It's the morning of Nudo's third day in business and the staff is scrambling for noodles. The ramen noodles made specially in Seattle to the restaurant's specifications were supposed to last four days — instead, they'd all been slurped up by 9:30 the previous night, and now more are being rushed across the state. Spokane may be a little late to the ramen trend, but evidently not for lack of appetite.
Long a staple in Japan, ramen has been sweeping the nation in the past few years after first taking hold in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. If your impression of ramen comes entirely from those dry packets rehydrated in dorm room hot pots, you're in for a treat — traditional ramen is meant to be casual and comforting, but it's something of an art to devour the broth and fresh meat and vegetable toppings in a way that brings out its full character.
"There's such a variation of flavor in each bowl of soup, and each bite gives you a different feeling and taste," says Josh Hissong, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Jing.
They previously opened Ginger Asian Bistro and Wasabi — they've since sold Wasabi — and brought sushi chef Tong Liu along to try his hand at the new noodle kitchen. The latest American twist in the ramen trend is a ramen burger — a beef patty between two buns made of noodles — which Nudo offers, along with a wide selection of more traditional bowls and a selection of skewers called yakitori. The spicy miso has been a favorite, and diners haven't shied away from more adventurous options like the five spice lamb or chicken gizzard yakitori. For drinks, Nudo offers an extensive sake menu, signature cocktails and draft beer including Sapporo and Kirin.
The ramen arrives at the tables steaming in deep, white bowls that match the restaurant's clean lines and soaring dining space. Oversized graphics by Jesse Scheller of Magner Sanborn add pops of yellow and red to the walls, and the long communal table that runs the length of the dining space is lit by overhead lights that look like inverted ramen bowls. (Kitchen prep and storage is downstairs, where they plan to start making their own noodles.)
It's a big transformation for the old building, which was previously home to Berg's Shoes and now features the work of Hissong's design and architecture firm, HDG, which also designed Fire Artisan Pizza's space next door. Bringing the old building down to its bones was no easy task and the execution is characteristically stylish, but Hissong says they had plenty of inspiration from traveling.
"We see this restaurant in every other city we go to, whether it's here or overseas," he says. "In Japan this is a very common feel for a ramen house." ♦
Nudo • 818 W. Sprague • Mon-Sat, 11 am to close • nudoramen.com • 290-5763