Monday, April 25, 2011
Genre: Taiwanese, Ramen
Neighborhood: H Street Corridor
Toki Underground is a brand new ramen joint on the H Street Corridor of DC. This new up and coming area of of DC is a mix of new, trendy development, and kind of drappy-ghettoish spots. Toki Underground is a small joint that is on the roof of a bar next to sticky rice ( I don't remember the name of the bar). There are no tables and looks to seat only about 20 people max, meaning you should expect to wait at least an hour, and up to three to get a seat. Waits will always be crazy here, and weekends have been described as "retarded." The chef Erik Bruner-Yang supposedly spent a good amount of time in Taipei Taiwan, and got his ramen recipe from a famous ramen joint there. I've had ramen in Taipei before, so I had something to compare it to. So how did Toki Underground fare?
After my second attempt to eat here, I finally got to try it! I was scared of these "3 hour wait" rumors I've been hearing about it, so was pleasantly surprised when I was told the wait would be 30-45 minutes...it actually turned out to be more like an hour, but whatev. It was the first actually HOT day of the year and I walked the long way from Union Station. By the time I got there, I was sweating and not in a mood to eat hot ramen.
By the time we got a table, I was able to cool down a bit, but the place was freaking hot indoors! First thing I noticed was the very cool decor. Very street art and Asian superflat inspired. It makes me think of tiny hip restaurants that you could find in Tokyo. All the seating is on bar stools and you get to rest your feet on these kind of skateboard looking platforms with a Day of the Dead skull on it. The bar is covered in Manga, the wall lined with little figurines in glass cases, and the walls/ceilings got some cool Asian lanterns hanging from it.
The first thing I was excited about was seeing that they served Apple Cidra- a kind of Chinese apple soda that I loved drinking as a kid. They also got a beer and sake menu thats definitely worth checking out. I picked the miso Hakata ramen, while my friends got curry Hakata and the classic Hakata. Additionally, I ordered some pan fried dumplings, kimichi, pork belly, and home made siracha sauce. Ramen was delicious- the miso, curry and original were all great! Soup is incredibly flavorful and I love how they use kale instead of cheap bok choy or cabbage. I was sweating hot when I sat down, but didnt care, and literally drowned down that shit. The addition of the pork belly was amaaaaazing. I added the home made siracha sauce to my ramen, but didn't find it spicy at all and it just made my soup saltier...plus they charged me fucking $1.50 for it- really?? For a tiny thing of hot sauce (I hadn't realized it was extra when I asked for hot sauce)?
The kimchi was okay, but I don't believe in paying for my kimchi, so Toki Underground loses some points there. The dumplings were average. I can find much better dumplings somewhere else. I was expecting to find a much greater assortment of dim sum but they really only had the dumpling. I thought I was going to find some real Taiwanese street food like stinky tofu or fried chicken, but was bit disappointed on their selection outside of the ramen. So bottom line, their ramen is amazing, but they're limited on their food selection outside of ramen.
(Update: 06-30-11) So I just noticed that I complained in this post how Toki Underground doesn't serve up more fun Taiwanese side dishes, notably stinky tofu or fried chicken. Funny thing is, I follow them on Twitter and they've been tweeting about some new caramel stinky tofu and Taiwanese fried chicken they've been experimenting and serving and sounds like they've been a great hit! So I retract my previous comment about Toki Underground not serving up enough cool selection outside ramen! :)
1234 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002