Lovely Bowls of Ramen in Seattle and Bellevue

Anyone who lives in the Bellevue or Seattle area has noticed the recent Ramen Boom with three new Japanese ramen chains opening up shop in Bellevue. I am so excited that we now have a few places to enjoy authentic Ramen and I have narrowed it down to a few favorite bowls. I am not going to say these are the absolute best because like any type of food everyone has their own personal taste and I really hate when people make up these so called best lists. Most of these people have never been to Japan to even know really good ramen so I ignore those lists and make my own judgement. Ramen is serious business in Japan and I am often asked my opinion on Ramen in Seattle and Bellevue so here is what I think.

Kukai was the first Japanese ramen chain to open up in Bellevue last year. We were so excited that we finally had an authentic Japanese ramen place in Bellevue we were there on opening day. The first couple of months, when the staff from Japan was here helping out with the opening, the ramen was excellent and we were there almost every other week. Unfortunately after a few months things started to go downhill in my opinion. The Chashu (tender simmered pork belly) was very fatty, tough and paper thin (once we even got just a half piece of Chashu!) the egg was not peeled properly and the bowls seemed like they didn’t have enough soup, filled only halfway up the bowl! A few of my Japanese friends also noticed this and many of them stopped going. I really do like the flavor of the Tonkotsu and Shoyu soups and the noodles at Kukai but they really need to work on the consistency of the other ingredients.

four ramens

Jinya is another new Japanese Ramen chain that just opened up shop in the Bellevue Crossroads mall about a month ago. I had heard good things about Jinya before it even opened. Friends in New York and California (whose food recommendations I really trust) had told me Jinya was the real deal and I was very excited for the opening. I have now eaten at Jinya many times and enjoyed every bowl of Ramen I have tried. My favorite ramen at Jinya is the Red Tonkotsu (pork bone soup) in medium spicy. I like the thicker noodles in the Red Tonkotsu and it reminds me a little of Miso Ramen. My other favorites are the White Tonkotsu (rich and creamy pork soup and their best seller) Black Tonkotsu (with a hint of Garlic) and the Chicken Wonton Ramen (rich chicken broth with great wontons made in house). The Chashu is tender and well seasoned and the egg has great flavor and is cooked perfectly. So far Jinya is very consistent and listens to customer feedback which I find refreshing. They actually stopped charging for hot tea after some customers complained about it. I have to say Jinya is near the top of my favorite bowls of ramen in Bellevue and Seattle. I love the variety of Ramen they serve, very consistent, and the Servers are helpful and super friendly.

Santouka ramen

The latest Japanese Ramen chain to open in Bellevue is Santouka. I waited for it to open so I could add it to this post and I have to say I was very disappointed. I ordered the Tonkotsu Shoyu Chashu Ramen and the Chashu Rice. The first thing I noticed was the size of the bowls, smaller than most Ramen places, which isn’t a bad thing but I like more soup with my noodles. I didn’t feel there was enough soup to noodles and the noodles absorbed the soup much too quickly. The other thing I did not like was the texture of their noodles. They were more eggy and softer than most and while there are people who prefer this type of noodle I like mine with a little more bite and chewy (This was what hubby didn’t like about Santouka when he tried it in Japan years ago and why he thought I would not like their Ramen. He was right, he knows me so well). The Chashu did not have enough flavor and was too fatty for my taste. Tonkotsu is a pork bone soup but if made properly should not have an oily aftertaste and this one did. We waited for over thirty minutes to get into Santouka and I do not think I will be be back. This is not the type of Ramen for me especially with all the other choices we have now.

Seattle Ramens

My favorite Ramen in Seattle and Bellevue is at 4649 Yoroshiku in the Wallingford Neighborhood of Seattle. 4649 is not only a Ramen restaurant but makes some of the best bowls in Seattle. The Owner Keisuke Kobayashi, also the head chef, is from Hokkaido and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He really goes out of his way to please you and every bowl of ramen I’ve eaten there has always looked and tasted exactly the same as the last. The noodles are a perfect texture and medium thickness, his soups are light with great depth of flavor (Chicken, Kombu and Shiitake Mushrooms are the main ingredients in his stock along with a variety of other vegetables) and his perfectly seasoned Chashu melts in your mouth. He makes everything himself in house. My favorite bowl of Ramen at 4649 is the Miso Chashu Ramen with an egg and toasted Nori added as toppings (there’s a spicy miso option if you like a little kick). Miso has always been my favorite Ramen and his is as good as anything I’ve had in Tokyo. Another favorite bowl at 4649 is the Shio (Salt) Ramen. A beautiful light, clear soup flavored simply with sea salt that really hits the spot when you’re fighting a cold. Kobayashi-san is planning to revamp the entire menu in June and will start offering his ramen at dinner time (now it is only available at lunch and brunch) and will add new Izakaya style small plates and Japanese cocktails to the menu. He will also be adding a Vegetarian Ramen with a vegetable base soup and Tsukemen (Ramen noodles served with the soup on the side that you dip). I have eaten at 4649 many times and even though we live in Bellevue It is totally worth the drive.

So there you have MY favorite bowls of ramen. I know there are many other bowls out there, and believe me I’ve probably tried them, but none worth talking about in my honest opinion. I will be adding to the list when I think there is another yummy bowl you should know about.

Comments

  1. O'Ryan McEntire says:

    4649 is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the Seattle area! And I completely agree with you about Keisuke Kobayashi. He is one of the nicest people I know. He really goes out of his way for his patrons. Even if his food wasn’t as good as it is, he alone would still make this restaurant one of my favorite places to eat.

  2. Just stumbled on your blog! I love the recipes and writing. I’ll have to check out 4649! Just wondering if you’ve been able to try Aloha Ramen – they’ve been pretty popular.

  3. Marciel Herring says:

    Hello
    I just found your blog. And i like it,its very informative. I was the chef at santouka ramen when it opened and i am now the corporate trainer fer kukai or kaizuki ramen and izukia. I hope that you will give us another chance in the future and please come in to our corporate location in west seatle and ask for me marciel. Try a bowl and tell me if yo find the same issues. I will also pass you comments on to the corporate chef.

    Sincerely
    Marciel Herring

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