Sunday, November 18, 2012
[Ding ding ding!] RAMEN: ROUND 3! [More boxing bells] Yes yes, yet another ramen shop has recently opened in DC, this time on the other end of Adams Morgan on Columbia Road (www.taandc.com). Since I’ve reviewed the other two major players (Toki Underground and Sakuramen), of course I had to check this place out too. Sooooo….
The décor is nice. There’s a warm funky feel to it. Good ambient lighting with old cameras and doors adorning the walls and shelves. Not sure what theme they are going for exactly, but I’m someone who enjoys antiquing (no, not the urban dictionary definition though that’s kinda funny) on occasion (I know, how old am I?!?! Just an old soul, I swear) so I like things like that.
The service was great. I went on a cold night and the only available seating was right by the front door. There was a space heater pointed directly towards me and the hostess said they were “working on a curtain” for that area. As soon as a table opened up further back in the restaurant, she offered it to us and we gladly accepted!
On to the food. We started with corn fritters for an appetizer – basically some corn mixed in a batter and fried. Pretty tasty – the corn flavor came through the grease flavor which is essential! There was a spicy aioli type sauce served with them – kind of like a sriracha mayo – and it was a nice accompaniment.
I ordered their basic triple stock ramen, but substituted the pork belly for chicken confit. The chicken was super tender and really tasty. The soup? Not so much. It was good, for sure, but the broth just wasn’t as rich as I’d hope it would be. It was in fact a little bland.
My dining buddy got the vegetarian ramen and as you can see, it was cream based. The menu did specify that it was “cream corn soup” but this was some thick cream. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a little strange for a noodle soup. And while also good, there was the same issue with blandness.
We requested salt and our waitress said she would look for some – really? A restaurant doesn’t have salt back in that kitchen? Maybe not as she returned to the table with some chili powder, sesame oil, sriracha sauce and soy sauce. I used 3 of the 4 and was able to achieve more of what I was looking for. My veggie friend did the same and was able to improve the flavor as well but we agreed that we shouldn’t have to be adding so much extra flavoring in order to enjoy the food! I don’t want to totally knock the ramen as it was certainly still edible. The noodles were cooked perfectly, it was filling and there were some tasty add-ins in mine such as pickled cucumbers and a soft egg. Also, had we actually gotten salt, that may have been all we needed to bring out the other flavors. Here’s the final breakdown:
- I love the space and service was great.
- Has a bar, which the other ramen joints are lacking.
- I didn’t see the upstairs seating area but everything on the main level is stools at high top tables – that’s totally fine except the stools have no backs, therefore us ladies have no place to hang our purses and all of us, guys and girls, have no place to hang our coats unless you drape them over the stool then sit on them.
- Offer a broth based vegetarian option! My guess is it would be just as popular as the others and not everyone wants a bowl of cream.
- Even though I substituted chicken confit for the pork belly that was supposed to be in my soup, I was still charged the extra $3 for the chicken. I didn’t ADD chicken, I substituted – don’t charge for that! For whatever reason - to me, $11-$12 is ok to pay for soup, but $15 is not.
- Drinks aren’t cheap. Beers are $9-$13 and cocktails are $11-$13 each – yikes! I’d hope my drink would be less than my food…
- The ramen prices are equivalent to the competitors – Toki is $11-$12 while Sakuramen is $11-$15. Taan’s range from $12-$15.
Would I go back? Yes – I’d try it one more time after they’ve been open a little longer to see if they’ve worked out the kinks. But if I had to judge now, I’d say Toki #1, Sakuramen #2 and Taan #3 – with potential to move up.