So I typically don’t like to do this, but Boom Noodle sucks. As a general rule, if I wind up eating a genuinely bad meal somewhere, I just won’t go back. It falls off my radar completely, banished from consideration, not even worth writing about. So I tried out Boom Noodle shortly after it opened early last year, and made a mental note never to return. It sucked. My $10 bowl of shiitake soba arrived lukewarm, the mushrooms limp and rubbery. An unappetizing slab of smoked King salmon floating in a bowl of udon had the consistency of wet jerky, so tough it was literally inedible.
Unfortunately, forces beyond my control have conspired to return me to the overpriced, overrated noodle house at 12th and Pike more times than I’d care to admit. Every time I walk through the door and see those cute Maneki Neko statues, I try and convince myself that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as I remember. Every time I’m horribly, horribly wrong. And I’ll be honest, I really want to like Boom Noodle. The space is cavernous and modern – rows of hardwood communal dining tables and pleasing swaths of green and black wall panels punctuated by enormous, painfully hip, photo-transfer lithographs. Like a cafeteria from the future (or um, Wagamama). Brought to you by the same folks who started the Blue C Sushi empire (the benchmark for mediocrity in raw fish), Boom Noodle is all style, no substance. It tries too hard, it fails because of scale.
Many people have opined that the actual noodles and soups at Boom aren’t that great – but try the Izakaya! In particular, the okonomiyaki has garnered some baffling praise. I found the pork and cabbage pancake to be dreadfully bland and doughy, doused with aioli and tonkatsu sauce and buried under a ridiculous pile of dried bonito flakes. I didn’t think I could possibly have been more disappointed, but an order of miso broiled rice cakes was staggeringly bad. The mixed grain rice was undercooked, and a caramelized miso glaze only hardened the cakes further. It was like chewing on gravel covered in “tofu sauce” (for the love of all that is good, I don’t even want to know).
The closest thing I’ve come to a decent dish at Boom was probably the simple Tokyo ramen. Nicely arranged bamboo shoots, green onions and nori, half a hard boiled egg and some relatively decent pieces of braised pork swimming in a soy-seasoned chicken broth. The ramen itself was pretty ordinary, nothing much to distinguish it from the stuff I lived on in grad school. At least it was served hot. But c’mon – you’re still paying $10 for a bowl of ramen.
And any goodwill that may have been recovered after finally locating something fit for consumption on the menu was summarily crushed last week when I ordered the katsu curry chicken. Beloved staple of Japanese cuisine and one of the greatest meals you can get after Last Call, the katsu curry at Boom Noodle was an abomination. In general, curry might not be the most visually appealing dish, but this glutinous mess of unpleasant brown and yellow stewed vegetables was particularly unpleasant – thick and weak and topped with appallingly salty pickles. The breaded, deep-fried chicken cutlets had alternating layers of fat and gristle. I actually considered sending it back, but remembered that this was really just par for the course. I ate my rice and left.
Despite the actual food, Boom Noodle remains wildly popular. They were written up in Bon Appétit recently, and opened a second outpost at Bellevue Square last Spring (if you’re looking to compound your trip to Hell with an extra dose of misery). Clearly I don’t get it.
Sorry. Boom Noodle sucks.