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November 21, 2011 12:13 PM

It's a wide world of noodles, Seattle. Love them? List them!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Where do I go for noodles? The list is endless. But when it came time to round-up some favorites to go along with my cover story for Sunday's Pacific Northwest Dining Out 2011, here's what I had to say:

Tender tubes of perciatelli con le sarde (translation: with sardines) are the picture of Sicilian soul food at La Medusa (4857 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; 206-723-2192). I'm still jonesing for its dark, saffron-scented sauce with fennel, olives, pine nuts and raisins.

Squid ink tints tubes of bucatini, an anchovy-and-breadcrumb-bedecked beauty I devoured during a multicourse feast at Staple & Fancy Mercantile (4739 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle; 206-789-1200).

I'm crazy for the cavatelli at the Book Bindery (198 Nickerson St., Seattle; 206-283-2665), where those seashell shapes share the plate with wild mushrooms, bitter greens and pickled pearl onions, the sauce finessed with foie gras.

And sign me up for tagliatelle with fresh figs and lemon verbena at Cantinetta (3650 Wallingford Ave., Seattle; 206-632-1000; 10038 Main St., Bellevue; 425-233-6040), unless the season's greetings include butternut-squash ravioli with hazelnuts.



'Tis the season, for butternut-squash ravioli with hazelnuts, at Cantinetta. [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

Gossamer goodness defines the fonduta-filled cappelletti I've eaten time and again at Cuoco (310 Terry Ave. N., Seattle; 206-971-0710), where those "little hats" prove you can be too rich and too thin.

And if you've yet to sample the egg-yolk extravaganza that describes a tempting tangle of tajarin I'm so fond of at Spinasse (1531 14th Ave., Seattle; 206-251-7673), the trattoria's recent expansion provides a good excuse.

At Cafe Juanita (9702 N.E. 120th Pl., Kirkland; 425-823-1505), a summer meal brought me maltagliati -- ragged-edged fresh pasta "leftovers" lavished with slow-roasted tomatoes and honey-sweetened ricotta.

Across the lake at Cafe Lago (2305 24th Ave. E., Seattle; 206-329-8005), ricotta and bright tomato sauce layer the legendary lasagna whose translucent pasta sheets still give a girl a thrill.



Cafe Lago's lasagne looks great from on-high, but you should see it from the side, preferably with a fork in hand. [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

Looking for a family-friendly spot or a casual date-night dinner? Consider Perche No Pasta & Vino (1319 N. 49th St., Seattle; 206-547-0222), where pasta comes in rainbow hues and a multitude of shapes (I'm a fan of the spicy gemelli arrabbiata).

The "original macaroni and cheese" at Pair (5501 30th Ave. N.E., Seattle; 206-526-7655) ain't no kid stuff, but the bubbling casserole built with campanille, fontina cheese and a shower of toasted breadcrumbs remains on this kid's must-have list.

I get my pelmeni and pierogi fix at the multicultural cafe Caravan Kebab (9711 Firdale Ave., Edmonds; 206-546-7999), where the chunky, handmade dumplings are even better than my Russian bubbie's.



Chicken-filled pelmeni at Caravan Kebab in Edmonds. [Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]


Ah, ashak! These delicate pasta pockets plumped with greenery (scallions, leeks, cilantro), perfumed from the Middle East spice chest and drizzled with yogurt sauce provide the answer to world peace at Kabul Afghan Cuisine (2301 N. 45th St., Seattle; 206-545-9000).

At Thai One On (12343 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle; 206 362-6999), I'm transported to Northern Thailand when seated before a bowl of kao soy: egg noodles boiled and fried, soaked with yellow curry and coconut milk, and scattered with pickled mustard greens, fried shallots and garlic.

Chiang's Gourmet in Maple Leaf and in Renton are known for Taiwanese dim sum specialties (7845 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle; 206-527-8888; 17650 140th Ave. S.E., No. B3, Renton; 425-235-8877). Whether you go north or south, don't miss chef William Chiang's chewy pan-fried Shanghai-style noodles.

Head east to Redmond, however, for Szechuan-style handshaven dan dan noodles at Spicy Talk Bistro (16650 Redmond Way, Redmond; 425-558-7858), which live up to the restaurant's moniker.


There's good reason why everybody's talking about the housemade dan dan noodles at Spicy Talk.
[Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

You can't throw a chopstick in the International District without hitting a Chinese soup noodle joint, and some argue Mike's Noodle House (418 Maynard Ave. S., Seattle; 206-389-7099) does it best. But what's best nestled with those noodles? I opt for plump sui-kau dumplings exploding with pork, shrimp and black mushrooms.

For Korean soup dumplings, the garlicky mandu-guk at Hae-nam Kalbi & Calamari (15001 Aurora Ave. N., Shoreline; 206-367-7843) offers a beefy boost, and so does naengmyeon: cold buckwheat noodles whose icy beef broth (a warm-weather must) is garnished with crisp Asian pear, daikon radish and cucumber.

Though chef Rachel Yang has a Korean accent, the noodles she and husband Seif Chirchi roll out at Revel (403 N. 36th St., Seattle; 206-547-2040) mark a less traditional approach to Asian eats. I can't say which I crave more: their delicately flavored knife-cut basil noodles with clams or the bold egg noodles with smoked pork belly, sauerkraut and chiles.


Clams. Basil noodles. What more can a girl ask for? (Answer: one of Revel's ice cream sandwiches, after.) [Seattle Times/John Lok]


Doing the same in a Vietnamese vein at Monsoon (615 19th Ave. E., Seattle; 206-325-2111; 10245 Main St., Bellevue; 425-635-1112), chef Sophie Banh brings a perfectionist's sensibility to her pho. For a few bucks more than you'd pay at the corner pho shop, her Vietnamese rice-noodle soup elevates the classic to something more than just a sum of its parts (oxtail broth, marbled Wagyu beef).

Where to eat ramen? At Samurai Noodle (606 5th Ave. S., Seattle, 206-624-9321; 4138 University Way N.E., Seattle, 206-547-1774; 412 Broadway E., 206-323-7991), they're now making it in-house. Try my standing order: the Armour Bowl with tonkotsu, providing a double dose of pork broth and extra-thick slices of roast pork.

Ramen is also showcased at the new izakaya, Showa (701 N. 36th St., Suite 200, Seattle; 206-388-3913), its broth a brilliant balance of pork, chicken and clams, its pork belly a tender mercy, the bamboo shoots a textural revelation.

Or consider the Okinawa soba at the intimate Taka Sushi (18904 Highway 99, Suite A, Lynnwood; 425-778-1689), where proud Okinawan Tomokatsu Takayama serves his soup's pork on the bone, its broth floating with fabulous fish cake (yes, he made it), the noodles maintaining their chew.


That's burdock root, not carrot, in the housemade fishcake afloat in Taka's Okinawa soba.
[Seattle Times/Mike Siegel]

So, now that I shared some of my local noodle favorites, tell me about yours.

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Food for Thought | Nancy Leson on KPLU

Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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