Restaurant Review: Stellar Ramen at Koyoté | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Restaurant Review: Stellar Ramen at Koyoté

North Salt Lake's newest ramen restaurant leaves you breathless–but not brothless.


  • Alex Springer

With blustery gray storms pushing their way across the Wasatch Front, a hot bowl of your favorite soup always tastes a little better than usual. Lately, I've found my soup of choice to be a big bowl of steamy ramen. I mean, I enjoy ramen any time of year really, but it's been nothing short of a lifesaver during these final days of winter's tenuous grip on the seasonal steering wheel.

As both a ramen fan and a diner in need of something to stave off the chill in my bones, I was intrigued by early reviews of Koyoté, a new ramen bar that recently opened near the Marmalade neighborhood. I visited Koyoté during a flash blizzard that put most of downtown Salt Lake City into whiteout conditions—perfect for trudging into a restaurant and ordering one of their signature bowls of hotness.

The clean lines of the exterior and the simple elegance of the interior evoke a fine-dining vibe that is devoid of stuffiness—it's hip, but casual. I grabbed a spot at the bar, where individual bottles of water crowned with an upside-down cup await. Your dining spot also has a QR code where you can use your smartphone to open a tab. Koyoté was designed to be a place where friends can socialize amid drinks and small plates while the hours drift by like heady whiffs of ramen broth.

Before you take a deep dive into Koyoté's ramen menu, don't overlook some of their excellent small plates. Whether you're going plant-based or otherwise, there is plenty of flavor to be had here. If you're after a few quick bites to prep your palate for other dining delights, the Daily Otoshi ($3), an assortment of house-pickled veggies, or the Atsu Kimchi ($5) are going to be your best friends. Koyoté really lends itself to planning out a multi-course meal, and no such gameplan is complete without a few plates of these acidic starters.

From there, it's a bit of choose-your-own-adventure. I'm never going to say no to their crispy house gyoza ($6)—also available vegan style for $7—but the star of the starters was by far the Mabo Tofu ($9). I first got hooked on this dish at the now-closed Szechuan Garden, and the team at Koyoté absolutely nails it. If you've had this before, you'll want to note that Koyoté prepares their mabo Japanese-style, which isn't as spicy as its Sichuan cousin. It also comes served with plant-based meat instead of the traditional ground pork, so score another one for the vegan crowd. Though it lacks the tingly tongue-lashing offered by the Sichuan version, it retains a decent amount of heat and flavor from all that luscious chili oil. The silken tofu cubes are texturally gorgeous, and it's a joy to add some white rice to the party and scoop it all up into a soft yet spicy bite.

It's true that a satisfying and edifying visit to Koyoté is possible without even trying the ramen, but why on Earth would you want to do a thing like that? As soon as you enter the restaurant, you can smell that intoxicating ramen broth bubbling away, just waiting to be ladled over some thin noodles and brought to your table. Ignoring such delights is just wrong, dear readers.

If you're not going the plant-based route, the Classic ($14) and the American Shoyu ($15) are excellent bets. The Classic is more what I'm after when I get the ramen cravings. It's got the thin soba noodles, a flavorful chicken and pork broth, some sliced chashu pork and a marinated, soft-boiled egg. All the traditional ingredients are here, and they just sing once they hit your mouth. It's not a full-bodied assault of flavors and textures; it's a much more subtle affair that is only enhanced by the bath of aromas that tickle your nose every time you lean close to your bowl for a bite. The soft-boiled egg is an unsung hero of this dish, and I will likely order extra on my next bowl.

By contrast, the American Shoyu packs a richer, beefier kick imparted by the sizable slice of smoked brisket swimming in the bowl. It's a lovely, tender cut of meat; this is the ramen you'd order when flecks of winter snow are sticking to your eyebrows and your feet have gone numb, as it will put the life right back into you.

Other ramen standouts include the Tonkotsu Tsukemen ($14) and the Tantan-men ($14). The former is Koyoté's rendition of dipping ramen, a dish that boasts a thicker, richer broth where the diner can dip their noodles. The Tantan-men is a vegetarian ramen steeped in a sesame broth that brings the mapo chili oil back into the picture for a bit of spicy kick.

Regardless of what your ramen journey looks like at Koyoté, you'll leave with the feeling that you've just been somewhere quite special. I'm still trying to put my finger on it, but the experience here just hits different. I guess I'll just have to keep going back until I figure it out.