Though this post is loonng overdue, it's certainly one for the books! This isn't just any review -- it's my first review of ramen in my beloved hometown, Seattle. Six months ago, when I was home for the holidays I got to try out Samurai Noodle... twice! But for all my anticipation and excitement of sampling homegrown ramen, I was unimpressed. If you're familiar with Seattle, you'll know that it's a pretty mild city: the climate is temperate and likewise the people are laid-back, blasé almost. My dining experiences at Samurai Noodle, however, were anything but for they seemed to occupy two stark extremes. Samurai Noodle, arguably the pioneer purveyor of Seattle ramen, first opened its doors at the International District location in 2006. And it was at this location where I stepped foot into a Samurai Noodle for the first time with my older brother begrudgingly in tow. From the outside, one can easily miss the entrance of this hideaway-ramen spot, which is tucked along the west side of the Uwajimaya shopping center. Its interior is an-L shape and the counter is nestled right in the bend where you must first order before sitting down.
There was one and only one menu item that caught my eye: the "Tonkostu from Hell." Oh yeah, bring it on. My brother ordered a tonkotsu ramen - not from hell, mind you - with "Samurai Armor" on the side: a small bowl of additional toppings including slices of pork, soft boiled egg, kikurage mushrooms, bamboo shoots and scallions.
Now I consider myself a pretty indiscriminate, adventurous eater - generally unafraid of consuming fatty, greasy foods that would make even Adam Richman balk. With that in mind, the Tonkotsu from Hell was just a bit too hellish for me. The broth reminded me of the chili oil one finds floating above chili paste. It was a slippery oil-slick of a soup which left on my lips a sheen of MSG-flavored lip gloss.
At the other end of the spectrum, I sampled the Tampopo Ramen at the University District location. If the Tonkotsu from Hell's broth was too hellish then the Tampopo Ramen's soup base was too basic. The dish was bland. Nothing outstanding about the noodles or the toppings either, so unfortunately the dishes couldn't be salvaged that way.
Let's cut Samurai Noodle some slack though since the Seattle ramen scene is only in its fledgling years. And besides, on Seattle's rainier days I can't imagine a better place to stave off the chills. And the cold front that you may experience from native Seattlelites? That's perhaps one of the few things a bowl of ramen can't fix!