Noodle-packed bowls of hearty broth. Kimchi, with a bit of spice and a lot of tang. Jammy, soft-boiled egg yolk. Bright green onions. Tender sliced pork. Earthy wilted spinach.
This isn’t the kind of warm, hearty goodness one would expect to find in the San Juans, where seafood rules and restaurants are typically farm-to-table fine dining or fried fish by the sea.
But that’s what you’ll discover in Lopez Village at Setsunai – the tiny Japanese eatery that opened in May of 2017. The space isn’t large. The open kitchen and minimal dining room span no more than 400-square-feet. Nor is it elegant. It’s built into the corner of an old converted barn, known as the Joinery Building.
This is the kind of joint—with its tall ceilings, frosty farm windows, and intoxicatingly sweet-salty aroma—that makes you want to slip off your shoes and wrap your mitts around a cold glass of mason jar beer.
These are the kind of bowls that teeter between the comfort of chicken noodle and the sultry goodness of ripping open a roasted chicken at 2 AM on a street corner.
They are primal in the way they fill you up and makes you want to sing ‘NNooooooodle’ (pronounced Nééééww-DDDooohole) while skipping through the grassy fields just outside the door.
I had the udon pork bowl with dashi broth, white miso ($15 regular | $13 small). It came topped with daikon radishes, green onions, and sautéed greens. The soft-boiled egg addition ($1) was a must. Soy marinated and ultra-jammy, it took the unctuousness to the next level.
Opened by a former potter passionate about kimchi, the vision for Setsunai was simply a way to introduce more of the fermented goodness into the island’s cuisine. Now Chef Josh Ratza often has trouble keeping up with the demand for his toothsome udon noodles and delicate ramen.
Scratch-made, each batch of udon is rolled, cut, and cooked to order. And good golly, is it good.
Disclosure: I’m so pumped to share this post with you! When The Isla Vida Group asked me about collaborating on a piece to feature in Kenmore Air’s in-flight magazine, I had no idea what a fabulous project it would become — including a visit to this amazing noodle shop on Lopez Island. Thank you for the fabulous bowl of goodness Setsunai – I CAN’T WAIT to go back for round two. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any compensation received.