First Impressions: Dine at Dashi

My good friend Julie told me Dashi was great, and boy, was she right!

This past weekend Regina, Bennet, and I accompanied my employers on a three-day rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. The rafting itself was excellent and the stunning vistas of the river and canyons through which we traversed will be forever etched in my memory. However, despite my best attempts at improving it, the camp food provided by the rafting company was less than stellar. I have a great appreciation for the daunting logistics of providing a “gourmet” experience out in the wild, but the young river guides, despite their best intentions, lacked the necessary chops to execute the menus laid out for us by the adventure company. When the day of departure arrived, we said a sad farewell to the river but eagerly looked forward to a long, hot shower and a solid meal of good clean grub.

On Tuesday morning our group of 18 left our final campsite, rafted to a grassy airfield, and clambered aboard the two rickety, unpressurized, twin-prop planes that would take us on a turbulent ride back to Hailey Airport in Sun Valley, from whence we would board planes back to La-La Land, to our lives, and to the real world. Or so we thought. Most of the party were flying private, but Regina, Bennet, and I had flown into Sun Valley on a commercial plane and that was how we planned on leaving. Except that the bush plane landed a little too late for us to make the commercial flight! I won’t recount the absolutely maddening scene with Horizon Air or the totally frustrating, blood-boiling run-in with airport security. But trust me when I say that I was tired, my stomach was a mess, and every stitch of clothing I had was filthy. I was pretty pissed that we weren’t headed home.

Very refreshing green papaya salad, perhaps a little one-note.

But after rebooking our flight for the next day, securing lodgings, and sending our clothes out for cleaning, we showered and reassessed our day. Although dispirited that we wouldn’t be sleeping in our beds that night, we decided to make the most of it and find a decent place to eat. We wouldn’t be asking the hotel desk for advice this time; on our previous night at the lodge on the way in they led us far astray and sent us to the worst possible Italian restaurant. I won’t even name the place, but suffice it to say that it sucked.

Our good friend Julie Fields, who has spent considerable time in and around Sun Valley, suggested Dashi, a new Asian-Fusion restaurant that she proclaimed excellent! We were stoked, for sure, sorely missing decent food, and needing something light, healthy, and clean after several days of dubious meals. This time we were not led astray. This time we scored. Thank you, Julie!

Somewhat blurry photo of the pork belly-stuffed buns.

Although Dashi has only been around for three months, I’ve got a feeling it’ll be around for quite awhile if Chef/Owner Tyler Stokes can keep his quality up and maintain a consistently intriguing menu. The menu is modern Asian with a few touches of European, shot through with a very New American sensibility. We only tried four dishes, but based on what we ate, I’d say the food is well-considered, direct, and unfussy. The flavors are clean and unsullied. Our meal was delicious and a much-needed balm to a hectic day and the three wilderness days that preceded it.

The decor of Dashi  is clean, simple, and comfortable.

We started with the pork buns. The buns were warm and soft, the pork filling was tender, toothsome, and thankfully not overly sweet. The thin slices of lightly-dressed cucumber were a nice foil for the pork, preventing it from being too heavy, and adding a nice acidic crunch as a counterpoint. Bennet loved them!

The green papaya salad was very cooling, with slivers of snap peas, mint, and peanuts. The mild fish sauce and palm sugar dressing was light and refreshing with a nice dose of spice.The only thing lacking was more contrast, both flavorwise and texturally. I missed the dried shrimp, black crab, or fried shallots you might find in other versions of this Thai dish. Although I enjoyed the dish I felt it needed…more.

Absolutely delicious lobster ramen noodles with shaved truffles & kamaboko.

I may have mentioned previously in this blog what a lobster junkie Regina is. Well, how could we NOT get the lobster ramen, with butter-poached lobster, edamame, shaved black truffle, miso broth, and corn? We did and we loved it. The noodles were tender, the lobster perfectly cooked, and the few shavings of truffle added a lovely earthy component. The edamame and corn lent a vegetable sweetness and the kamaboko (fish cake) slices were sweet and yummy. There wasn’t much of the lovely broth to speak of; it’s there just to keep the proceedings moist. My only complaint might be that the dish, after a while, needed a touch of herbs to brighten things. Perhaps a bit of cilantro or shiso might have just kicked it over the edge. That being said, we ate the whole thing in record time and enjoyed every bite.

Very good black cod special with ginger-miso broth.

Finally we ate a special of the night, a broiled black cod with bok choy and chantarelles in a mild carrot-miso broth topped with a green apple slaw. This dish rocked. The fish was delish. The broth was delightful, the bok choy yummy, and the apple slaw added a nice tartness that help offset the naturally oily fish. The chantarelles were tough, however, and the bok choy was unfortunately left in two very large pieces, which is a misstep in an Asian restaurant where people are inclined, nay encouraged, to eat with chopsticks. We needed to request a knife and fork to share the dish.

We were too tired and stuffed for dessert. But next time in the town of Ketchum in Sun Valley we will dine at Dashi more fully. And if you find yourself in Ketchum I implore you to check out this fine new restaurant.

Dashi
220 North East Ave
Ketchum, ID 83340
208-928-7703
http://www.dashisunvalley.com

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