The intriguing black ramen that I enjoyed a year ago at Setsuna Japanese Restaurant & Bar got me to wonder whether there was a hidden gem of a ramenya in the Northgate area. Opportunity knocked when we went with friends for dinner there.
Setsuna’s ramen menu offers four kinds: white, sakura, black and red, roughly descriptive of their colors. White ramen is shio-flavored (salt). Normally, shio ramen is associated with assari (clear, light) broths. Setsuna’s is one exception that leans more toward the heavier bone broths (kotteri), though sea salt is the only seasoning used. (Santouka also has a shio ramen that is a variation of tonkotsu.) It was milky enough in appearance and feel that it could be mistaken for miso. The broth was rich and, in accordance with Japanese preference, fatty. Bean sprouts and slivers of yu choy were the extent of the vegetables. Condiments included so-so menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), chile threads and a cold ajitsuke tamago (extra cost) with a nearly totally congealed yolk. At least, the cubes of roast pork were flavorful and tender. What about the ramen noodles themselves? Sad to say, they were a tad pasty, which got worse as they sat in the hot broth. This bowl was not top-notch by any means, just good enough (☆☆½).
So, the answer to my year-long question is that Setsuna does not produce consistently good ramen to make it a destination for rameniacs.
My wife ordered the gyoza-tempura combination dinner (☆☆½). Here again, there were some miscues. The gyoza skins were fried to a distractingly super crunchiness like crackers, though the pork filling was very tasty. The tempura batter was a little too greasy and tasted of old oil. Quantities of tempura and gyoza dipping sauces were so skimpy that more had to be requested.
Our friends had the hamachi dinner from the specials menu. The comment was that the yellowtail steak was dry, mirroring the evaluation that my wife made of her salmon on our last visit.
The opening of Kukai Ramen in Thornton Place for me may be a glimmer of hope in the culinary wasteland that is Northgate.
Setsuna Japanese Restaurant & Bar
11204 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98125