Ren's Ramen, Bethesda
Great ramen has finally arrived in the D.C. area: Ren's Ramen has opened inside of Daruma Japanese Market in Bethesda, serving up steaming hot bowls of Sapporo-style goodness. Ren's has taken over Daruma's seating area and, it looks like, part of its kitchen.
The wife, Japanese, had the miso ramen, which she declared very good. I tried the pork shio ramen, including extra pork, which had a very good, rich broth. The pork was a little disappointing, though -- not too tender. They also have vegetable shio ramen and shoyu ramen, as well as gyoza.
Prices are on the high side -- $10.00 for a bowl of miso or shio ramen ain't exactly cheap. Plus, my extra pork set me back another $3.50. Don't plan to order that again. Egg and corn are extra. But the ramen here, while not quite as good as some places in NYC and NJ, beats the hell out of the slop served at other places around D.C., including Temari Cafe in Rockville. My wife and I will surely be regulars.
Yes, it is the great news. I have heard the rumor of the ramen restaurant. It has been a big buzz in the Japanese community recently. I would like to try the ramen soon! Finally we do not have to go to Mitsuwa in NJ or NYC for the real ramen? How large is the restaurant?
It is a tiny place but was not crowded on a Saturday lunch - maybe not discovered yet, so you should run right out and try it like I did!
I thought the broth of the miso ramen was excellent. The shio was not what I am used to - a smoky pork taste almost like bacon. The pork seems like it's oven roasted, which I also found disappointing. There is a sign on the wall that you can get stewed fatty pork for an extra charge.
The main problem is that to get exactly what I want - which would be to add corn, more bamboo shoots, and probably that fatty pork- you'd be talking like 15 dollars for a bowl of soup. Cheaper than a trip out of town, but not an everyday possibility.
So actually my verdict is that this place is just what I hoped - it's good enough that I'd definitely eat there again on my occassional visits to Daruma, but not so perfect that I am going to have a constant inconvenient craving and always be moaning that I don't live closer.
I visited the store last Saturday on a lunch time. It was very crowded. The tastes of ramen was satisfactory, however, I cannot say it is great IMO. May be my expectation was too high... The gyoza was tasty. The price was a little bit expensive, if I need more toppings, the price will be steep as a bowl of ramen ! The restaurant seemed have a lunch menu on weekday, it will be good deal. Anyway, when I have an opportunity to go Bethesda area, I will definitely stop there again. I wish if there was a ramen restaurant in my neighborhood...
Having heard the news, me and my wife decided to check it out. First, decor is okay. The menu is tiny. It consist of ramen in three flavors, and not my favorite pork bone flavor. Adding the two specials makes it 5 choices of ramen available (or three pork, one veggie, and one cold.) Price is 10 dollars or north, a tiny bit steep for Ramen. Yes, if you want bamboo shoots, eggs, corn... and stuff that may typically be expected one way or another in ramen, is extra money.
The noodle itself is decent. The libral use of the bean sprout gives a bit of texture to the noodle. The soup base is flavorful but a bit too salty. The pork is undercooked...it's tough and flavor hasn't soaked in. There is only one piece of this pork....thank God for their cheapness?
Half way into waiting for the food, we noticed the loud speaker blasting the same Japanese song, repeated over and over. Even though it's the same music as the grocery store, the grocery store had it way down to not be noticible. By the time I got my Ramen, I was going bonkers. It took a lot of discipline to finish my noodle dish.
In summary, yes, Ren has decent ramen, and better than Temari. But it's easy to beat Temari as it uses pre-packaged Ramen, and we don't eat ramen at Temari...we enjoy the rest of the extensive menu at Temari. Service is better at Temari. The service attitude is better at Temari. I don't want to go into a restaurant and being clearly nickled and dimed for stuff. You don't see Micky Dee's charging another buck for lettuce, a buck for pickles, two for tomato, and another 50 cents for the ketchup on top of a 5 dollar burger. If rent is expensive, charge me $15 a bowl, and put everything in it. Don't make your customers feel like they are shortchanged, and have to be nickled and dimed to get what they expect....on top of very plain service. Perhaps this is an attempt to "diversify" their monotonous menu, but it's not a good strategy. Yes, get rid of the speakers too.