Went last night. Had I read properly, I would have realized that Ramen part has no reservations, while Izakaya does. I made reservations, but wanted noodles. It's a very pretty space. Outside is really beautiful, too. I really can't stand going to this part of town, especially when there is an event at Verizon (there was a Caps game). There are these cut out fan shapes along the facade of the building and it just shimmers and looks gorgeous when you walk up to it.
So had a reservation for 8p ... Got there at 750p and was told this. They said it would be about 25 minutes, so the young hostess said go upstairs and have a drink while you wait. I felt that was a suitable compromise. My PhD economist friend and I went outside and up the stairs to the Izakaya. Gorgeous inside, felt spacious, bar was beautiful, lots of shochu, sakes, etc. I had a Brewer's Art Sublimation on draft. She got the Yoho Aooni IPA in a bottle. There was a time when the best beers in the world were from the Czech Republic. Then Germany. Then Belgium. Then America and we've had them for a long time. But, every time I try one of these small batch Japanese beers my mind is blown. Very hard to find out, but if y'all see a Yoho or Hitochino available, give it a try. At less than 25 minutes, got the phone call to come down. I hadn't finished, and it was obvious, waved bye to the barman and went down to get our spot at the communal table.
So, this is the one negative of the night. We get in, and the young woman sees the beer. She makes a face and then says, "I don't want to scold, but ..." and then scolds me for bringing the beer down. I said to her nicely that the guy upstairs saw me with it and didn't say a word. She said, "Well, I don't know what they are doing up there, but.." But, the thing was, it clearly wasn't a big deal, because I sat down at the table with it and finished it. I'm sure it's some city regulation, but there is a nice way to handle it and a rude way to handle it. She chose the latter. The beer selection at the Ramen table is limited - just Sapporo Draft or Kirin Free (N/A), so if you want something nicer, get it upstairs first, but finish it and don't bring any of it down. The ramen room is communal, and high energy, and loud but you can still hear your tablemates. I love seeing the guys work the kitchen, excited, smiling, high fiving. It is a very cool scene, out of a movie almost (if there was a movie about Latin American noodle-istas at a Japanese-style Ramen shop; I think George Lopez would have to be in it as the wisened noodle expert who studied in Tokyo and maybe Paz Vega as the trainee that falls in love with George). Anyway ...
We ordered the gyoza because we were very hungry and needed something to gnosh on. Pork and cabbage filling. The sauce is soy mixed with rice vinegar. I had the very sweet hipster waitress mix up the sauce for us with sesame chili oil and a cumin-esque spice, because I had no idea what the proportions should be. After we ordered that, we had her go over what she liked from the ramen choices. She preferred the Shoyu and the Spicy. We were both in the mood for Spicy. As for toppings, I got the soft boiled egg and she got the roast pork. Unfortunately, the gyoza and noodles came out all at once. I don't know if it is supposed to happen like that (I guess at Chinese and Vietnamese and other Asian places the appetizer vs entree separation is not appreciated). So, we had a few gyozas. I really liked them, and the sauce was pretty tasty.
The noodle soups were fantastic. I'm not a ramen guy (yet, but I want to be one). I loved the flavor, but it wasn't as complex as at Toki's or Sakuramen's broth (granted, I only tried one here and a few at those places) and it wasn't nearly as spicy as the extra spicy at Tanpopo. The noodles are really good, though, I liked them better than the one's at the other places, thicker, fuller, more flavorful. The soft-boiled egg was cooked perfectly to my tasting, with some runniness and a great texture. Marinated in soy, I think. She had a half an egg in hers, too, and I had roast pork in mine. So, do they all come with a little and more toppings are extra? I have no idea. The roast pork was great and tender and fatty and delicious. I nearly finished the whole bowl, as did my friend.
I liked the meal a lot. I didn't appreciate the scolding. It appears that the few places we do have are all very good, and all have different specialties/high points. I still need to make it to Ren's, but it's so far away from me! I think I like: Toki, Sakuramen, Tanpopo, and Daikaya in that order, but I think Sakuramen didn't have beer when I went (or am I wrong?) and Tanpopo ends up being more expensive (or maybe as much as), but because of lack of ambience, I feel like I'm getting a bit shortchanged. Daikaya is visually most appealing, both downstairs and upstairs.