The press release in my box last week gave me pause—but not because of its subject.
“Boom to offer its famous bento box 7 days a week,” it announced. Boom? I thought. What’s Boom? I know Boom Noodle, the noodle shop-plus that for the last five years has brought “inconsistent, not always authentic, and tons of fun” ramens, sobas, udon bowls, and other Japanese casual food to Pike/Pine, U-Village, and Bellevue Square. (I quote myself, from the listing on Seattle Met’s website.) The place has always offered an irresistably Tokyo-youthful vibe, and the occasionally terrific noodle preparation.
But it couldn’t be that Boom, I figured. Why would a noodle house de-nood its name?
“We’re rebranding,” said Jeffrey Lunak, VP Culinary for Madison Holdings, the group that owns Boom Noodle and Blue-C Sushi. Those sister restaurants started up in the hands of three partners—two of whom left to open Elemental Wood-Fired Pizza, the third becoming Madison Holdings about a year and a half ago. “We’re in the process of experimenting.”
According to Lunak, whose last job was corporate chef for “Iron Chef” Morimoto, one of the Boom Noodles will likely become a “destination modern-day izakaya, with an approachable pricepoint and a fun, industrial environment—something we think is missing in the Seattle area currently.” Its name will change—to what, the company’s not ready to announce.
The other two locations—my money’s on the malls—will remain, now as Boom. The signs will change over the next few weeks. “I think change is good sometimes,” Lunak muses. “Boom Noodle has been successful, we’re just giving it a nip and a tuck. I wouldn’t say we’re downplaying the noodles, we’re just adding to the base. Exploring other culturally significant areas in Asia.” Selling, among other things, to-go bento boxes.
Indeed, since the ownership change, prices at Boom have gone up and the menu has gone generic, jumping all over Asia. What lies ahead? The story of Blue-C Sushi may provide a blueprint. Madison Holdings is currently cloning that restaurant, now in six locations across the Seattle area, across California and soon, the country. Since March they’ve broadened the menu from its former emphasis on kaiten (conveyor-belt) sushi to include a bigger selection of higher-end rolls and fish from “a higher echelon” of sushi chef. New uniforms and new music (“stuff you wouldn’t necessarily find on the radio,”) have been deployed to create a new identity.
And what exactly is that new identity? “All things to all people!” Lunak declares proudly.