February 3

Ramen-Ya Teinei

This little South Lake Union restaurant is shooting for a Michelin star.

Teinei is a Japanese concept that can be loosely translated as “politeness,” but it’s less about manners specifically — it’s more of a way of life. Restaurant owner Minoru Ido was serious about bringing this philosophy to dining in the U.S. when he opened Teinei at 1256 Republican Street in 2017.

Until recently, Teinei’s menu offered up sushi, udon, and a variety of other dishes, but a pivot at the beginning of 2023 has the restaurant focused mostly on its ramen offerings.

“We have never entirely focused on ramen, despite receiving positive feedback. Since our head chef, Shige-san, had to take two months off, we wanted to embrace the opportunity to focus on ramen because were short-staffed. Removing the sushi menu will help us use our time to create new broths and deliver delicious ramen. Our goal is to get a Michelin star with our duck broth ramen,” said Hoshimi Tominari, who does marketing for the restaurant.

Hoshimi exudes teinei as she makes her way around the restaurant, taking orders and explaining the menu to eager customers.

The region is full of ramen restaurants, but making a good bowl is no simple task. The broth takes hours of simmering and care. Everything at Teinei is made in-house (even the gyoza, which is difficult to find in Seattle).

Tray of gyoza or potstickers with dipping sauce on the side.

“We use pork bones and duck bones for tonkotsu, our pork broth, to ensure that the soup will be creamy and heavy but not too fatty. The pot is on for over 10 hours. For the kamo, our duck broth, we use duck bones, bonito, kelp, and dried sardines. This combination creates an elegant taste of this clear broth that is easy to eat. We recommend ordering different broths if you visit us with your friends,” she said.

You can order two styles of tonkotsu or kamo ramen — shio, which is a salt-based flavoring, or shoyu, which is soy-sauce flavored. Enjoy the ramen on its own, or opt for a set for an extra charge, which could include karaage (Japanese fried chicken), takoyaki (a type of Japanese fritter filled with octopus), or curry rice.

I tried the shoyu kamo ramen on a recent visit, and it was one of the best ramen broths I’ve had in the U.S. — it was light but sophisticated and full of flavor. I typically like a thicker noodle in my ramen, but these were perfectly cooked and had a tender chew to them, something you don’t always find with thinner ramen noodles in Seattle.

Are you a ramen fan? If you haven’t tried Teinei’s, give them a shot — they might become part of your regular ramen rotation.

Story & photographs by Ethan Chung.

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