By Derek Mong and Daphne Domingo
Ramen is quite possibly one of the most popularized Asian dish in the Western world. Originally a Japanese noodle dish consisting of Chinese wheat noodles in broth, it has morphed into a whole cuisine. Below is a roundup of 8 top ramen restaurants in the DC area.
NOOSHI (http://www.nooshidc.com) — While Nooshi might not be the first place you think of when you think of D.C. ramen, having a bowl of their “Oodles Spicy Seafood Ramen” with shrimp, squid, fish cake, snow crab, and vegetables will make you a believer. The great thing about Nooshi is that you can get a whole assortment of Asian-fusion fare like Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp or Hakka Style Chinese Eggplant to accompany your bowl of pungent, aromatic ramen. (1120 19th St NW between L & M, Washington, DC 20036)
TOKI UNDERGROUND (http://tokiunderground.com) — With a menu inspired by Chef Yang’s experience at a Hakata Ramen shop in Taipei, the authentic, aromatic flavors at this widely acclaimed Ramen restaurant are certainly not to be understated. The Toki Classic (Tonkotsu triple stock with chasu pulled pork, seasonal vegetables, soft egg, red pickled ginger, sesame, scallions, nori) seems to be the go-to favorite for those who frequent this fixture of the H Street Corridor, but their Kimchi ramen (Tonkotsu triple stock with chashu pulled pork, seasonal vegetables, soft egg, red pickled ginger, sesame, scallions, nori, topped with locally made kimchi) is sure to warm you up on a cold winter day. (1234 H Street NE between N 13th Street & N 12th Street, Washington, D.C. 20002)
TIP: Be sure to check out Toki at Union Market from 11:30am to 2:30pm Monday through Saturday for their special Shoyu Ramen for only $12 with ingredients sourced from Union Market itself!
Taan Noodles (www.taannoodles.com) offers a tucked-in respite away from the usual Adams Morgan party scene and if their soothing ramen selection doesn’t do the trick, the variety of appetizers, including okonomiyaki (shrimp and cabbage pancake) and papaya salad as well as knowledgeable and attentive service should certainly help. The ramen to get, however, is the Taan Maze-men, which has a lot less broth than the typical ramen dishes, but is chock full of ramen ingredients including both a well-executed slice of pork belly, a savory piece of duck confit, accompanied by perfect portions of pickled cucumber, dashi tomato, roasted corn, scallions, mushrooms, mustard greens, chili, nori and an egg yolk to mix with everything together. Or if you like lots of broth, the Taan Triple Stock is also an excellent choice. An impressive feature is their vegan ramen, not to be mistaken for their vegetarian ramen, which uses a spicy soy milk broth as its base and is filled with various greens, mushrooms, corn, garlic chips, fried mochi, scallions tofu and their spicy vegetable of the day. This is one of those gems where it’s difficult to go wrong with anything you order. (1817 Columbia Road, NW)
Away from the usual locations of DC and Annandale, Wheaton just north of Silver Spring serves as a new Asian dining destination thanks to Ren’s Ramen (www.rens-ramen.com), one of the best ramen restaurants in the metropolitan area. Their noodles are imported regularly from Sapporo, Japan and it’s obvious they are well-attended to upon their arrival, along with all their other carefully selected ingredients. It’s difficult to go wrong with either their shoyu (soy sauce), tonshio (salt) or miso (soy bean paste) bases since they take such great care with their rich and filling Tonkatsu (pork bone) broth. Just beware that this is cash-only establishment, although still worth the trip up north. (11403 Amherst Ave., Wheaton, MD)
SAKURAMEN (http://sakuramen.info/web) — From founders Jay & Jonathan, Sakuramen is all about ramen as the “ultimate comfort food,” and this Addams Morgan establishment, nestled in a cozy basement on 18th street, hits home in all the right places. Whether you’re a meat lover going for their SHOKI bowl filled with an assortment of different types of meat or a die-hard vegetarian opting for their signature SAKURAMEN vegetarian bowl (Kombu broth with menma, corn, green onion, mushrooms, etc.), this intimate ramen shop—that opened less than two years ago—will have you thinking you’ve been coming here for years. (2441 18th Street NW between N Columbia Road & N Adams Mill Road, Washington, D.C. 20009)
If you’re not willing to brave the traffic into DC, Tanpopo Ramen Noodle House (www.tanpoporamenhouse.com) in Annandale may offer a more convenient location. Tucked away inside a mini-mall behind A&J, the tiny restaurant offers a variety of ramen dedicated to geographic regions of Japan, including the usual soy (Tokyo), miso (Hokkaido) and salt (Kyushu), as well as a spicy version (Nagasaki). And if the big bowls aren’t enough to satisfy, the restaurant also has a decent sized sushi bar. (4316 Markham St., Annandale, VA)
Kintaro Japanese Restaurant (www.kintaro4649.net) offers such a lovely setting for a steamy bowl of ramen, and at a decent price especially for the upscale neighborhood of Georgetown. They serve shoyu, miso and tonkatsu ramen which is served pretty quickly, using high quality ingredients. The place is small and they don’t take reservations, so it’s highly recommended to arrive early. (1039 33rd St., NW)
DAIKAYA (http://daikaya.com) — No D.C. ramen guide would be complete without mention of the much-anticipated Daikaya on 6th street in Chinatown. Opening just this year, Daikaya is actually two separate spaces: a first floor fast-paced ramen shop and a second floor restaurant (Izakaya) that serves your full-fare of Japanese comfort food. So whether you’re downing a bowl of Shoyu ramen on “1F” or enjoying one of their heavy-handed cocktails on “2F,” the hip, urban atmosphere of this ramen shop/restaurant duo makes it the perfect place for an after-work bite or a savory weekend indulgence. (705 6th Street NW at N G Place, Washington, D.C. 20001)