EDMONDS — On a snowy night earlier this month, a friend and I found ourselves at Bar Dojo, an Asian-fusion restaurant in the Five Corners neighborhood of Edmonds. Bar Dojo is one of those neighborhood spots where it’s always busy, and it seems as if everyone is a regular. (Our server even joked that she and her husband go in on their nights off!) True to form, despite the nasty weather, throughout the evening, many customers came through the doors stamping their feet on the way in, as if they had made the trek on foot.
The owner is 37-year-old Shubert Ho. And in the past decade he has become one of the most well-respected names in the Edmonds food scene with his catering company and three restaurants — each of which has its own unique concept. It’s all been part of Ho’s plan to help revitalize the Edmonds restaurant scene.
When California natives Ho and his wife, Mira, first opened their catering company, Shooby Doo (his childhood nickname was “Shooby”), they were renting space by the hour out of a commercial kitchen in Queen Anne called Cook Space, commuting from their home in Edmonds. For $100, they had four hours to load, cook and unload everything back out for the event.
Ho was working about 10 to 15 events a year, slowly graduating from casual dinners for friends to upscale events for strangers, but his dream was to open a restaurant. So he got together with Mira’s cousin Andrew Leckie, who had a background in bartending and was from Edmonds.
“We knew that Edmonds didn’t have enough restaurants [for people] to go to. Living here, we still found ourselves going down to Ballard and Greenwood,” Ho says.
They found the empty space that would become Bar Dojo, figured Shooby Doo could help prop up the restaurant and share space, and ultimately opened in December 2012. After three years, Shooby Doo had not only outgrown the shared kitchen space, but the catering company was working 50 to 70 weddings a year in addition to other private events.
In 2016, Ho and Leckie opened Salt & Iron, a steakhouse in downtown Edmonds. Two years after that, casual seafood spot The MAR•KET joined their restaurant group, now called Feed Me Hospitality.
Most recently, Feed Me won the contract for the new Edmonds Waterfront Center, giving Shooby Doo a permanent kitchen and banquet space, and Ho signed on as a minority partner in SanKai, a new sushi restaurant opened by sushi chef Ryuichi Nakano of Kisaku fame.
In the years since he opened Bar Dojo, Ho has become a constant fixture in the Edmonds community. In 2019, he became the youngest person — and the first person of color — to be named Grand Marshal for the city’s annual Fourth of July parade. He turned the opportunity into a fundraiser, selling T-shirts and apparel to benefit the South County Firefighters Foundation, ultimately donating $3,000.
Over fish and chips and a lobster roll at The MAR•KET, I ask Ho what he loves about Edmonds, and he brings up Saratoga, California, where Mira grew up.
“Saratoga 20 years ago is what Edmonds is now. It still has that small-town feel, it hasn’t overgrown, real-estate prices haven’t gone up to $2 million for a small rambler. It’s a community [where] everybody knows anything and everything about you, but respectfully.”
That sense of community is on display at The MAR•KET, where the small seating area of communal tables fosters conversation between strangers. I see four men meet, talk about their respective jobs over plates of shrimp katsu, and hug when they leave. It’s nuts.
Ho says the spot is a restaurant masquerading as a fish market, but that doesn’t make the fish any less fresh. Oysters are shucked and dispensed right through the open windows in the summer, and they’ll cook any of the fish in the display case for you in any way you like for an extra $3.99 a pound.
That fish and chips ($16) we’re eating is a slab of rockfish served with a pile of crisp fries. The fish is crackle-crisp, yet still moist, the dill-heavy tartar sauce on the side an excellent dip for both the fish and the fries. The lobster roll ($25) has a perfect, toasty, buttery split-top brioche roll overstuffed with a wonderfully tangy lobster salad that’s mercifully light on the mayo.
Both are wonderful, and make me wish this was my neighborhood fish spot.
Ho says they used to crack each lobster by hand when the shop first opened, but even having one dedicated person cracking all day only yielded enough meat to sell about 15 lobster rolls per day. Now they use fresh Maine lobster that’s flown in pre-shucked, and they sell between 40 and 60 lobster rolls daily.
The chef at MAR•KET is Hans Korompis. He’s a Singapore native who moved to the U.S. at age 20, and he often puts Singapore chili crab on the menu as a special. I’ll be keeping an eye on the restaurant’s Instagram feed to make sure I don’t miss the next one.
The scene at Bar Dojo is similar. You still get complimentary fried garlic-spiked edamame almost immediately after sitting down. On Tuesday nights, bottles of wine are half-price.
The pork dumplings ($15 for eight) are plump and juicy. Ho tells me the delicate wrappers are rolled out with a pasta sheeter, stamped out with cookie cutters. You can also get a half order of four, but only order that if you aren’t planning on sharing.
On paper, the lemongrass chicken’s ($28) description sounds like a strange combination: lemongrass-marinated chicken with a coconut mushroom sauce, sautéed green beans and truffle mashed potatoes. It shouldn’t work, but, strangely, it does; it’s compelling enough that we finish the plate, discussing the flavors with each forkful.
You won’t see Ho behind the line at Bar Dojo, but he visits each of his restaurants daily — making his rounds and overseeing the general operations of things. He’s also always on the hunt for a new restaurant opportunity. Next on his dream list is a casual fried-chicken bar.
So where does Ho like to eat when he goes out in Edmonds? You’ll find him at Ono Poke for lunch, Rory’s of Edmonds or Churchkey pub for wings and beer, or Portofino for pizza and pasta. He also loves Stars in the Sky for Korean fried chicken and Noodle Hut. When he comes to Seattle, you’ll find him at La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaleria Oaxaca, or Bamboo Village for dim sum.
“We go pretty much everywhere just to support all the other restaurateurs,” he says.
The MAR•KET: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 508 Main St., #3148, Edmonds; 425-967-5329, marketfreshfish.com
Bar Dojo: 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 8404 Bowdoin Way, Edmonds; 425-967-7267, bardojo.com
Salt & Iron: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 321 Main St., #3135, Edmonds; 425-361-1112, saltniron.com