The ups and downs of Bantam King

It’s questionable why anyone would open a ramen shop up at the beginning of summer, but the owners of Daikaya might have made a smart move in doing so. I waited in line 15 minutes before the business opened with about 10 other hungry patrons. Walking into the restaurant, I felt as if I stepped into a piece of Tokyo as bright colors filled the walls, comic strips hung from the corners and neon colored trays aligned the booth Kevin and I sat. The team kept its components from the previous Burger King and utilized leftover pieces into the interior decor.

Our waitress was extremely friendly and well-versed in the menu. I noticed a familiar face from Daikaya as I’m sure some of the staff migrated to the new eatery. I ordered a Japanese white peach beer (Takara Chu-Hi JPop) and Kevin asked for a Sapporo. Mine came bottled while his arrived in a mug.

I immediately couldn’t decide between two different style broths. The Tori Chintan Broth comes in limited quantities, which made me want to order it. Do I stick with my usual miso-based soup? I pondered my decision for more than usual until deciding on my typical bowl of Miso Tori Paitan Ramen. Kevin ordered the Shio Tori Paitan Ramen and we decided to split the Fried Chicken Dinner for two with expectations to take leftovers home.

The chicken came out first, but our bowls arrived just minutes after. There’s potential for improving the timing between the two courses since our table became so crowded we had to remove the water jug and awkwardly shift pieces around.

Back to the chicken: my remark is why? I question adding this component to the menu without a unique sense of flavoring. While the chef cooked the fried meat to perfection, most eaters would deem a sauce is necessary. I wrongfully expected a Bon Chon styled dish since it was an Asian restaurant, yet this is a straight Southern American classic. A breast, thigh and drumstick sat in a red checkered box with a comic strip placed on the bottom. The side dishes also lacked additionally flavor. The mac and cheese tasted dried and I could tell a square slice had been placed on top. I scraped the gooey mess bits off before leaving the rest. Additionally there’s nothing special about both the mashed potatoes with gravy and the coleslaw from an average meal at KFC. Sorry, Bantam King but there’s no chance I’ll order this ever again.

On the other hand, the ramen offered the flavor needed from our fried chicken. The broth came creamy, which our waitress shared its texture would be so. Bamboo shoots, braised chicken, a strand of Chinese broccoli, onion and chili bits filled the bowls’ components, yet it cost an additional $2 to add a soft-boiled, poached egg that I cracked into the bowl myself (cool component). The noodles held excellent quality as expected with a slightly thinner component from its sister business.

I can see two perspectives when it comes to loving the ramen. Someone who enjoys an authentic (or near authentic) bowl will not love Bantam King because it’s a unique take from the traditional meal. If you wanted that, then Daikaya’s Ramen shop would be the choice. If you’re an American who doesn’t hold potentially the same palette an Asian does, but loves the concept of a culinary bowl of ramen, you’ll be mind blown by the variety of flavors in this dish.

It will all depend on your background and preference. Either way, it’s also worth a try. 

I’ll be back in a few months to see what changed at Bantam King as I’m sure they’ll be more settled than the second day of opening. But then you wonder whether the chef’s culinary greatness will also still be present as it usually wanders off when there’s no longer a presence.

Time will tell.

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Bantam King is located on 501 G St. NW. 

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