Northwest noodles: food writer's greatest hits
From pelmeni to pierogi, ashak to soba, the beguiling choices abound
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Tender tubes of perciatelli con le sarde (translation: with sardines) are the picture of Sicilian soul food at La Medusa. I'm still jonesing for its dark, saffron-scented sauce with fennel, olives, pine nuts and raisins.
Squid ink tints tubes of bucatini, an anchovy-and-breadcrumb-bedecked beauty I devoured during a multicourse feast at Staple & Fancy Mercantile.
I'm crazy for the cavatelli at the Book Bindery, where those seashell shapes share the plate with wild mushrooms, bitter greens and pickled pearl onions, the sauce finessed with foie gras.
And sign me up for tagliatelle with fresh figs and lemon verbena at Cantinetta, unless the season's greetings include butternut-squash ravioli with hazelnuts.
Gossamer goodness defines the fonduta-filled cappelletti I've eaten time and again at Cuoco, where those "little hats" prove you can be too rich and too thin.
And if you've yet to sample the egg-yolk extravaganza that describes a tempting tangle of tajarin I'm so fond of at Spinasse, the trattoria's recent expansion provides a good excuse.
At Cafe Juanita, a summer meal brought me maltagliati — ragged-edged fresh pasta "leftovers" lavished with slow-roasted tomatoes and honey-sweetened ricotta.
Across the lake at Cafe Lago, ricotta and bright tomato sauce layer the legendary lasagna whose translucent pasta sheets still give a girl a thrill.
Looking for a family-friendly spot or a casual date-night dinner? Consider Perché No Pasta & Vino, where pasta comes in rainbow hues and a multitude of shapes (I'm a fan of the spicy gemelli arrabbiata).
The "original macaroni and cheese" at Pair ain't no kid stuff, but the bubbling casserole built with campanille, fontina cheese and a shower of toasted breadcrumbs remains on this kid's must-have list.
I get my pelmeni and pierogi fix at the multicultural cafe Caravan Kebab, where the chunky, handmade dumplings are even better than my Russian bubbie's.
Ah, ashak! These delicate pasta pockets plumped with greenery (scallions, leeks, cilantro), perfumed from the Middle East spice chest and drizzled with yogurt sauce provide the answer to world peace at Kabul Afghan Cuisine.
At Thai One On, I'm transported to Northern Thailand when seated before a bowl of kao soy: egg noodles boiled and fried, soaked with yellow curry and coconut milk, and scattered with pickled mustard greens, fried shallots and garlic.
Chiang's Gourmet in Maple Leaf and in Renton are known for Taiwanese dim sum specialties. Whether you go north or south, don't miss chef William Chiang's chewy pan-fried Shanghai-style noodles.
Head east to Redmond, however, for Szechuan-style handshaven dan dan noodles at Spicy Talk Bistro, which live up to the restaurant's moniker.
You can't throw a chopstick in the International District without hitting a Chinese soup noodle joint, and some argue Mike's Noodle House does it best. But what's best nestled with those noodles? I opt for plump sui-kau dumplings exploding with pork, shrimp and black mushrooms.
For Korean soup dumplings, the garlicky mandu-guk at Hae-nam Kalbi & Calamari offers a beefy boost, and so does naengmyeon: cold buckwheat noodles whose icy beef broth (a warm-weather must) is garnished with crisp Asian pear, daikon radish and cucumber.
Though chef Rachel Yang has a Korean accent, the noodles she and husband Seif Chirchi roll out at Revel mark a less traditional approach to Asian eats. I can't say which I crave more: their delicately flavored knife-cut basil noodles with clams or the bold egg noodles with smoked pork belly, sauerkraut and chiles.
Doing the same in a Vietnamese vein at Monsoon, chef Sophie Banh brings a perfectionist's sensibility to her pho. For a few bucks more than you'd pay at the corner pho shop, her Vietnamese rice-noodle soup elevates the classic to something more than just a sum of its parts (oxtail broth, marbled Wagyu beef).
Where to eat ramen? At Samurai Noodle, they're now making it in-house. Try my standing order: the Armour Bowl with tonkotsu, providing a double dose of pork broth and extra-thick slices of roast pork.
Ramen is also showcased at the new izakaya, Showa, its broth a brilliant balance of pork, chicken and clams, its pork belly a tender mercy, the bamboo shoots a textural revelation.
Or consider the Okinawa soba at the intimate Taka Sushi, where proud Okinawan Tomokatsu Takayama serves his soup's pork on the bone, its broth floating with fabulous fish cake (yes, he made it), the noodles maintaining their chew.
NancyLeson is The Seattle Times food writer. Mike Siegel is a Times staff photographer.
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