Dish: Tonkatsu Ramen
Place: Yoe’s Noodles, Bellevue
In the bowl: Ramen noodles, half of a hard-boiled egg, corn, thinly sliced green onion, mushrooms, and bean sprouts in tonkotsu broth.
Supporting cast: A plate with sliced tonkatsu, a lemon wedge, and some tonkatsu sauce with karashi (spicy mustard).
What to do: Try to eat the noodles quickly so that they don’t get soft, while eating the tonkatsu (after a squeeze of lemon and application of mustard and tonkatsu sauce, if you don’t want to dip) separately.
Noodling around: I did not intend to eat at Yoe’s. In fact, I had not even heard of it before this visit. But when my dining companion and I found Li’s Dumpling and Noodle House unexpectedly closed, we were scrambling for suggestions. A couple of guys, also disappointed by the closure, directed us to Yoe’s.
I’m in the midst of ramen research, so I jumped on the chance to try some. Yoe’s gives a choice of soup bases, including shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (pork bone), and miso, but instead of the traditional fourth of shio (salt), they offer a spicy base. Remembering the advice of the restaurant referrers, I chose tonkotsu, and remembering a favorite Seinfeld episode (“seltzer, not salsa”), I chose tonkatsu. Now I was about to get tonkatsu tonkotsu.
Note that the menu can be confusing. There are ten different ramen bowls, and you’ll need to ask whether the advertised ingredients are served in the bowl or on the side. I can envision the “assorted meat balls” (fish and beef) floating in the soup, but I can’t imagine “grilled eel” in there.
The tonkatsu ramen is said to come “with deep-fried pork and vegetables.” Tonkatsu is the deep-fried (breaded) pork, which comes on the side. The cutlet is rather thin, but will appeal to anyone who favors things fried. As for vegetables, this apparently refers to the kikurage (cloud ear mushrooms), bean sprouts, and corn in the broth. And on the subject of the broth, it too is rather thin, lacking in porky goodness. The egg is grey and overcooked; I prefer a runny egg in my ramen. And the noodles are wavy, which I normally don’t like in heavy tonkotsu ramen (as they capture more broth than the more typical straight noodle), but given the thinness of the broth, this isn’t a problem.
If you want more: This is a pretty filling meal for under eight dollars. But if you’re looking for more, gyoza ($5.95) is a traditional accompaniment to ramen. I’d go lighter, though, looking toward some green vegetables. Edamame ($3.00) is good since it should come out before your ramen, thereby preventing distraction from the soup.
Be aware/beware: Yoe’s appears to be a Japanese restaurant, but it is Chinese-run. Beyond ramen (and a slew of Japanese starters), there are a few udon dishes, as well as cold, spicy dipping ramen, and tempura zarusoba. In addition to the tonkatsu tonkotsu, we tried something called “Yoe’s Signature Fish Soup Bowl” ($7.95), which offers a choice of meats, including pork balls, pork liver, and pork skin. This satisfied my ongoing organ meat craving, but the soft Vietnamese round rice noodles disappeared quickly from my mouth and my mind.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on June 28, 2011.