Mutsuko Soma is chef and co-owner of Miyabi 45th, a Japanese restaurant in Wallingford specializing in dishes that could have come from a pleasant culinary fever dream—such as sea-urchin-and-quail-egg shots—and soba, a type of thin buckwheat noodle. Vegetarians, beware of Soma's creation foie gras tofu, which is foie gras prepared like tofu, not vice versa: It's all goose and no soybean.
Soma's impressive Seattle résumé lists Chez Shea, Saito's, and Harvest Vine. She counts former Harvest Vine chef/owner Joseph Jimenez de Jimenez as an important mentor, but her hero, she told me without hesitation, is Eric Cartman from South Park because he's "smart and brave." At Miyabi 45th, Soma makes hundreds and hundreds of pounds of soba noodles, and never gets sick of it. "I moved to Japan to study cooking. Tokyo is a very foodie place. I fell in love with soba noodles—there are so many things to learn about them," she says. "The buckwheat we were using to make the noodles in Tokyo was from Washington. I thought, how come there are no soba noodles in Washington? Why not open a soba place in Seattle?" The names of Miyabi 45th's soba dishes refer to the way they're served: Seiro is cold, with dipping sauce; nanban is hot, in hot broth; and bukkake is cold, in cold broth. The section of the menu labeled "Seattle's best Bukkake style" notes that "bukkake" in this context isn't a reference to adult movies. The word "bukkake" means "to splash," and the soba dish is topped with, um, a thick sauce. When asked if customers are confused when they order bukkake and get a bowl of delicious cold soup rather than a barrage of hot come, Soma says, "Less now than before! The noodle dish came first."
Soma's favorite places to drink and eat in Seattle are (divey, great) Pacific Inn, where they give bacon to her dog, and (tiny, excellent) Gastropod, the brewpub adjunct to Epic Ales. One thing she does not like to eat, any place, any time: cupcakes. "I don't like cupcakes—I think muffins are way better," she says. "Cupcakes' tops are too small."
Meet Mutsuko Soma at the U-District Farmers Market on Saturday, August 9, when she squares off against Good Fish author/chef Becky Selengut in an Iron Chef–style cook-off from 10 a.m. to noon.