1234 H street NW, second floor, washington, DC 20002
tel: 202) 388-3086
hours: monday-wednesday, sunday 5pm-10pm; thursday-saturday 5pm-12am
what was consumed: toki hakata classic, kimchee ramen, curry chicken hakata, masumi vegetarian, pan-fried pork dumplings, fried beef dumplings, taiwanese style cold tofu, pickled cucumbers, dessert bento box, warm cookies
toki underground is FINALLY open!!! woohoo!!! toki's chef, eric, let m know that they were doing a sort of unofficial opening. bunches of us, then, put ourselves on the reservation list and counted the days. yeehaw!
i remember when, while still under construction, i had the pleasure of visiting the (then future) site of toki underground. i got the low down on what the space was going to look like, some of the knick knacks that they planned on putting up, and the flare that sort of represented their version of youth. the space was once described to me as "a boy-hood playground for me," and i think it pretty accurate (haha). the decor of toki underground is chock full of skateboards, bar-like seating, plinko, and japanese culture-infused figurines (ok, so i probably butchered what all of the things are called. sorry!). point is, the decor is a lot of fun, well thought out (minus the hooks for ladies' bags - i hear they're coming), and a great effort regarding the efficient use of space.
we started our meal with some appetizers. one of the things that they want to make sure they get good at is dumplings - a great pairing with ramen. i personally like the pan fried option the best. when we went, admittedly the dumplings needed some work - the deep fried ones were too fried and the pan-fried ones were fried strangely. BUT, m went back and said that they adjusted their dumpling times and now, they're just right. and delicious. that's great to hear! so yes, pan-fried pork dumplings is what i would recommend.
in addition to the dumplings, we also enjoyed some of their other appetizers. for some reason, i looked at the cold tofu and thought it said cold noodles (i know - brain fart). but that's ok becuase they were delicious. the soft tofu was in a more salty than sweet sauce, topped with all sort of goodies (fish flakes? what are those things called?). i could eat this all day long - i love tofu. m got the pickles (yay pickes!), cucumbers that were slightly pickled in the asian way (i.e., more salty, a bit sweet. not dill or sweet like american pickles). yum.
and then, the ramen. i love ramen (makes sense, seeing that i love noodles. i've mentioned that here, i think). all kinds. even the cheap-o top ramen (seriously, you can make it pretty darn tasty), though that's not necessarily my "go to" (obviously). i've had real japanese ramen (i.e., ramen IN japan) and have had delicious japanese american variations. i got the kimchee version of the toki hakata classic (a way for me to get a taste of eric's kimchee along with the ramen. the kimchee was good, but i prefer my mom's kimchee. isn't that how it always is?). the pork broth was delicious, full of flavor, and salty as ramen should be (i know that it's just the right amount of saltiness when i, in the middle of eating, have the need to dilute the broth with some water. i know. gross. but i like it that way (and i do it, hopefully, discreetly). leave me alone!). i wish there were more noodles; i will order the extra noodles the next time i go. the noodles, in and of themselves, were also delicious - just the right amount of chewiness, not soft and mushy at all.
m had the vegetarian option and it was GOOD. i mean, really good! the broth had a lot of flavor, resulting from seaweed/dashi, soy sauce, radish, etc., i imagine. i tried making a vegetable broth (also for m) when making seaweed soup once and it was hard (though i'll have to say that mine didn't come out half bad. i will try again). oh, and i like the pork broth. what's wrong with that? nothing! haha ... for me, i think if i was wanting a lighter ramen option, this vegetarian bowl would be great. lots of other little toppings came along with this bowl. i wish all of the other bowls of ramen came with it as well. a girl can dream~
w had the curry chicken ramen. i was curious as to how this would be, as japanese style curry has its own flavor and flare. i would say that the chicken was cooked well and the broth, while chock full of curry, was more along the lines of se asian-style noodles in broth. the curry wasn't overpowering, which is good, and a nice option for those who may want an alternative to the more pork-y ramen (i don't know who says no to pork, though). now, w doesn't eat a whole lot. but while i was barely halfway through my ramen, he had demolished the whole bowl and was on the verge of licking (literally) up the droplets left. now that's a good sign!
to round out the meal, we had dessert. i'm not really one for dessert, but the containers that the dessert came is was just so darn cute. the dessert bento box was filled with chocolate truffles, all a different flavor (coconut and lemongrass, some sort of liquor, miso, and sea salt). we all literally took tiny bites of them, just to taste. delectable. i didn't think i would like some of the flavors because they sounded so ... odd. i mean, miso powder on chocolate? weird. but delicious. i like miso, i like chocolate (for the most part), why not put them together! i didn't get to taste the milk and cookies (and yes, it comes with actual ice-cold milk), but the presentation (imo) was just lovely.
i think there are a few kinks that the staff at toki are trying to iron out. it's also super hipster (for those of you who are not into that), but it's also on H street NE, so i guess you can't really avoid that (no offense). nonetheless, it sounds like it's already a great hit (yay!) and have full confidence that it will soon join the others on the list of DC's "must-dos." yay yay yay! now, if only i could get a seat ... hee hee~