Slurp, slurp

The tonkotsu broth simmers for 18 hours to achieve its full flavor.

JINYA Pike & Rose opens today in North Bethesda, making it that much easier for Marylanders to enjoy a warm bowl of Japanese noodle soup. Last night, I attended the preview opening party where waiters passed salmon poke and spicy tuna tacos, tempura brussel sprouts, takoyaki balls, pork gyoza and crispy chicken. JINYA served mini-sized ramen bowls, so that guests could taste all three different broths: Spicy Creamy Vegan, Tonkotsu Black and Chicken.

Upon my arrival, the friendliest bartenders served two cocktails: Garden of Todai, a modern take on a margarita, and the Temple of Love, a contemporary rendition of a classic Manhattan. I snagged a high-top seat by the large windows (natural lighting is everything!), which turned out to be the perfect spot to grab appetizers and chat with the party next to me.

As someone who enjoys a solid bowl of miso ramen, I was excited by the opportunity to try all three noodle soups. When else would I ever have the opportunity to order a vegan bowl? Surprisingly this dish turned out to be one of my favorite bowls of ramen to date. I deemed it a vegan eater’s dream because of its equivalency to a porky flavored bowl. In a world where an increasing number of people decide to pursue a vegan lifestyle, there’s increased competition for the best food and JINYA comes as a top contender.

While I didn’t care too much for the chicken ramen out of personal preference, my sister Jenna enjoyed it with a hint of spice tossed in. She deemed it delicious, while I nibbled on a few bites before pushing it away. When it comes to the tonkotsu ramen, however, it went missing after three minutes. The porky flavor consumes you without enduring an over-the-top richness. After all, this is the restaurant chain’s speciality as the chef simmers it for more than 18 hours to achieve a full flavor.

Hopefully Marylanders won’t be lining up for hours as Virginians did for the Mosaic District opening. To be fair, the first 100 people to visit JINYA today earn a free bowl of ramen. Doesn’t that mean a line is inevitable? There’s no better way to kick off a grand opening than with high demand for noodles, even in this summer heat.

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JINYA Ramen Bar Pike & Rose is located at 910 Prose Street, North Bethesda, MD.

Terakawa Ramen

Summer heat can’t stop the ramen love.

My love for ramen doesn’t stop because it’s 90 degrees outside. During my trip to Philadelphia, I stopped at Chinatown for a steaming noodle bowl. We started off with the takoyaki and chicken cutlet curry. From top to bottom, we ordered the miso ramen, bibim noodle (on the new/special menu) and the tan tan ramen.

If you’re ever craving a hot bowl of noodle soup, be sure to stop at Terakawa. Your tastebuds will thank you.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my adventures at the mosaic garden and maze exhibition!

Hi, Haikan

A new ramen joint in Shaw.

So. Much. Ramen.

Jinya arrived; Bantam King opened. Yet another noodle shop sweeps DC with delicious ramen despite the summer heat.

I eat this Japanese dish like it’s my job. I had my doubts about Haikan, but boy this establishment surpassed my expectations.

Elements feel eerie of Daikaya’s Noodle Shop, but that’s no surprise since it’s owned by the same team. Yet the interior decoration embodies a typical ramen restaurant with a large bar area against several tables to accompany groups and couples (booths included).

My friends and I stopped by the second day after it opened and met a 30-40 minute wait around 7:30 pm. After all, prime dinner rush coupled with the beautiful Atlantic Plumbing building made this a “must-visit” amongst residents and friends. We waited half an hour before realizing we could sit at any open seats at the bar. No one told us, but we found our way.

I ordered a $10 draft San-gu-ria, a unique take on berry, yuzu cocktail. I could sip this and my friend’s gurepu-furutsu all night long while eating a steaming bowl of noodles.

We diverted from the mapo tofu poutine since we figured it could easily be concocted in our own households and instead opted for eggs and Crab Rangoons.  For $4 you can eat two tea-boiled eggs (also similarly used in the add-on ramen bowl) topped with egg roe and and a creamy sauce. Excellent. The crab rangoons came standard, the only unique bit: a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning.

My miso ramen exceeded my expectations mainly because the broth didn’t taste too salty and the noodles’ consistency tasted near perfection. A special touch, the chef sautéed the bean sprouts to add further depth and flavor rather than a typical “filler” ingredient. Be sure to pay extra for the egg and chashu. The thick-cut meat held its necessary fattiness and texture that upheld the additional price. If you choose to skip out, there’s ground pork in the bowl.

The staff is still trying to figure out the means. My friend’s bowl didn’t look like it held the same standard as mine’s since it had thinly sliced chashu with less fat.

Give it a go before hitting 9:30 Club or a friend’s apartment. I’ll definitely be heading back.

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Haikan is located on 805 V St NW. 

