Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday Night at Toki Underground

This past Saturday evening, Jarrett and I made double date plans (though we would never actually call it a double date) with our good friends Dan and Sarah, who always seemed to be at a wedding every time we’ve tried to hang out with them recently.  When Dan suggested Toki, I was thrilled because I’d been hearing that name a lot in the DC food world, as well as in my daily Tasting Table emails.  When we finally narrowed down the date to Saturday, and Dan told me there would likely be a 2 hour wait unless we arrived at a geriatric hour, I was leaning towards disappointed, but all’s well that ends well.

Toki Underground
1234 H St. NE
Washington, DC 20002

We were quite fortunate in that Dan and Sarah live a few blocks from H St. and offered to go and put their names in, then kill time at our favorite local H St. pub, Little Miss Whiskey’s, until it was time to eat.  (Toki doesn’t take reservations and only has 30-something seats and no waiting area so they’re totally down with you waiting it out at a local pub and will call/text when your table is about ready.)  Sure enough, Dan and Sarah put their names in around 7, Jarrett and I finally made our way up there around 8:30, and we were seated by 9.

Toki Underground is a new(ish) tiny Taiwanese Ramen/Dumpling Joint in the H St. corridor which recently made the list of the 38 essential Washington restaurants per  If you can go on a weeknight (when I hear the wait is only about half an hour) or have the patience (or alcoholic inclinations to drink for 2 hours prior to dinner) to wait on the weekend, then I fully endorse this claim.  However, I must mention that I was very surprised that immediately upon entering this establishment, we had no choice but to go up the flight of stairs in front of us to get to the kitchen and dining area. (Maybe they thought “Toki Aboveground” didn’t sound as cool?)

Anywho, from what I could see, there weren’t too many actual tables, mostly a long bar around the room, and we were lucky enough to be seated right in front of the kitchen.  This was our view.

Hello, kitty!
Note:  Maybe it’s just because I’m a sweaty person in general, and though sitting that close to the chef/cooks was cool, it was also HOT!  Especially when I started scarfing down my ramen broth.  At least our after-dinner plans were Rock & Roll Hotel, so it didn’t really matter.  But I’m getting off-topic… another story for another time.

Their menu is not extensive, but when you’ve got a niche, it doesn’t really need to be.  Also, everything is filthy cheap.

As appetizers, we got ½ dozen each of the pork and chicken dumplings.  Phenomenal!

Sorry, one's missing cuz we ate it already:)

Since it was my first dining here, I decided to go with the Toki Hakata Classic, figuring it was their “baseline” dish.  No idea if that was the case, but it was a-maz-ing.  I washed it down with a Satsuma Yum! off of their cocktail list.

Pork loin chashu, seasonal vegetables, 1/2 boiled egg, red pickled ginger,  sesame, scallions, and nori in a delicious noodle broth... yum!

Note that we go both chopsticks AND a big spoon.  I must admit that I’m not the most proficient with chopsticks (though I can certainly manage) so that made it a bit difficult to politely eat (I’m also kinda naturally messy when I eat), so another warning if you’re going somewhere fancy afterwards.  That being said, I would gladly come back and slurp noodles all over my face any day!  To be completely honest, I don’t understand why I saw so many “finished diners’” bowls heading back to the kitchen with so much broth in them… that was the best part!

Also, you get little candies when you pay:)  Please excuse the poor photo quality.

Let’s just say this is the best ramen I’ve ever had.  And the only ramen I’ve ever liked:)

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