I feel like ramen has a bad rap. It’s what you joke about having to eat when you’re broke. It’s the sad diet you lived on while being a poor undergrad. But the truth is, good ramen is kind of awesome. I’m not taking about that dry packaged stuff that you ate in college; I’m talking about real ramen that’s cooked in a flavorful broth with vegetables and other delicious ingredients. And now, when you are craving such comfort food, you can get it in the neighborhood by heading to Toki Underground on H Street.
I have been hearing about this concept coming to H Street for quite a while now, ever since meeting Erik Yang, the chef and owner, about two years ago. He has been serving up a hangover brunch at the Pug for some time (oooh and that hangover hash is awesome…) so I knew he had some delicious tricks up his sleeve. And last Thursday I was finally able to see the full extent of those tricks at one of Toki’s soft openings.
I sat at the tasting table next to the kitchen window and watched Erik whip up dumplings and noodles for the packed house. We started off with orders of the steamed pork dumplings and seafood dumplings (you can also order them pan-fried or deep fried) that were tasty little servings of Vietnamese goodness. Next, the ramen. Not being in the mood for anything too spicy that night I stuck with the Toki classic, which is a large bowl that is enough to share if you had also just ordered two servings of dumplings… There is also a vegetarian ramen, a spicy kimchi, and a few others that can be ordered with a range of extra toppings.
The drink list includes a range of specialty sodas, beer and unique cocktails. I ordered the Toki Monster — a whiskey and scotch drink with a toothpick of pork belly in it. Yes, pork belly, which apparently scares off a lot of people but I think they are missing out because that was gooood. Yes, it sounds gross but sometimes you need to just give things a try and be pleasantly surprised. There are a few more drinks I am eager to try on my next visits.
With the dumplings running $5 for a serving of 6 and the ramen going for $10 for a very large bowl, Toki is a great deal in my book. It’s a small place so I imagine that there will be lines, but with the Pug being right downstairs, you have a comfortable place to hang out while waiting for your table.
Toki Underground is located at 1234 H Street, NE, upstairs from The Pug.