I know, I know, where the heck have I been? Off gallivanting around the countryside? Spot on, Sherlock - indeed I have. I readily admit I've run a bit amok the past few weeks and I've enjoyed every minute of it. The next several posts will be all about roadtrip food adventures. I recently went to Chicago for a design conference (more about that soon) but before I pointed the Edge due east (flying is for the birds) I actually made a quick trip south - stopping in Flagstaff, Arizona before continuing on to Phoenix.
As Flagstaff is a mere two-hour drive from me, I rarely stay the night - but I had some extra time and took advantage of an overnight stay so I could hit up Brix, a restaurant I've longed to visit FOREVER but it's a dinner-service only establishment - I was usually home by the time they opened. Naturally I planned to hit up something tasty for lunch and selected the recently opened (November '14) SoSoBa noodle shop.
Anyone who has spent the slightest amount of time with me, particularly during a meal, knows that for me, true comfort food is always going to be some sort of Asian cuisine, and noodles are something I simply can't resist. While Flag has it's fair share of Asian buffets highlighting Chinese, Thai and even Indian cuisine, SoSoBa offers a variety of noodle bowls that focus on Japan - and they're adding unique and fresh ingredients that set them apart from their Americanized "competition".
As the name somewhat implies, they serve noodle bowls consisting of Soba, Udon and Ramen. Some come swimming lazily in house-made broths, others come glazed, shining and dripping with a sweet chili glaze or beef+mushroom cream sauce.
I was hard-pressed to make a decision between a broth-based or sauce-glazed bowl - I honestly wanted both and if I'm completely being forthright, I wanted more than one bowl from each category ... so to quiet my mind, I requested a Ball of Fire from the eclectic list of share-able appetizers. A plus-sized golf-ball of mac-n-cheese rolled in Japanese breadcrumbs, deep-fried and served with a dollop of spicy Sriracha sauce.
I ultimately decided on the Sweet Chili Glazed Udon bowl and while the single cook in the kitchen got started on it, I fretfully eyeballed the menu over and over again. I knew I'd be hitting up a serious dinner at Brix that evening, but I couldn't help but wonder if I should have chosen more of a but-guster like The Mic Drop: udon, pork belly, carnitas, chicharon, ham fries (wha?), soft boiled egg, kimchi, sprouts, choi and bacon. SERIOUSLY.
No, I supposed my bowl, which consisted of udon, pork belly, carrot, cabbage, bok choi, peanuts, broccoli, radish sprouts, cilantro, nori and chicharon was half good and half bad. I figured all the fresh veg would cancel out the calories from the pork belly. For those watching their waistlines (and I don't mean watching them grow larger), never fear, The Mothra is a healthy go-to vegetarian bowl featuring soba, broccoli, green curry, tofu, bok choi, peas, radish sprouts, chile paste, garlic and onion crispies. Major vitamins and antioxidants floating around in that one for sure.
No, this was not a traditional Japanese noodle shop, they weren't cranking out steaming bowls of ramen that adhered to Ivan Orkin and/or David Chang's recipes, but I'm pretty sure both chefs would love the food that is going on here at SoSoBa. It's made to order, they're using fresh ingredients, and the broth is made in-house in the tiniest of kick-ass kitchens.
And then the bowl of piping hot noodles was in front of me and everything else went quiet and dim. The pork belly was some of the best I've had - quiveringly tender with that intoxicating smoke from being finished on a hot grill. The vegetables crunchy-tender and coated lightly in a sweet and spicy chili sauce. The noodles were packaged, but I don't know of anyone in Flagstaff (or Arizona for that matter) who's making udon, ramen or soba noodles in-house, so there's no judgement here. This was a delicious and satisfying noodle bowl.
And I'll be back :)