Jinya Ramen Bar opens in Virginia’s Mosaic District

A bit of West Coast drops into the DMV.

Yet another ramen joint opened its doors despite the increasing temperatures. With California origins, I expected top-quality from Jinya Ramen.

Go ahead and walk inside to see if there’s a long wait, spot at the bar or seat available at the communal table. Immediately upon walking in you’ll hear tons of noise. This place is loud.

Our waiter embodied a positive attitude and obvious love for the food since he praised everything I ordered. Although he didn’t know the alcohol menu well (probably underage), he did grab someone who did and I ordered a Sailor Moon.

Our appetizers took a noticeably long time to arrive. First came out a $4 JINYA Bun (bao), which we agreed tasted fine, but not great enough for us to pay upon a future visit. Next came the Brussels Sprouts Tempura in a small wooden box.  You could smell the uniqueness from the truffle oil the chef fried it in. Our final appetizer, the Fried Pig Ears, came with a soft-boiled egg cracked half open. We mixed it amongst the meat and kale. I would order both of these starters again since there’s nothing else like them in DC.

At this point, Justin and I craved our ramen, yet envisioned the foreseen fullness from our meal. The waiter served my Cha Cha Cha tonkotsu noodle bowl while crushing fresh garlic and serving poached egg on the side. The thick broth tasted rich and I instantly knew I wouldn’t finish this since it also came with the thick set of noodles. The noodles are spectacular; go and try the thicker ones yourself. The refreshing taste of a Sailor Moon cocktail paired perfectly with the bowl. Justin’s Premium Tonkotsu White held Western notes since I immediately tasted almost all butter in the broth. Either way, he ate the entire bowl, including the thinner noodles, before reaching for my bowl. Most notable: the pork chashu. Jinya doesn’t skimp on the meat and there’s no better way for it to be cooked.

Now that I’ve criticized the food…

Throughout my entire meal, I felt uncomfortable while sitting at the communal table. My suggestion is to avoid it at all costs unless you have a party of four (and even then at maybe you should still wait for your own table). We sat so close to our surrounding parties that along with the restaurant’s high noise level, I could potentially drink someone else’s water, splatter them with broth or listen to any and all conversations. Justin and I barely talked through our whole meal since we could barely hear each other and once the volume of music turned up, we thought it was better to just text each other. A food runner even gave us our neighbor’s food on accident. In addition, there’s nowhere to place a purse or jacket. Where are the hooks? I would never place my valuables on the floor.

Let’s be fair, it’s day two of opening. The team is working to get those kinks out.

Despite me naturally snapping food pictures with my G5X, the manager said hi to both parties next to us (both American diners), but never acknowledged me and Justin. How is he able to check on some customers and not others?

Despite some discomfort and questions, the food is worthy of several visits, especially to try everything on the menu. Just make sure you grab a table or bar seat and place your valuables appropriately. 🙂

No dessert for us since we over ordered so many fried appetizers.

Although it’s Jinya Ramen’s second day of business, I’m excited to see whether or not the food and service will get worse or remain the same. For now, it’s definitely worth the return as they prepare to implement reservations in the future.

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Jinya Ramen Bar is located on 2911 District Ave in Fairfax, VA.

Checked Yona off my ramen bucket list

But I fell in love with Uni Waffles (and potentially anything Chef Jonah Kim creates).

A year ago, I tried a bowl of ramen at the Yona pop-up at G by Mike Isabella. While I admit I didn’t have the best palette back then for the Japanese noodle bowl, I can say that the restaurant made leaps of changes that can be seen at its Ballston location.

Yona’s interior embodied contemporary simplicity with natural light flooding the venue from full-sized windows and dim lights suspended from the ceiling. Everything felt minimalistic but artistic with light-colored wood tables and butt frames for comfort engraved on bar chairs. You can even watch Chef Jonah Kim whip up your order from behind the open kitchen.

While more ramen shops continue to open in the greater Washington DC area, Yona made its mark in Northern Virginia. I ate a delicious, perfectly seasoned miso porky ramen. Justin and I split the miso Porky and deemed it one of the best in the city as far as sticking with a traditional dish. The broth wasn’t too greasy or rich with its heavy flavoring of miso and ideal amount of noodles to split between two. I would come back for you miso porky.

Our biggest takeaway though was the Uni Waffle. Who would have thought the creaminess from sea urchin would bounce off the flavors of a not-too-sweet breakfast favorite topped off with bits of Ikura (salmon roe)? The dish offers such depth that the Washington Post deemed it worthy of one of its best eats this year. Yum.

To accompany any good ramen bowl, Justin and I ate pork buns before digging into our shared noodle dish. They were subpar and we wished there was a moisture component to add in addition to the vegetable inside. Either way, it’s much better than some others.

