Aloha Ramen owners Lorenzo and Reiko Rangel were inspired to open their restaurant after moving to Seattle from Honolulu and noting the lack of ramen-centric eateries, according to an article by The Seattle Times. In lieu of maintaining a lengthy menu of dishes, the restaurant's cooks put nearly all their attention into the traditional noodle dish, which features fresh broth, roasted meats, and garnishes such as bamboo shoots. And similar to the ramen stands of Japan, the tables inside Aloha Ramen bear all the tools and ingredients needed to enjoy a meal, such as ramen pepper and bundles of chopsticks, which are necessary both for eating noodles and for building a protective fort around your pot stickers
When to Go
What to Drink: Setsuna serves a variety of beer, wine, and liquor imported directly from Japan to help make the experience as authentic as possible. Sample some sweet plum wine, grab a bottle of Sapporo lager, or sip on some 12-year Hakushu whiskey.
Izakaya: a Japanese style of dining where dishes are ordered and brought to the table in a consistent, casual fashion designed to encourage sharing.
Hamachi: young yellowtail, popular in sushi.
If You Can't Make It, Try This: I Love Bento (7500 35th Avenue NE) serves up Japanese cuisine such as chicken teriyaki and tuna rolls in an unpretentious setting.
It wouldn't be too surprising to spot a gnome eating dinner at Root Table, or an elf sipping a cocktail at the bar. After all, this Ballard eatery looks like something from a woodland fairytale. Each table and chair is hewn from the natural wood of gnarled tree trunks, and shades of sage and burnt sienna cover the walls.
Root Table's menu follows the same whimsical, earthy style. Chefs bring together elements of Thai, Indian, and American cuisine in shareable tapas such as hearty root-vegetable fries with spicy ketchup or curry corn fritters with chili-peanut sauce. They prepare heartier entrees, too, such as a wild-caught salmon curry named the Best Thai Curry in Seattle in 2012. Mixologists put just as much thought into the drink menu, which includes craft cocktails and wines delivered from a forest vineyard by a friendly centaur.
At Moshi Moshi Sushi, a large sakura tree hangs over the dining room, its branches of white LED lights shining like cherry blossoms amid the soft glow of paper lanterns. As patrons bathe in this light reminiscent of a Japanese garden, sushi chefs transform fresh fish—flown in regularly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market—into maki rolls and sashimi. Meanwhile, bartenders mix several specialty cocktails—such as the Death Poem, a blend of Guatemalan rum, rye whiskey, grapefruit, and cinnamon—to pay homage to Japan’s natural mountain streams of hot sake.
Sushi chefs slice and roll morsels of flavorful fish and fresh ingredients behind the counter in Rumble Fish Sushi Cafe's dining room. Sunlight from floor-to-ceiling windows and round hanging lanterns lights plates of traditional and nontraditional rolls, such as the cream cheese-filled philadelphia roll or the Lion King's crab, avocado, and salmon. On the dining room's lacquered wood tables, other hallmarks of Japanese cuisine make appearances, with yakisoba and udon noodle dishes supplementing appetizers such as edamame, ika salad, and tempura prawns. The large space also accommodates large groups and parties with ample seating, and bar-side dining is a comfortable spot from which to watch games on a wide-screen TV and narrate play-by-plays of the sushi chefs' work.
A Standout in Seattle's Japanese Dining Scene
Amid Seattle's sea of Japanese restaurants, Miyabi 45th stands out. That's because, rather than specialize in sushi, Miyabi 45th's menu spotlights one of Japan's most overlooked staple foods: the soba noodle.
There are multiple ways to enjoy these buckwheat-based noodles, which chefs make in-house from Washington-grown grains: they can be served cool, with a side of dipping sauce, or piping-hot in savory broth. Chefs also concoct a variety of creative dishes to pair them with; think foie gras "tofu," miso-marinated brie, and Japanese whiskey-glazed chicken wings. Sommelier-chosen sakes and craft cocktails further enhance the dining experience.
Elevating Soba to New Heights
Chef Mutsuko Soma, the Japanese-born chef behind Miyabi 45th, studied a wide variety of cuisines at the Art Institute of Seattle?s culinary program. But no matter how many new flavors she tried, she remained captivated with simple soba.
After stints at such lauded restaurants such as Harvest Vine and Chez Shea, she returned to Japan to learn the art of soba-noodle preparation, mastering traditional hand-forming and cutting techniques. Now that she's back in Seattle, area diners can enjoy the fruits of her studies at Miyabi 45th, where she and her chefs elevate this traditional dish with modern add-ons such as sous-vide egg and oysters.