Chef Josh Silverman has a unique take on food, as he proved at his Bellingham Towers restaurant, Nimbus.
A Northwest native, the Bellingham Technical School culinary arts graduate fused his education with his European travels. That training, and his love of local ingredients, has culminated in his latest endeavor, Dashi Noodle Bar in downtown Bellingham.
"I love to feed people," Silverman says.
His interest in cooking began at an early age. The child of "hippies" who met at Western Washington University, he lived both in Seattle with his mother and in Bellingham with his father.
"I really attribute my cooking interest to my parents," Silverman says. "I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with them. My cousins and I would play restaurant. I took a culinary class in high school."
"After BTC, I got cooking internships in Spain, and travelled in Italy, learning their cuisine," he recalls. "Then I got married, settled in Seattle, and for two years worked at the W Hotel restaurant with Chef Maria Hines."
Working at the upscale W was a big step.
"W bought the best of everything," he says. "I was so lucky. I cooked in Spain, but because I couldn't speak the language, it slowed my learning. At W, I got the nuts and bolts of cooking working with people who knew a lot."
When he was 26, an opportunity arose for Silverman to buy Nimbus with a friend.
"It was the best business education. We created the food we wanted, and people loved it," Silverman says. "Then the recession hit, and after six years we had to close."
Being settled in Bellingham, he wanted to do something "more approachable, less fussy." The new trend on the West Coast was noodles. He saw a niche.
"We have a fair amount of ethnic food in Bellingham, but most don't source local ingredients or make things from scratch," he says. "I wanted to fuse the flavors and spices of Asian cuisine into something simple and spectacular."
In January 2013, he opened Dashi in the Dahlquist Building on North State Street, extensively remodeling the boarded-up former home of China Café. Tearing out the false ceiling, they uncovered a 19-foot ceiling and windows. He refinished the original wood floors and used recycled wood from a Portland, Ore., bowling alley to make table and counter tops.
The menu features soups, steamed buns, homemade noodles, meats and combinations, including gluten-free and vegetarian offerings, for $6 to $12. Drinks include homemade ginger ice tea, French press hot tea, sake, wine and beer. The condiment bar includes kimchi, Asian pickles, fresh herbs and Thai basil. The concept has proven popular.
"You can get cheaper noodle dishes anywhere," Silverman says, "but we go for quality. Farmers will grow items just for us. I like the creativity involved in the choices."
Silverman occasionally sells at Bellingham Famer' Market and other events, and also markets packaged homemade noodles and hot sauce.
"We're part of the revitalization of this area," he says. "State Street is the new restaurant row."
DASHI NOODLE BAR
Address: 1311 N. State St.
Taimi Dunn Gorman is a Bellingham freelance writer.