If you haven’t heard the term “umami” before, I recommend making a reservation at Capitol Hill’s Boom Noodle. Umami is a Japanese word that describes the fifth taste sensation (the others are salty, sour, bitter and Dopey), usually associated with Asian flavors. Like charisma, umami is hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you see it – or in this case, taste it.
Take for example, the Sizzling Toban Beef ($8.50 on the small plates menu, pictured above). I was very impressed with the depth of flavors that emerged from this simple preparation. Had the plate not been hot enough to fry an egg, I probably would have licked it clean.
The main course dishes were also quite enjoyable. I was pleased with my Cha Su Pork Fried Rice ($10.50) and pleasantly surprised by the generous portions of both the rice and soup entrees. If you’re an impatient eater, you may want to bring a fork – the chopsticks-only approach to rice eating is an acquired skill, and requires persistence.
However, it is the atmosphere, more than the cuisine, that defines Boom Noodle’s identity among Seattle’s Americ-Asian eateries. In the most pierced and inked corridor of Capitol Hill, the restaurant stands out as clean and precise, like a Japanese IKEA with good food. The conspicuous arrangement of tables and communal bar top strikes me as un-accidental: people are here to be seen. And what a scene it is. The whole place is loud and energetic, with Capitol Hill’s walking works of urban art studding the sparse decor. If you’re looking for a hole in the wall, you’ve come to the wrong place. But, if you’re looking for a great modern import of Japan’s richest flavors in a lively setting, I’d highly recommend Boom Noodle.