Yotteko-Ya is hard to find at first. There is no restaurant with that name on the outside, only one that says “Kyoto Ramen.” It’s located on the second floor at the west end of the McCully Shopping Center.
Yotteko-Ya is primarily a ramen restaurant, though a few other Japanese items are offered on the menu. For example, we’ve read that the chicken karaage is excellent. Their specialty consists of a paitan base, a broth that has been 10 hours in the making, using “pork, the freshest chickens and 10 different vegetables and spices.” In the process, collagen is extracted from the bones, yielding a thicker, milky broth that is highly prized in Kyoto and by ramen fans around the world. It isn’t as thick as kotteri tonkotsu, which therefore makes paitan more accessible if you’re put off by kotteri’s extreme porkiness and thickness.
The subtlety of the broth here is somewhat different from those we’ve had before with ramen. This doesn’t mean that it lacks flavor. There is both refinement and richness, balanced with no specific quality dominating any other. And it isn’t over-salted either. Too much salt can mask defects in the broth. Yotteko-Ya is confident you’ll enjoy the broth; they provide you with a large-bowled, long-handled spoon, whose underside looks like it’s fashioned out of an ohitsu container.
There are five versions of paitan available, differing primarily in the quantity of chashu that come with it. My wife picked the standard paitan ($7.45, two chashu slices), while I chose one with vegetables (Yasai Paitan Ramen, $8.95), which included not only a single slice of chashu but cabbage, onions, bean sprouts, negi (Japanese green onions) and carrot.
Any of these ramen can be ordered in either of two noodle textures: the traditional “Japanese style,” which is boiled al dente; the other is called “local style,” a softer (and therefore longer cooked) noodle. We both opted for the former. As anyone who appreciates great Asian noodle soups will agree, the texture of the noodle is as important as the flavor of the broth. Here, the pasta cooked al dente rewards you with a wonderful firmness and chewiness that, for reasons having to do with economy and expediency, is not found in most ramen restaurants.
Now a word about the kakuni, those slices of pork that resemble chashu. They are flat-out addictive. Unlike Chinese char siu, they are very tender with teriyaki flavors with savory undertones (dashi). They tease you with a single slice in the yasai paitan. After one bite, I was compelled to get a side order of 5 pieces ($3.50), they were so good. Paitan Chashu Ramen ($8.95) gets you 5 pieces right off the bat (but no vegetables), while a “block” comes in the Kakuni Paitan ($10.95).
Yotteko-Ya is a superb ramenya. I’m already looking forward to a return visit.
1960 Kapiolani Blvd #214
Honolulu, HI 96826
- Yotteko-Ya’s Kakuni Paitan Ramen (tastyislandhawaii.com)
If you like their Kakuni that much, next time you visit Honolulu, hit Goma Tei, where they roll-up pork BELLY, and simmer it, then slice them quite thick for each ramen bowl serving. So tender ‘n succulent!
I know this sounds generic, but since you’re in Seattle where there’s a huge Chinese population, try go pick up some roast pork from a vendor who’s known for it. You’ll be surprised at how dang TASTY it is! If they salt it properly and roast it properly? OMG! It’s like pork on CRACK! With that crispy deep-fried skin that’s like Lechon, along with the fatty layer and juicy, tender pork meat under each slice? Pigs can FLY!!!
Back to Yotekko’s Paitan broth, I assume if that’s what Paitan is supposed to taste like, Yotekko’s is a shining example. HOWEVER, I still stand my none other than SHOYU RAMEN in the Tokyo style is the Japanese Ramen of all Ramen. Washoi!
The acknowledged master of BBQ pork in these parts is Kau Kau in the International District. You can order either “lean” or “regular.” Char siu is best eaten when still warm, straight out of the oven or warming cage. Once they get refrigerated, they lose their special succulence playing against the sticky glaze and charred portions. Many times, they also develop an off-flavor akin to freezer burn.
We will give Goma Tei a shot next time. Mahalo.