Toki Underground finally opening - ramen on H Street
Ate there tonight. Keeping in mind that it's still the first real week they've been open, they're doing well. Right now factoring food, service, and ambiance, I would give them 3 out of 5 stars. Once they get their sea legs, and they seem to be refining their menu, they'll probably be able to achieve 3.5 or 4 out of five. I would recommend going at least once, just to check it out.
We were 7 people; a big party, especially for a 25-seat space. We waited downstairs at the Pug after giving them our name and number. There was a small snafu with the seating, and we waited for an hour but we didn't mind, since it's still the hot new place. The hostess was a bit overwhelmed, but very friendly, and apologized for our wait. Everything is bar-style seating; there are no tables, so we ended up seated in a couple different parts of the restaurant, but since it was tiny, and extremely "neighborhood ramen stand-y," we felt comfortable visiting the rest of our party once to see what they were eating and once to say good-bye. The music selection was good, and the noise level was actually pretty good aside from the occasional yelling of orders (which seems to be the MO of ramen places).
My bf and I were seated at the bar, where we were served by the friendly and attentive GM/Bartender. I was intrigued by some of the drinks he was making, and excitedly explained what they were, and how much care was put into the ingredients. We did not have any cocktails, but they looked awesome. Instead, we had the house warm sake, and at $5, it was a decent quantity and quality. Very smooth, not super complex, but tasty.
I ordered the Mr. Brown cappuccino in a can because I haven't seen it anywhere in DC (I haven't looked in the suburbs), and it was nostalgically awesome. Unless you also have nostalgic memories of Mr. Brown though, I will warn you it is $2, which is a decent markup. They also have Japanese marble soda and yes, they let you open it yourself, which rules. What you're really paying for is the fun and the importing.
We ordered the dumplings pan-fried, and our friends ordered some steamed. The dumplings were not worth it. Skin was tough and chewy, filling wasn't particularly flavorful. Pretty disappointing, unfortunately. For entrees, I had the original tonkotsu hakata, while my boyfriend had the kimchi hakata. Here's where it gets interesting.
My original was all right. Good: the chashu, the soft boiled eggs, the veggies, the seaweed, the extra chashu pork loin I added. Not as good: surprisingly, the broth and the noodles were the weakest part of the dish. The broth was rather one-dimensional and quite salty. The noodles - which I found out later were vegan and contain no egg - were chewy and not snappy like they should be. Some other people who have reviewed this place seem to feel the same way, and the GM actually did ask us specifically how the noodles were. Unfortunately, the conversation immediately turned to something else because my boyfriend was talking and I was unable/feeling too awkward to provide feedback.
The kimchi hakata - to which my bf added the house-made sriracha - was pretty awesome. His noodles were just as chewy, but the broth was quite different (lighter, and not as overloaded with salt) and was improved by the kimchi vinegar-y spiciness. The sriracha itself was quite good too.
Even though we were stuffed, I felt that I should at least try dessert... you know, so I would have a rounded report. For you. I did it for you guys. The options were chocolate chip cookies with red bean paste and caramel center, almond cookies, a dessert bento of green tea meringue, something I can't remember, and Mr. Brown gelee, and they list a dessert of the day, but that won't be available until summer, and that will be house-made ice cream. We chose the red bean paste chocolate chip cookies and they were seriously amazing. They come out nice and warm, buttery, and with an adorable decanter of milk. They were soft and the red bean paste was also flavored with something citrusy. Totally worth it $7.
It seems like they are really actively listening to feedback, and I feel like the wait and the slightly awkward service is just something that comes with a restaurant in its infancy. The GM also explained to us that soon they will set up some sort of reservation system, so there aren't 3-hr long waits as they had on the weekend. I feel like that will improve things, but I hope they reserve quite a few seats for walk-ins, because it's supposed to be like a ramen stand, and I feel like that's just how it goes with those places. Plus, with 25 seats, it would suck to have to reserve months in advance... it's just not that kind of destination.
All-in-all, cute place, worth visiting at least once, and in a couple of months, I imagine it'll be a fun, worthwhile place to go when you're on the H Street strip.
[full disclosure: we went to Ippudo just a week and a half ago and this is def not as good, though the atmosphere is way more fun and hip]
I ate there last night- they've been open for H St locals the past few days, apparently. Food was good, decor and aesthetic are great. I agree with you that it's probably going to be really crowded, but the nice thing about it is that it should be quick turnover, since it's all noodle soups and dumplings, primarily. They have a decent sake selection and the specialty cocktails looked interesting. Definitely a great addition to H St!
I don't think this is Taipei or Taiwanese ramen, I think this is just a Taiwanese chef who said, "Hey you know what I miss that I used to have in Taiwan? Ramen joints. And Mr. Coffee." And then opened one up here. I haven't been back to see my grandparents in years, so I might be wrong, but as far as I know there's not really Taiwanese ramen.
In other news, I am super excited to try this out and I waited an hour and a half for a table at Ippudo this weekend, so my legs are nice and strong for ramen-waiting.