George walks customers through both sets of dishes with the same good-natured warning for anyone expecting super-Americanized food: Another article unto itself. This arrangement prevents noodles from getting mushy, and that reduction clings to them tenaciously. With all these hearty accompaniments, the biang biang noodles named for the slapping noise that engenders them feel like spiritual kin to a great bowl of pappardelle and meaty ragu. Finding Isan menus in Seattle used to be a matter of scouring Chowhound—then came Pestle Rock in Ballard, Mai Thaiku in Phinney, and now Soi on Capitol Hill, which thrusts these big flavors into our scene-iest dining scene, amidst foot ceilings and custom rustic-industrial decor. The unofficial national dish was occasional in the walkup days, since it has so many components: Cubes have the sort of chewy texture associated with really good noodles; it requires serious willpower to not eat the chili and lemongrass version straight out of the bag with your fingers on the drive home.
Order your noodles, then choose from a bevy of tempura for topping and dipping.
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Hunting the perfect xiao long bao has become a sport around here. The tsukemen, a newer ramen offshoot, kicks this already absurdly rich broth into overdrive: Order your noodles, then choose from a bevy of tempura for topping and dipping. As lunchtime crowds press in, the chef crisps each flatbread on a griddle, then lifts that hot surface to plunge it into the bowl-shaped oven, rather like a tandoor, beneath. By some measures, Thai food is more popular than pizza here. Forget the Amerasian tendency to crowd 25 different types of food onto one menu.