle is thick-cut and the very best freshly-made versions have an unmistakably chewy texture that fans seek when judging the noodle’s quality. My wife and I were mightily impressed with the udon served by Jimbo in Honolulu, not only for its superior noodle but its rich, smoky broth of Hokkaido origin.

U:Don opened in the University District not too long ago, part of a trend toward make-your-own noodle soups that is making an appearance both in Japan and here. Its name is almost an ideograph since the colon and capitalized D are supposed to represent a happy face. For happy customers?
Continue reading

Jimbo (Honolulu, HI)


Honolulu has several excellent Japanese noodle shops. Ramen and saimin garner the lion’s share of devotion. But udon deserves as much attention, especially those served at Jimbo. Made in the Hokkaido style (according to the waiter), the broth is rich, luscious, slightly smoky from specially imported katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). We were told that one chef makes the broth and another, the udon; one in the evening, the other in the morning. The noodles have a soft, velvety exterior over a firmer, chewier middle. Though there are other Japanese entrées on the menu, the udon is likely the star of the restaurant.

The nabeyaki udon ($14.70), served in a traditional nabe, comes piping hot. I burnt the palate of my mouth. The tempura consisted of a single prawn and a Japanese eggplant, both wonderfully flavorful. The batters retain their crispiness unless you let them sit in the dashi too long. Thoughtfully, an empty bowl is provided if you decide to rescue the tempura. Rounding out the ingredients is a single piece of kamaboko, sliced baby bok choy and negi, snow peas, spinach, napa, dried shiitake, raw egg and fuki. As good as these additions are, you could argue that they almost take your attention away from noodles and broth.

Nabeyaki

Nabeyaki

The ume wakame udon ($11.40) is an impressive combination. The ume flesh, which the restaurant bothers to scrape from whole umeboshi and mince, lends an interesting tartness to the dashi and provides a nice contrast to the rich broth. A few slices of negi onion are sprinkled on top.

Ume wakame udon

Ume wakame udon

For an extra charge, you can order different sizes of udon, large or skinny. Also for extra, you can substitute soba. The skinny noodles in my wife’s order were very good, though they didn’t have quite the same texture as the regular. All these variations are handmade at the restaurant.  On hot summer days, you can also order many of the udon dishes cold.

A popular dish for slime fans is natto bukkake udon. It comes in a dark broth with the ultimate combination of natto, okra, daikon oroshi and nori. I’m surprised grated satoimo wasn’t included. The waiter said that the natto is particularly odoriferous, a big asset for natto lovers. Hmm, maybe on another visit.

Jimbo is another restaurant that is dedicated to offering an unparalleled experience by making everything from scratch and using the best ingredients. The waiter also indicated that most of the ingredients are flown in directly from Japan. The udon prices are definitely higher than you’d normally pay elsewhere, but with udon this good, you don’t really care.

Jimbo
1936 S King St # 103
Honolulu
808.947.2211