When I heard about a place new restaurant in Seattle that makes their own Soba noodle from scratch, I knew I had to drop by during our Seattle trip.
Located in a quaint neighbourhood at Seattle’s Fremont district, it was hard to miss the bright red window frames that liven up the wooden shingles of the one-storey house. A playful Kamonegi duck carrying a leek on its back is displayed on the sign over the window, supposedly to bring luck, according to traditional Japanese proverbs. Upon entry, we were welcomed into an authentic Japanese setting - small, intimate and delightfully charming. Bamboo sifters and assorted soba-making tools double as decor on the wall. An opening to the kitchen is visible to the main seating area, giving us a glimpse of owner and executive Chef Mutsuko Soma as she prepared dishes for hungry patrons.
(Left) Opening to the kitchen with wall decor composed of soba making tools
(Right) Chef Mutsuko Soma preparing dishes in the kitchen
Chef Mutsuko opened Kamonegi in October 2017, after noticing the lack of authentic soba in Seattle made with the right combination of buckwheat and wheat flour. She was inspired by the art of soba-making by her grandmother at a young age, a tradition that occurred about once a month for big family gatherings. Her yearning for the silky, tender texture and nutty fragrant found only in freshly made soba led to her completion of a rigorous soba training program in Tokyo, where she realized soba-making is an artform that involves a combination of technique, intuition and time. After quitting her job as a Chef in Seattle at Miyabi 45th, Mutsuko finally announced the starting of her own restaurant “Kamonegi” in the summer of 2017.
For Chef Mutsuko, her biggest challenge for making authentic soba in Seattle is the buckwheat. “Chef Mutsuko likes to buy locally if she can, but it can be hard with buckwheat” said restaurant manager Stephanie. “It is also very time consuming to make soba. Each batch takes about 40 minutes to make, and can only make about 16 servings”. The low-gluten, high buckwheat formula of traditional soba also makes the freshly made soba highly perishable, making it essential to prepare daily for optimal texture and flavour.
(Left) Minimalistic table settings
(Right) “Tsukemono”, an assortment of housemade pickled vegetables
We were served a colourful bowl of assorted homemade pickled vegetables to start. A beautiful side dish that increased our appetite for what was ahead with its mild acidity. Our first dish was the Kamonegi nanban, a piping hot bowl of soba noodle with broth and garnish. A dish that embodies the meaning of “Kamonegi” by incorporating duck and leek; the toppings include duck breast, duck tsukune, leek and mitsuba. The well-balanced broth didn’t overshadow the mild nutty taste of the soba, but the star of the dish was perhaps the tender duck breast cooked just-enough that kept us craving for more.
Our second dish was the eggplant tempura with yellowfoot mushroom, purple daikon, mitsuba and bonito flakes that seemed to dance with the steam. It was a beautiful medley of purple sitting atop warm tempura dipping broth. It was a dish meant to be eaten right away, as the tempura batter softens after soaking up too much broth. We loved the texture of the eggplant, soft yet not overdone. The broth and bonito added just the right amount of umami, making it an overall enjoyable dish.
The third dish was our favourite. The Shrimpcado Bukkake is a cold soba dish in a chilled broth topped with shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, daikon oroshi, and wasabi. A dish that almost resembled a salad, we felt this dish preserved the intended texture of the fresh handmade soba the best. The slightly chewy texture of the soba accompanied by the cold and refreshing dashi broth made it an extremely satisfying dish for a warm sunny day. We highly recommend to try the Shrimpcado Bukkake if you ever decided to drop by this charming Japanese neighbourhood restaurant.
We admire Chef Mutsuko’s passion and dedication to the craft of soba-making, and her determination to show diners her vision to serve authentic and delicious Japanese cuisine she grew up with. Don’t forget to pay Kamonegi a visit next time you are in Seattle.
1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA, USA
Photos by: SL Photography