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Bar Dojo: sustainability, simplicity, sophistication | Art & Appetite


Last updated 11/15/2017 at Noon

Congee, a rice porridge found across Asia, is a staple at Bar Dojo in Edmonds.

Editor’s note: Former Art & Appetite columnist James Spangler has left to pursue other opportunities. We welcome Maria Montalvo, who also writes the Moment’s Notice column for the Beacon.

You know that friend’s house where you love to be invited for dinner? It’s a stylish, welcoming home, and you anticipate your visits because you know you could not adequately recreate the dishes you are about to enjoy.

There is a patience and respect for the time it takes to create great flavors but with an ease and a lack of pretention that makes you feel utterly content.

That is what going to Bar Dojo is like.

Robert Shubert Ho, Andrew Leckie and their spouses started Bar Dojo to fill the void for Asian fusion cuisine in Edmonds. They met that goal but also created a place where people want to go after a long day at work, to celebrate with family and friends, to grab a bite before or after a show or for a romantic dinner.

“The basis of that menu started from my grandmother’s recipe for the braised beef noodle soup,” Ho said. “I based the entire menu around what her cooking meant to me – comfortable, tasty, simple ingredients done really well.”

Luis Brambila is the chef de cuisine at Bar Dojo and “his food is impeccable” Ho said of Brambila. “He has taken the reigns and come into his own in terms of creating really great Asian fusion cuisine.”

I would have to agree. Full disclosure: My husband and I eat at Bar Dojo nearly every week, so writing about the experience is not a challenge and no longer impartial. I have never been disappointed by a meal here.

We have seen the menu change over the years, and Dojo’s vocal Facebook followers provide plenty of input each time a dish comes or goes. Bar Dojo reliably brings creative new or seasonal items, like the Ninja Dog made with Wagyu beef, edamame risotto, as well as never-ending tasty takes on the chicken wing.

True to its roots, however, Dojo has maintained its stalwarts, like the braised beef noodle soup, award-winning Dojo burger, the heavenly poke tacos and – my favorite – the coconut red curry bowl.

A great representation of the mission of the restaurant and evolution of the menu is the congee. Congee is a rice porridge found across Asia that is cooked so long that the rice breaks down in the water (it is usually served plain for breakfast).

At Dojo, the congee comes to the table in a shallow white bowl that highlights the contrast of the white of the rice next to the brown-black of the tamari soy, with punches of color from the red Thai chile peppers and the green cilantro and scallions. Each spoonful warms your bones the way only a savory rice porridge can, but also creates a sense of gratification with the salty/savory umami of the soy.

This year, Dojo’s congee is served with smoked duck breast and mushrooms, while last year, it was fried calamari. I thought I would miss the crunch of the calamari, but the crispy onions in the current iteration satisfy the need for a different texture, and the smokiness of the duck and sesame oil bring a whole new level of homey decadence.

To round out the experience, the cocktails (and bartenders) at Dojo are as unique as its menu and feature local distilleries, like Edmonds-own Scratch. General manager Shannon Mullane ensures that the service is as kind and giving as the food, so even if you are there on a quiet late afternoon or a busy night, you leave feeling cared for and happy.

Ho, Leckie and Brambila all live nearby, and Bar Dojo pays homage to Edmonds’ take on Northwest sensibilities – they know what appeals to Edmonds diners.

“I am proud to offer locally sourced organic produce, local beef, good quality sustainable seafood,” Brambila said. “Edmonds is an amazing place to live and work, and I care about the guests as much as I care about the ingredients. The community inspires me to keep creating delicious and sustainable foods for your palates.”

Restaurant news

In addition to Shooby Do Catering, Bar Dojo, and Salt & Iron, there is more on this group’s culinary horizon in Edmonds. The Ho-Leckie partnership plan to open Pescadero in the spring. The store, scheduled to be located next to Starbucks by the fountain, will be a fishmonger, or a seller of fresh fish, and will also offer counter service for delights like fish tacos. Stay tuned here for more information.

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