The Best Ramen in Seattle
The west coast of the United States is teeming with Asian immigrants who first arrived during the California Gold rush in the 1850s. Japanese migrants in particular started arriving in the late 1800s, populating the major metropolises of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Today, Seattle has a bustling Japanese ex-pat community, and with that a plethora of fantastic Japanese restaurants.
Of course, Japanese food, like most great cuisines, is regional and has a wide variety of flavours, profiles, and ingredients. This is true of sushi, yakitori, kaiseki, and most especially, ramen. And as you navigate the ramen scene in Seattle, it’s important to understand some basics.
There are typically four main categories of ramen: shio, which is a salt-based ramen; miso, which is based on soybean paste; shoyu, where the base is a soy sauce; and tonkotsu, which has a base of pork bone broth. Within those four categories there is a wide variety of subgroups and variations, but if you’re looking to differentiate within Seattle’s buzzing ramen restaurants, start with these four and begin exploring from there.
Here are some of the best ramen restaurants Seattle has to offer.
Image courtesy of Ooink Ramen
The restaurant says it at the top – this is not traditional. But chef Chong Boon Ooi and the Ooink team are serving clever takes on a wide variety of ramen styles. There’s the classic mala kotteri, which is a tonkotsu style with a sizzling pork broth, in addition to a shio, shoyu, vegetarian miso, and a new Shanghai-style ramen to top things off.
Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya
Dubbed as authentic Tokyo-style ramen, Kizuki prides itself on roasting bones before boiling, which results in richer, bolder flavours. The restaurant is so popular that its expansion includes three locations in Seattle and many more around the US. Menu favourites include garlic tonkotsu, a yuzu shio with French sea salt, and a tsukemen, which is a dipping ramen.
This quaint and rustic joint does simple, authentic ramen dishes with a variety of modern twists thrown in. Small touches include bamboo shoots, bok choy, and wavy or straight noodles to differentiate themselves. There are all varieties on the menu, but the Nuna ramen is a must that includes kimchee with a rich pork broth.
Image courtesy of Arashi Ramen
The featured ramen at Arashi is their pork broth tonkotsu. Chef Daisuke Ueda simmers the soup for 16 hours to bring out the fullness of the pork flavour. Special options abound with versions of shio, shoyu, and miso, but you should try the Arashi, a salt-based shio with three scintillating strips of pork belly. For adventurous types, try the black garlic ramen or the spicy tantan men with sesame paste and seasoned ground pork.
Image courtesy of Danbo Ramen
The ramen at Danbo is Fukuoka-style tonkotsu, and the original shop was founded in the town of Chikushino between Fukuoka and Hakata. Many shops later, the chain expanded to Seattle to impress US diners with their array of options. The tonkotsu is a must and there are four varieties to choose from: there’s the classic; a shio version; a miso-based option; and a negi-goma, which utilises sesame oil and specially roasted sesame seeds.
Jinya Ramen Bar
Jinya Ramen Bar is actually a transplant from California that was started by Tomo Takahashi who wanted to focus on three values: delicious food at a reasonable price that’s accessible to all. 41 locations later, Jinya is a wild success story with excellent ramen options. Some of the best and more original menu items include a wonton chicken ramen, a spicy creamy vegan ramen, and the Jinya tonkotsu black with nori dried seaweed and garlic chips.