With dining rooms currently shut down again and COVID-19 cases on the rise, it’s important to remember to support your favorite (or discover a new favorite) restaurant by ordering takeout. True, there are some things that just cannot be achieved as well for takeout as they can in a dining room, but I am ever so grateful for the restaurants that have adapted in these strange times to still bring us their best at our own homes.
Take the ramen kit offered by Issaquah’s Orenji Sushi and Noodles. Kits come with four servings ($42); you can pick up to two broth bases, add on extra noodles or marinated eggs and pick a protein. Each item comes packaged separately; most are vacuum sealed for maximum freshness.
Once you arrive home with your kit, you’ll need two soup pots (each with 15 cups of water), a nonstick pan, cooking oil, a pasta cooking basket and four soup bowls. There are cook times for each ingredient; 45 seconds for the bamboo shoots, a minute each for corn and fish cakes, nearly two minutes for the mushrooms. Heat the broth separately, boil the noodles (one to two minutes), layer broth on top of cooked noodles and finish with toppings. The instructions are so detailed, there should be no room for error.
It’s a reminder of just how magical an excellent bowl of ramen, delivered to your table minutes after ordering, can be. At home, it’s a little more hands-on than, say, getting pizza delivered, but I’m all about finding joy in unexpected places these days, and this ramen (even with having to make it myself) was total joy. The noodles were springy with texture, the pork chashu seared just the way I like it, the cloudy tonkotsu rich with umami flavor. I haven’t had ramen like this at my house, um, ever? But I can’t wait to do it again.
Orenji Sushi and Noodles; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily; 5625 221st Place S.E., #120, Issaquah; 425-391-9999; orenjisushinoodles.com
Here are two other spots in Issaquah that sparked joy for me over the past week.
Noon-8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; 25 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Issaquah; 206-405-0579
This fire-engine-red food truck that opened Oct. 14 in the parking lot of a Chevron gas station is run by husband and wife team Jagmohan Singh Dhanoa and Amandeep Kaur Dhanoa, specializing in vegetarian Indian cuisine.
Jagmohan Singh spent over 20 years working in various restaurants around the area before finally opening Desi Tadka. Amandeep Kaur previously worked as a medical assistant and, until very recently, spent her days doing coronavirus testing. Now, she feels like she’s still helping people, “just in a different way.”
The food is all vegetarian, with a fair number of vegan items, and the paneer is made almost daily. I got the Special Chili Cheese ($12.99) with paneer, green peppers, onion and tomatoes in a masala sauce; the Paneer Tikka Masala ($12.99) with paneer, bell peppers and tomatoes; and two pieces of garlic naan ($1.99/each).
The food is cooked to order, and Amandeep Kaur recommends calling in advance to shorten your wait time, which could be up to 15 minutes.
The dishes are customized to your preferred spice level; both of the dishes I ordered were rich and deeply spiced, like a warm hug. I could’ve eaten either one straight from the container without the fluffy rice. The paneer is sliced into thick wedges, soft and delicate. You can tell it’s fresh cheese and it’s wonderful. This will be my new go-to pickup on the way home from hiking Tiger Mountain.
Forest Fairy Bakery
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 485 Front St. N., D1, Issaquah; 425-392-8588; facebook.com/forestfairybakery
This small storefront boasts a bakery case filled with fresh breads, pastries and sugar cookies. Nearly everything is baked fresh each morning — but if you’ve got a favorite, call ahead to ensure availability.
I picked up a small loaf of cinnamon swirl bread ($3) and a loaf of Gruyère bread ($6). The woman working the counter recommended making French toast with the swirl bread, which was exactly what I did. The small loaf was the perfect size for my family of three, but I would recommend the larger size if you really love French toast.
I had planned on using the Gruyère as the base for stuffing, but I just couldn’t resist turning it into garlic bread the night I got it home. The entire loaf was layered with ribbons of melted Gruyère, made even better when slathered with garlic and butter.