It’s Time for Ramen: Early Chatter on Toki Underground
The buzz has been building for months now. And now the District now has a hip Taiwanese-style ramen shop on H Street NE! Erik Bruner-Yang's Toki Underground opened on Friday. On Saturday, there was a three-hour wait!
Certainly, Toki's opening is exciting news, though it's too early to weigh in with any definitive assessments. Young & Hungry will for sure pay a visit soon. But here's a sampling of early chatter in the meantime.
Like [New York City's] Momofuku, Toki is a small spot with attitude, the kind that comes from servers with full-sleeve tattoos, electro-pop music, and skateboards as decoration. In other words, white-tablecloth pretension isn’t part of the equation. Sure, there’s a $475 a bottle of aged Yume Wa Masayume “Dreams Come True” sake to sip with your $10 bowl of ramen while perching on stools at the bar or at one of the three counters lining the graffiti-scribbled walls.
The ramen is good, not great, certainly not worth waiting longer than 20 minutes for. I got the Toki Hakata classic. Hakata is the style of ramen using pork bones for the soup, then sprinkled with nori, black sesame seed, and pickled ginger. It also come with a lean char siu pork, and a really good sous vide soft cooked egg. The noodles they selected are good, but I checked and they are not made, rather ordered (similar to Ren's). The broth was good. I did finish my bowl, but I do prefer a fattier piece of pork with my noodles.
Without ever having set foot in Japan, I think it is safe to say the place is effortlessly Japanese-American, in the best possible way.
Curry chicken, slow cooked egg, endorphin sauce in my ramen. I'm a happy girl.
For further liquid fun, they've got inventive 'tails like the bourbon/ pepper honey liquor/ Scotch-misted "Toki Monster" with an actual skewer of kushiyaki pork belly, the vodka-based “Oolong Hai” with brewed tea and shiso simple syrup, and an Armagnac V.S.O.P./ Domaine de Canton/ lemongrass syrup concoction dubbed the “Super Duper Car”, which's also the slogan Toyota's Tokyo advertising division labored over for months.
All of this portends good things for the future.