Dish: Kimchi Ramen
Place: Revel, Fremont
In the bowl: Kimchi (of course), pork belly, egg, green onions, nori strips, and ramen noodles.
Supporting cast: Nothing.
What to do: Admire the bowl before you. Smell, noting the slightly pungent odor of the kimchi. Then dive in.Noodling around: I'm a ramen snob, sampling all over Tokyo when I can, even hitting Yokohama's Ramen Museum in a past trip.
So when Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi introduced brunch service at Revel (recently reviewed by our Hanna Raskin) and put ramen on the menu, I knew I had to put it right on my to-do list.
It's no secret to those who know me that Joule (Yang and Chirchi's other restaurant) is the first place I recommend to people asking "Where's the best place to eat in Seattle?" These chefs serve food that is incredibly creative, bold, thought-provoking, and delicious. I was curious how they'd handle ramen.
So how was it?
That's the question the chefs asked after keeping a close eye on me while I was slurping at the gorgeous maple counter.
Answer: Fine. This is a refined bowl of ramen. The broth is made from pork bones (including feet) and chicken bones, along with tahini and garlic. It's flavorful, though I think it could be a little more potent. As I didn't ever hear any tell-tale thwacking of the noodles (a sound I love) as they got strained after cooking, I'm wondering if even the slightest excess of water might be diluting the soup slightly.
The kimchi, as I've come to expect from other dishes at Revel and Joule, is just as I like it, and the pork belly has wonderful flavor with just enough fat. My personal preference is a slightly thicker cut of meat, though my partner, who's Japanese, thought it was perfect--and notes that some places' pork is too chunky, particularly when they do the more typical char siu preparation.
Chirchi told me that they're continuing to experiment with their noodle recipe, which I appreciate. The ingredients are simple: water, flour, and katsui. On this day, the noodles were tasty couriers of the broth, though as at Spring Hill, they were just a little too soft, clumping together as a result.
Overall this is tasty ramen, albeit a bit expensive. (It's the highest-priced ramen in the city). If you're comfortable with it, I recommend going with a group and sharing the ramen (passing the bowl around quickly, as you should eat it as soon as possible) along with the hangover soup (mmm . . . blood sausage!), some shrimp porridge, and a kalbi burger (though that might be tough to portion out) to maximize the number of tastes.
If you want more: As this is part of Revel's brunch menu, there aren't any true "sides" to be found. From the "Egg" section, you can enjoy the cold smoked escolar with arugula and soft-boiled egg ($12), though you're now getting a little egg-heavy. (But it's so worth it, as it's typical of Yang and Chirchi's simple yet stirring dishes.) I hope they'll add their ice-cream sandwiches to the brunch menu, in which case I'd go for the chocolate-chip cookie with chili and chocolate caramel ($5). At Ivan Ramen in Tokyo, Ivan Orkin is known for serving ice cream along with his delicious noodle bowls, and I think a frozen treat after ramen would be a hit here, too.
Be aware/beware: Now that sunnier days have arrived, you can take brunch on the outside deck, where the tables are in high demand. And when plans for an outdoor grill materialize (which will mean even more creative dishes on Revel's menu), you'll want to book those seats well ahead of time. From the deck, you can see Theo Chocolate, where you can indulge your sweet tooth if you can't get ice cream after eating your ramen.