Kukai Ramen and Izakaya in Bellevue – A Taste of Tokyo

Next week, the highly anticipated Japanese Ramen Chain, Kukai Ramen and Izakaya in Bellevue will enter its second year of business in Bellevue’s strip mall.  The franchise was founded more than 10 years ago in a classy shopping district of Tokyo named “Shibuya” in one of Tokyo’s busiest railway stations, so you can only image the competition. Lucky for us, we can get a taste of Tokyo without flying all the way there.

The Kakai Ramen and Izakaya in Bellevue is the first U.S. outpost of the Japanese favorite, Kukai Ramen & Izakaya offering nine different styles of ramen. The most popular is Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen ($11) topped with two pieces of grilled pork, seasoned bamboo shoots, in a rich pork broth flavored with Yamaguchi soy sauce and topped with black garlic oil. A local favorite is the Tsukemen Dipping Noodles ($10) with Tonkotsu which is broad, chewy noodles dipped into a thick, rich soup where you can choose between a light soy sauce base, a thick pork broth base, and a rich chicken broth base.

The Yuzu Shio Ramen ($11) is cooked in a Japanese citrus base, giving it a light, “easy to drink with two hands,” tangy soup base that goes nicely with the French sea salt of the pork and vegetables. The noodles in this dish are slightly thinner than the Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen dish.

Menu: French sea salt, kelp, Japanese citrus base.

The Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen is Kukai’s most popular ramen dish, its pork broth is comfortingly thick, rich in flavor, yet easy on the palate. The noodles are slightly thicker than the other ramen dishes and has the perfect slightly firm texture. The tonkotsu is grilled and placed in the soup to give it a salty and sweet combination with the soup. All the ingredients just come together really nicely.

Menu: Rich pork broth flavored with Yamaguchi soy sauce and topped with burnt garlic oil.

The Takoyaki Octopus Dumplings ($5) is my favorite item on the menu, it comes out beautifully plated and hot out of the oven. The texture of the dumpling is perfectly crusted and topped with Kezuribushi “bonito flakes,” Japanese mayo, Takoyaki sauce and a Powdered nori. As you bite inside, its creamy, salty, sweet all in one. 
The KuKai Chicken Wings ($6.50) is another great dish to try as it’s cooked perfectly and soaked in a tangy, vinegar sauce that’s not overpowering and lightly coated. The wings are large in size, crispy, and go perfectly without any sauce.

The original idea was started by co-franchisees Nuri Ayindel and Brandon Ting from the love of the Kukai ramen as they found something very special for its thin, salty tonkotsu gyoukai broth and chilled tsukemen dishes. After many conversations, the business was established.

“We are passionate about our ramen. Our philosophy is to serve the most traditional, authentic and delicious Japanese ramen that you can possibly have without actually flying to Japan. Come slurp a bowl and join us in our passion.” —OwnersThe restaurant is situated in an area with ample parking but getting a seat will require some patience. With it’s recent launch, locals and ramen fanatics have lined up out the door to try the authentic Japanese noodles for themselves. After getting inside, the restaurant went with an open concept kitchen as guests can look straight into chefs prepping and cooking the dishes.

Overall, this restaurant offers guests high quality ramen with broth that is carefully thought out and cooked with professional skill. Ingredients are fresh, dishes taste authentic, clean decor and great service.

Stay tuned for our Top List for Best Ramen in Seattle. Comment below and tell us your favorites. 

Written by Charles Koh

Founded EatSeattle, and has continued to use his expertise as editor-in-chief to guide the website’s growth over the last five years. Koh’s experience focuses on digital marketing and social media, and has been a part of several companies, some of which he created, specializing in both areas over the course of his career. Koh was previously with Google and Zagat where he helped expand and grow communities worldwide.

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