Dessert is an excellent way to end a meal and potentially show off your culinary expertise in a posh setting. With three options available, we chose the Roasted Pineapple Ice Cream Sundae. The bittersweet chocolate covered a vanilla scoop of ice cream with a slice of pineapple aligning the frozen ball. The bits of maple bacon added that salty component alongside the sweet and sour flavors from the fruit.

This restaurant is a gem with plenty of reasons to return ranging from guided sake flights, Sunday Fried Chicken Buckets and lunch sets. I forgot to mention my thirst to try the entire alcoholic beverage menu after enjoying a boo rad.

My suggestion: Go. Now.

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Yona is located 4000 Wilson Blvd in Arlington, VA. 

Morimoto’s ramen shop

A review of a rich Japanese noodle bowl in Manhattan.

The foodie-sphere embodies those who know celebrity chefs and people who go out of their way to try the newest venture in town. In April, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto opened his first ramen venture in Manhattan. It landed news on Hypebeast and made my must-eat list the next time I visited the city.

Momosan Ramen & Sake shop regularly packs with a diverse crowd of eaters ranging from those speaking foreign languages to the stand on your chair to capture the most beautiful gram ever visitors. Eater NY recently ranked the business No. 16 on its heat map, which led me to believe I would wait in an hour-long line before eating one of my favorite dishes. Yet on a Saturday morning, I found about 10 patrons forming a small queue just before 11:30 am when the restaurant opened.

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Since we stopped in early and two friends ran from two blocks away, the staff seated us at a table for six despite the two missing patrons. Luckily they showed up within four minutes so we kept our promise of filling the spots. We scanned the menu while sitting at a long table with another party of four next to us, but separated so we couldn’t hear much of their conversation. The interior of the restaurant is contemporary with light-colored wood across the ceiling, dangling light bulbs and uplighting against the bottles at the bar.

I ordered a lunch set complete with a zuke don, tantan ramen, kakuni bao a side of pickled cabbage. With the addition of the bun, the total came out to $19 before tax, but hey at least I felt its worth with the raw tuna and celebrity chef name. First came the don with questionably sushi rice, soy marinated tuna, seaweed, scallions and sesame seeds. The tuna’s texture tasted unlike anything I have ever eaten with a gummy-like chewiness. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty and the small portion left me with a desire to eat an even bigger bowl the next time around. Next came one six-hour braised pork belly bao. The meat was slightly dry, but nothing that an avid bao eater would recognize. A piece of lettuce laid on top added the necessary crunch and there was a perfect amount of duck sauce inside.

Finally the ramen. Momosan described the tantan bowl as “spicy coconut curry, pork chashu, red miso ground pork, aji-tama, cilantro.” The broth held a thick consistency foreshadowing a true richness embodied by coconut milk and spice. The ground pork heightened the taste of the tasty chashu against the miso element. As expected, the egg came perfectly boiled with a runny middle. Justin ordered a tonkotsu ramen that came heavily composed with a seaweed garlic broth that he deemed not great enough to finish. He finished the elements inside but left the broth. The logo on the seaweed though added that must-snap shot though.

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Sadly there’s no dessert offerings, but maybe you can chase your meal with a shot of sake to cleanse your palette.

I can imagine revisiting Momosan for my lunch set and unique tantan ramen. If I have to wait more than 15 minutes though, I would set my sights for Totto.

 

Momosan Ramen & Sake is located on 342 Lexington Avenue in New York. 

 

More than just OKI!

Popped into one of my favorite ramen joints in DC.

DC weather and I have a love-hate relationship. The past few days have been filled with sporadic showers, wet pavements, crazy humidity and unexpected hail. With chilly temperatures, I contemplated whipping out my winter jackets, but decided to revisit my favorite ramen spots in DC. It’s been almost a whole year since I last visited OKI Bowl.

After exploring Dupont Underground with friends, we arrived to the restaurant and spotted a few lurking patrons waiting for the store to open its doors. After a few minutes, we popped inside and sat at the table by the window. If you’ve never seen the interior of OKI Bowl, it’s quite spectacular with dim lighting and unique art. The space embodies a hipster-like environment with its mason water jars and tin cans holding chopsticks.

We ate fried octopus legs as an appetizer. Although it’s impossible for one person to get full from the starter, it’s a nice way to tease a the Japanese entree. I ordered my favor rite curry chicken ramen, which tasted spicier than I previously remembered. A bundle of fried carbs sat on top of tender chicken, additional noodles and a coconut curry flavorful broth. The miso bowl came standard with bamboo shoots, corn, scallions and beef. Justin and TheKevinJ gave it two thumbs up and agreed it made their list of favorite DC ramen bowls.

 

OKI Bowl DC is located on 1817 M St NW.