I'm fond of saying that there's a symphony of slurping in Seattle these days, as ramen makes its way into area restaurants. Diners are digging in, appreciating the difference between the Cup Noodles that supported them as students and the more sophisticated bowls that that serve as affordable meals for these new noodle connoisseurs.
Besides being (usually) reasonably priced, ramen is quick and convenient, suiting our busy lifestyles. There's a variety of types of ramen, with different toppings, making each bowl a unique experience. And it's a meal in a bowl, albeit one filled with salt, fat, and oil—which are all part of what makes ramen so delicious.
It's not just established restaurants that are in on the noodle action. Seattle is seeing an increasing number of pop-ups doing the big three of Japanese noodles: ramen, udon, and soba. While we might not be able to quite compete with the high-quality ramen you can find just north in the Vancouver area, we're gaining ground.
What am I looking for in a bowl of ramen? While there are so many variations of ramen, I start like the old man in the classic Japanese movie Tampopo by observing the bowl, assessing the aesthetic appeal and appreciating things such as the glistening oil. Then I sip the broth, the soul of the bowl, hoping for depth of flavor and a sense of authenticity. From there, I'm looking for springy noodles that suit the broth, fat-laced pork, a bright and slightly runny egg yolk, toppings that are the right texture, and other intangibles.
As a longtime noodle lover who's scoured the streets of Tokyo in recent years for good ramen and who's visited virtually every ramen joint in Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver for recent articles in Northwest Palate and IBUKI magazine, I believe I know good ramen when I slurp it. Check the slideshow above for six bowls of ramen found right in Seattle that I recommend as worth a try.