Food & Drink

Seattle's Best Bukkake

Miyabi 45th Gives Soba Its Overdue Close-Up

Seattle's Best Bukkake

kelly o

ELEGANCE AND REFINEMENT And a dish that is also a porn meme.

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Washington produces more buckwheat—that sweet, nutty seed that is the base for soba noodles—than any other state in the US, which is the fifth-largest producer of buckwheat in the world. (Our state contributed 308,700 of the 711,173 bushels grown in the US in 2007.)

We've got lots of buckwheat, lots of Japanese folks and Japanophiles, and plenty of ramen places. So it's somewhat surprising that it's taken this long for a soba specialty shop to come to Seattle. But Miyabi 45th has filled the void marvelously and introduced me to the unprecedented sensation of wishing I lived in Wallingford.

You know what Japanese American chow houses look like—most are either diner-ish joints or izakaya-inflected bars—but Miyabi's long, narrow room has the hybrid Euro-Japanese design you'd find at a restaurant in Kyoto or Osaka. The front half feels like a Parisian bistro, with small white tiles on the wall and a big glass entryway. (The server talked about plans for a summer porch.) Beaded lampshades hang over the bar like someone's fantasy of a New Orleans bordello. But the shelves are stocked with bottles of sake and battalions of small Japanese dishware: teapots, hashioki chopstick-rests, and small porcelain dishes for soy sauce and tsukemono pickles.

Presiding over it all is a wall-sized photo of master swordsman Sakamoto Ryoma, looking sternly and nobly into the distance. Wearing his favored samurai clothes with Western-style boots, Ryoma is a symbol of Japan's early fusion of native traditions with Western imports and a fitting patron saint for Miyabi's dovetailing influences (though Ryoma, notably, was assassinated in 1867 for his anti-feudal rabblerousing).

The clientele also seems like something out of a Kyoto postcard: Japanese families and the occasional Japan-nerd gaijin. Those guys, and they mostly seem to be guys, always have a certain je ne sais quoi: short hair, button-down shirts, and the slightly nervous and self-conscious aspect that gamers sometimes have. But Miyabi itself is as gracious as you please (the word comes from an old aesthetic ideal that roughly translates to "elegance" or "refinement"), serving amuse-bouches of creamy peanut tofu topped with a dot of wasabi to perk it up while a live jazz guitarist gently serenades the room.

If soba isn't your thing, Miyabi's menu has a whole spectrum of Japanese-European deliciousness. Their beef tartare Gangnam style ($14) has hints of black sesame and perhaps the seven-spice shichimi mixture. And their "famous uni shot" ($7) is a symphony in creaminess with sea urchin and raw quail egg, plus touches of wasabi and tart ponzu sauce. And if you're lucky, they might have some of their skate wings ($9), which have an intriguing cartilaginous texture and an oceanic muddiness, like a deep-sea catfish, perfectly Japanified with a touch of pickled plum.

But soba, hot and cold, is the main attraction, and chef Mutsuko Soma's housemade noodles are like a Platonic—or miyabi?—ideal. They're soft but not mushy, with a little bounce in their texture and a delicate earthiness. (Also delicately earthy—shiitake-infused vodka for $8 by Sean Becktel, who put together the cocktail menu.) Some of the soba dishes are on the slightly more substantial side: Duck and leek, pork belly, and rabbit confit versions are available ($17 in their dipping incarnation and $18 with broth), but true to the tradition of Japanese cuisine, they're never overwhelmingly oily or heavy. Miyabi also has more traditional soba dishes, including mushrooms and truffle oil, the pleasantly snotty grated mountain yam with a quail egg, and the obligatory tempura, which a man fries in the semi-open kitchen, skimming off crackling bits of fried tempura dough to sprinkle on the bukkake soba.

Which, of course, brings us to bukkake—the delicate Japanese art of dribbling some things on other things. You may be familiar with the bukkake genre of pornography (if you don't already know, and don't want to google it, you can probably guess), but in the soba world it means lots of ingredients sprinkled on your noodles. The hiyashi tanuki bukkake soba ($13) at Miyabi is a refreshing cold noodle salad with wakame seaweed, sprouts, the gelatinous fish cake common to ramen, slices of cucumber, and the aforementioned tempura cracklings. This soba's name, however, doesn't stop at bukkake—it also invokes the tanuki, who in Japanese lore is a mendicant raccoon-dog character who has eight lucky attributes, including a big tail to represent steadiness, a big bottle of sake to represent virtue, and enormous testicles that drag on the ground to represent wealth. The internet reports that tanuki even has his own schoolyard ditty: "Tan-tan-tanuki, your balls sway nicely/Though the wind stops blowing/They swing, swing, swing."

You gotta love Japan. recommended

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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Comments (7) RSS

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7
A. I really hope Daniel Tosh made that other comment, B. it takes approximately 10 seconds to 1 min (depending on your internet connection) to look up the word bukkake... I hope the editor remembers the moment where they gave this article the thumbs up.
Posted by amanda c on April 28, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Report this
6
u wot m8
Posted by lolwat on April 24, 2013 at 3:22 PM · Report this
5
I'm very disappointed that there was no mention of semen in this article.
Posted by Daniel Tosh on April 24, 2013 at 3:09 PM · Report this
4
please take down this article, using the word bukkake is very insulting to us Japanese women
Posted by Hinako on April 17, 2013 at 2:00 PM · Report this
3
Do you know what "Bukkake" means?
Posted by Japanese Translator on April 14, 2013 at 8:19 AM · Report this
2
Hey, Brendan, we're 6 paragraphs into this "review" before you mention the actual food on the menu. From what you finally get around to saying, I'm left with the impression that this place is expensive and all about appearances. Is that what you wanted to convey?
Posted by Inksleeves on April 12, 2013 at 1:36 PM · Report this
1
Buckwheat is not a grain!
Posted by Felix Frankfurter on April 10, 2013 at 9:25 AM · Report this

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