UPDATE: I was just informed that the trio of adorable ladies mentioned below was none other than Jean Nakayama, matriarch of Maneki, and family. I am both embarrassed I didn't recognize her, and giddy that the matriarch of Maneki schooled me on slurping.
Mutsuko Soma used to prepare French-inspired food as the chef at Chez Shea, but she has spent recent months putting on pop-ups around town, introducing diners to her passion: handmade soba noodles. Now Soma and the owners of Miyabi restaurant in Tukwila have taken over the former Rain Sushi space at 2208 N 45th Street. While the original Miyabi is a sushi restaurant, the new outpost will serve Soma's "Japanese Northwest cuisine." Miyabi 45th opens next month, Soma says the target date is November 4.
A number of Japanese or pan-Asian restaurants around Seattle have soba on the menu, but Soma isn't aware of anyone else cutting them by hand. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat (Soma uses Washington-grown grains) and resemble linguini in thickness. The chef put on a lovely dinner at Skelly and the Bean Monday night, serving piles of cold soba noodles just begging to be dipped in an accompanying cup of hot bacon-curry (made with bacon from Hitchcock) or duck and mushroom dipping sauce, as well as hot soba dishes.
Always a good sign: Three older Japanese ladies were seated next to our party. On the way out they admonished us for not slurping loudly enough. The rule, one of them explained, is "three strands, dippity do, and slurp." I mean, come on. Adorable.
Soma studied under a master soba maker in Tokyo (she's back in Japan this week as well). Other highlights of her pop-up menu included a soup of hama hama clams with buckwheat matzo balls, and a cheesecake made with roasted organic kabocha pumpkin. Mibayi 45th will also serve cocktails, sake, and both local and Japanese beer. Follow Soma's progress with the restaurant on its Facebook page.
Another nonsushi Japanese restaurant is popping up in Wallingford, at the former Joule address. Wallyhood reports that a yakitori spot called Dozo Yoroshiku.