Seattle Ramen shops
With its recently opened third location on Capitol Hill, Samurai is one of only two restaurants dedicated to ramen in the Seattle area. The most authentic ramen experience in the city is at the original International District location. See and hear the telltale “thwacking” of noodles when you go up to the counter to order. Here, diners have the most ordering options, including noodle doneness, kaedama (extra noodles), and numerous toppings like Parmesan cheese or mentaiko spicy roe. Hearty appetites should try on the Samurai “armour” combination, with extra pork, green onions, black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, flavored egg, and roasted seaweed. Pork lovers will go for the tonkotsu broth, which some have dubbed “liquid bacon,” while a healthy tou-nyu (soy milk) broth satisfies vegetarians. (www.samurainoodle.com)
With three locations around town, Boom Noodle is not a traditional ramen joint. Bedecked in bright green colors, with sleek lines and communal tables, the restaurants look like futuristic cafeterias. Chef Jonathan Hunt offers the four most popular types of ramen—shoyu, shio, miso, and tonkotsu—drawing inspiration not only from Japan, but also China and Vietnam. Hunt finds it liberating to interpret the ramen according to his instincts and professional experience. “It’s the single most polarizing dish I’ve ever come across,” he says. “To take on that challenge and try to please as many people as possible, that’s exciting to me.”A visit to Wagamama, a chain of noodle bars in London, opened Hunt’s eyes to the fun of noodle restaurants, but it wasn’t until he took a trip to Japan that he really experienced ramen excellence. He likes the interactivity of noodle dishes and calls ramen “the perfect bowl of food… It excites so many senses.” (www.boomnoodle.com)
This dedicated ramen shop has Hawaiian roots. There’s a wide variety of bowls featuring fresh ingredients, from Katsu Tan Tan Ramen with deep-fried pork cutlet, to black sesame miso. (www.aloharamen.bite2go.com, 206-838-3837)
This small Japanese restaurant in Seattle’s International District serves what a Japanese friend says she’d imagine her or any grandma’s shoyu ramen to be—and it’s a bargain at $8.50, including gyoza and rice. But it’s the early bird that gets the ramen: there’s just a limited number of bowls for Friday lunch only. (206-467-4004)
This izakaya just started ramen service. Dubbed kotterishoyu, it’s made with chicken, pork (though no bones, which is why it’s not tonkotsu), and manila clams, making it as much assari (light and fresh) as kotteri (rich and fatty). It’s delicious with pork belly and a nicely seasoned soft-cooked egg. (www.showafremont.com, 206-388-3913)
From our story Bowled over by Ramen by Jay Friedman
Photos: Jay Friedman.
Read more in our November / December 2011 issue of Northwest Palate magazine.