On the heels of my return from Tokyo, where I restrained myself in only eating four bowls of ramen in eight days, I’m excited to see Seattle’s ramen scene on the rise. We’re not likely to see certain items like niboshi (dried sardine) broth in the near future, but we’re lucky to have a lot of options, as I documented last year in Northwest Palate and IBUKI.
And now Bo Ramen hits the scene, starting this week. At the helm is Bo Maisano, who’s been fine-tuning ramen recipes for many months. (Disclosure: I’ve been part of his test panel, seeing and tasting the evolution of his ramen, though I’ve yet to try the latest incarnations.) Ahead of his first ramen pop-up on May 1, I had a chance to talk with Bo about his newfound passion.
How might Seattleites know you from pre-ramen days?
I opened The Tin Table in Capitol Hill most recently, spent time in Madison Park Cafe doing country French, and ran 1200 Bistro back in 2007.
How did you get hooked on ramen?
I read about ramen in Lucky Peach magazine and made it. It was amazing to me. Fresh noodles, fresh broth, and new additions—and I was hooked. I then went out to Boom Noodle and Samurai Noodle to check out their bowls and it only furthered my obsession.
What draws you to cooking ramen?
The pursuit of the perfect bowl. I love each part of the bowl: noodles, broth, pork and add-ons. Each has its part in the whole, and it all has to balance.
How have you been learning the process? What resources have you tapped into?
Making many bowls and having experienced ramen friends guiding my path. I still search books, online recipes and blogs looking for a new spin or technique.
What’s the hardest challenge in preparing ramen?
Consistency as I continually perfect my method. The noodles have been a real learning experience. Learning the ingredients in the Asian markets has been a lot of fun also. This ramen path has been a real humbling experience, steering me out of my comfort zone. It’s very invigorating.
How do you see yourself putting your own spin on ramen?
I’d like to figure out how to add in some different ingredients and cooking styles (tapping into my New Orleans roots) without breaking the integrity of the bowl.
Any favorite ramen bowls/places you’ve found in Seattle? What’s your favorite type of ramen?
I am a fan of Boom and Samurai, as well as Boke Bowl in Portland. I really feel I should get around more. So far, my favorite bowl is shoyu because I like the soy saltiness, stock sweetness, noodle creaminess, and fatty mouthfeel.
How are your slurping skills?
They are okay. It’s not a skill that was ingrained in youth. It is the best way to eat/taste the broth. I’m still new and getting better at it.
What would you like a diner’s experience at Bo Ramen to be like?
A good one, hopefully. I feel I am serving up a decent ramen and want to share that with many of my friends who are new to this beautiful meal in a bowl. I am serving a traditional shoyu ramen bowl and a user-friendly miso bowl that include both a seafood version and a vegetarian version. I am working on other add-ons, like braised belly and shredded smoked shoulder. I have yam noodles for the gluten-free folks also. I have to start small so that I don’t overextend myself.
What do you see as the future of Bo Ramen?
I hope these pop-ups are a success as I would like to open a brick-and-mortar location. I have a tonkotsu bowl that I will feature later, and there are a number of summer noodle bowls that I’d like to do as well. I’ll also do gyoza, and buns filled with braised belly and pickled vegetables. Those buns are something special that I could eat everyday along with a great bowl of noodles.
Bo Ramen debuts at Skelly and the Bean on May 1 and 8 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Walk-ins are welcome as long as supply lasts, or you can pre-purchase a bowl of shoyu, miso shrimp, or miso veggie ramen. You can also try the ramen at Geraldine’s Counter on May 5 and 19 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm, either by walk-in or reservation via the GC website. And get the latest about Bo Ramen via Facebook or Twitter.