Midnite Ramen: Seattle’s First Ramen Yatai

Photo by Andrea Pesola.

Midnite Ramen is Seattle’s first ramen food cart, also known as a yatai. The ramen yatai started in Japan in the early 1900s, traditionally serving from late in the evening until early in the morning. The food they often served was known as yonakisoba, or, midnight ramen.

Owner and Chef, Elmer Komagata aims to highlight different Japanese regions through the food he serves at Midnite Ramen. The menu is also influenced by Chef Komagata’s extensive culinary history, which includes building his skills in France as a saucier at a 2-star Michelin restaurant, as well as launching the Riviera Maya Resort Hotel’s sushi, teppan grill, and Asian restaurants in Cancún.

Midnite Ramen’s Kumamoto Miso Bold Ramen before pouring in the broth—they separate them for to-go orders. Photo credit: Andrea Pesola

The star of Chef Komagata’s menu is a classic Japanese ramen with clear chicken and pork broth. This style of ramen is similar to what you would find being served from yatais in the late 1950’s on the streets of Japan. Chef Komagata has made a few adjustments to his ramen, including the removal of MSG, and the addition of fermented cabbage and dried radish to give the broth dimension.

Perhaps a nod to his days as a saucier in France, the broth is reminiscent of a consommé, a clear liquid that results from clarifying stock. Supporting the name, Midnite Ramen, and Chef Komagata’s ultimate vision for the future of the yatai, these classical but deep layered broths are light and easy on the stomach, even when eaten late at night.

The Kumamoto Miso Bold and Kobe Beef Brisket Shoyu packaged to-go. Photo credit: Andrea Pesola

I recently stopped by Figurehead Brewing in the Magnolia neighborhood to try Midnite Ramen. I love the partnership between breweries and food trucks because it means I can easily grab some locally brewed beer to go with my meal! You can often find Midnite Ramen at Figurehead, Obec Brewing, and Holy Mountain Brewing, but be sure to check their locations and hours before visiting.

Figurehead Brewing is open for pints on their patio and crowlers, bottles and growlers to-go. Photo credit: Andrea Pesola

Figurehead has great outdoor, heated seating options, or you can have Chef Komagata package up your ramen to-go. We opted to get our meal to-go—everything travelled back to Capitol Hill fine and the ramen was still hot. From the Beer Snacks portion of the menu, we had the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and one each of the Beef Brisket Steamed Buns and the Chickpea and Kale Curry Steamed Buns. The lettuce wraps were a cold, fresh version of the this dish and I loved it. The flavors were crisp so refreshing when paired with the deep flavors of the ramen.

The Beef Brisket Steamed Buns and the Chickpea and Kale Curry Steamed Buns. Photo credit: Alec Pesola

For ramen, we had the Kobe Beef Brisket Shoyu, an old school shoyu soup with brisket that has simmered for four hours. We also had the Kumamoto Miso Bold, a delicious umami flavored broth with blackened garlic and chilli oil. The flavor was taken up a notch in the miso bold ramen with the addition of an egg and the chashu, braised pork belly. Both ramens were satisfying and two of best bowls of ramen we have had in Seattle, but we both agreed the shoyu with the ultra-tender beef brisket was our favorite.

Our full to-go order from Midnite Ramen. Photo credit: Andrea Pesola

While Midnite Ramen is currently operating as a mobile yatai, Chef Komagata aims to find a more permanent spot. When I asked about where that might be, Chef Kumagata said that he is, “committed to serving ramen in innovative ways, different from a traditional food truck.” He is not committed to any location in particular, and is open to where the future of Midnite Ramen may take him. For now, you can follow the yatai on Instagram @yonaka63 to stay up to date on their schedule and location. Their full menu is available at ramenseattle.com/menu.