Dish: Ramen (chosen with chicken)
Place: Okinawa Teriyaki, Downtown
In the bowl: Ramen noodles and broth. (So far, so good, sort of. And then it gets weird.) Chicken. Strands of egg. And lots of vegetables: Mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and zucchini.
Supporting cast: Nothing.
What to do: Wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. Eat.
Noodling around: There are two ramen reviews on the wall: one from the Seattle PI raving that this is far from instant ramen, the other a recent Seattle Times piece promising that the ramen is simply “divine.”
At the counter, I gaze at the big menu board and then give the worker a confused look. There’s no description of the ramen, and there are far too many options for meat toppings and more, so I ask her what kind of ramen she serves.
“American?” I ask. “Even though ramen is from…”
It isn’t a quiz, but she cuts me off. After a quick glance at my Japanese partner, and says “Japan,” then hesitates slightly before adding, “I don’t really like Japanese ramen.”
I start to worry, and wonder aloud about the type of stock. She explains that it’s vegetable stock. Now deep in despair, I cede control and ask for a meat recommendation. She suggests staying away from pork and beef, as they’re glazed with teriyaki, which will add sweetness to the soup. She says to try chicken.
I pay and then take a seat, and with Madonna and Taylor Swift (among Star 101.5’s finest) playing in the background, I’ve pretty much given up hope. A few minutes later, I laugh when she brings me my ramen.
Bamboo is a vegetable I expect in ramen. But no such beast here. Instead, I see chunks of mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and zucchini floating around in the soup. This is plain wrong.
Furthermore, the broth is weak, and the noodles are gummy. I’m told that they’re dry Korean noodles, and I’m thankful that they’re not the cheap instant ones, though I don’t rule it out completely. Looking back at the review on the wall, I agree that this is far from instant ramen, but in the wrong direction.
If you want more: No, thank you. My partner ordered the special with tonkatsu, teriyaki, salad, and gyoza (or, as they spelled it, “goza”), and the plate needed help. The tonkatsu, for example, featured pork that was far too thin and got lost in the breading.
Be aware/beware: The people working at Okinawa Teriyaki seem very nice. But perhaps they should drop the “Okinawa” and focus on the “yaki” (grilling). Most teriyaki restaurants specialize in teriyaki–and maybe serve yakisoba or even yakiudon since they can share the same grill. Ramen’s a different ballgame, and best left to a place that can specialize in it. Or at least make it in a more Japanese way.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on May 10, 2011.