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Sakuramen, a Korean-Influenced Ramen House on 18th Street near Columbia Road in Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan Korean Japanese Ramen

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#1 weinoo

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 05:55 AM

From Thrillist, a new ramen joint opening on 18th Street, up near Columbia Road...

Combining the Japanese words for "cherry blossoms" [sakura] and …"ramen", Sakuramen's a subterranean noodle hideout complete with bamboo columns, a huge oak communal table, and an artistic rendering of Shoki, the Japanese guardian & "demon queller", so feel comfortable bringing that chick fromThe Exorcist here for a flirty nosh. Their seven-soup menu of family recipes...


If this place turns out to be any good, it's fairly exciting news (imo) for the cheaper dining options in the neighborhood.

I think I'll be able to try it next week, but if anyone else does before then, please report back.

#2 DonRocks

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 06:39 AM

I think I'll be able to try it next week, but if anyone else does before then, please report back.


There's definitely a Korean influence here. I'm also optimistic by this sentence that I found on their website:

"Our sole focus is to create the best ramen on the planet, without using artificial flavorings of any kind, sourced from pure bone broth coupled with the freshest ingredients available."

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#3 Marty L.

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 10:05 AM

I think I'll be able to try it next week, but if anyone else does before then, please report back.


According to the website, they're aiming to open next Tuesday for dinner.

#4 Tweaked

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 10:17 AM

They have certainly mastered the art of food porn! Their Facebook page has some nice looking photos...call me excited!

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#5 turbogrrl

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 10:50 PM

It was closing on 9pm and Nick was insisting he wanted dinner but wouldn't make any suggestions. Suddenly, I remembered that Sakuramen was supposed to be opening tonight. Our mission was clear.

Walked over, put our name on the list, and 20 minutes later we were seated. Woo! (There were seats for about 8 people to wait; we didn't have to leave the restaurant.)

Ordered pork buns and pickles to start, Nick went for the Shoki bowl and I had the Spicy Miso and added an egg.

The buns that come out may be visually reminiscent of the Momofuku buns, but they are not attempting to be a Chang imitation. The pork belly was tender, but not strongly barbequed. The pork was balanced nicely with greens and scallions. We rather inhaled them, and I did not get a picture.

Nick surprised himself and ate a good third of the pickles.

The spicy miso bowl was more miso than spicy, but I made it through the entire bowl happily. The soft-boiled egg was very good. The Shoki bowl, though, was magnificent. I kept stealing bits of bulgogi, and Nick glared at me. The Shoki noodles were also thinner and not curly; Nick ordered extra noodles halfway through. (This was the only reason I was really able to try them.) It's my understanding that the Shoki bowl is something of a chef's special, so the base and ingredients may change from week to week.

Service was hopping; I didn't notice any real kinks other than sheer volume. People were still waiting for tables when we left at 10. All in all, it was a *very* smooth experience for an opening night, and I'm really excited about having them in the neighborhood. Decor is pleasant, everyone was nice, it seemed like everyone in sight was having a good time. Yum!

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#6 weinoo

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:42 PM

Thanks to Significant Eater, "we" remembered that Sakuramen had just opened, so we made our way over at around 7 tonight. A literally 2 minute wait had us seated at the communal bar/table.

There's no booze, and evidently there's not a byob policy in place, or if there is, our waiter had no idea what it might be.

Be that as it may, we appear to have had the same 2 soups as turbogrrl did above. I liked them both very much, though I preferred the broth in my Shoki bowl. A nice portion of both the chasu and the rib eye adorns this big bowl. Great, tender pork and beef.

We started with an order of gyoza, nicely made but I would like a slightly more adventurous dipping sauce. Our oshinko (house made or not) were actually quite good.

I think this is a great addition (selfishly) to the dining scene on 18th St./Columbia Road. This is an eat-at-once- a-week if you live close by.

#7 turbogrrl

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:21 PM

So we went back this evening, and took nick's parents with us. I'd say at least 1/4 of the restaurant was filled with people who had been there on opening night. We were also not the only couple to have returned with asian parent(s) in tow. No wait right at 7, but the place filled up shortly after I walked in.

The bulgogi buns were almost as good as the chasu buns. They are both really really good, and very scallion-y. Nick's dad wanted some sriracha to put on them, which they didn't have, but they brought out a dish of the spicy paste that goes in the spicy miso ramen. The oshinko was slightly different this evening, but still very good. Three types- one was a sweetish vinegary taste, another more smoky-tea tasting, and the third was savory with a hint of vinegar. The kimchi was fairly mild and accessible, but nibbling on it while having the ramen really punched up the flavor of the broth. All of us had the shoki bowls this time.

Dessert was mochi- we had an order each of the green tea and the vanilla. They both came out on long plates- two decent-sized mochi to an order (we were able to split them in half fairly easily), and scattered raspberries and blueberries on the plate with a drizzle of chocolate sauce (on the berries, not on the mochi). Very pretty, well balanced, not overwhelming.

Atmosphere is still good, staff seem to be getting into a decent groove. Parents enjoyed themselves. Food was delicious. I agree that this is likely to become an eat-once-a-week, even if some weeks are only "grab three orders of buns on the way home."

Please go here. I need need need this place to succeed.

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#8 Marty L.

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 02:57 PM

Please go here. I need need need this place to succeed.


I, too, would love to see it succeed in the culinary wasteland that is A-M. And it's likely there'll be a heavy demand for it. Based on my initial meal, however, I'm afraid it's nothing I would go out of my way, or wait in line, for. Much less satisfying than my latest bowl at Ren's. I still haven't been to Toki, but my friend Rivka has, and this was her comparison:

Sad to say that Toki is way better, but it isn't an apples-to-apples comparison...yet. Toki bases all its soups on Tonkotsu, that heady, cloudy broth made from long-simmered pork bones. Sakuramen won't be doing that till December. For now, they're using a shoyu (soy-based) broth using chicken bones. Clearer, lighter, and - IMHO - not as good.

I had thin straight noodle. Some of the bowls at Saku have curly noodles, which I prefer, but they're not clear about which. [ML: They will tell you if you ask -- and I thought the curly noodles were marginally better.] All of Toki's bowls use the curly noodles. In the bowl I had, the noodles were ever so slightly undercooked. We're talking just shy of al dente. I've made four or five trips to Toki, and the noodles have been perfect every time. [ML: Mine weren't undercooked; if anything, slightly overcooked -- but not as, uh, toothsome or flavorful as the noodles at Ren's.]

The toppings at Toki also win the day. Better pork, better greens or seaweed, and - crucial - a way better egg. Toki's is just barely set; the only way to describe it is custardy. At Saku, they marinate the egg in soy first, so the flavor is good, but they're just way overcooked. Like, totally set and almost hard. Definitely not the kind of thing you want to break apart with chopsticks.

Having said all that, I'm really happy Saku is in the 'hood. The chef came out to check in, and was very receptive to feedback. (That's how I found out about plans for a winter Tonkotsu).


That sounds about right to me (with minor differences noted above), except that I'd add that my pork buns were very bland -- a pale imitation of Momofuku.

I will echo's Rivka's optimism, though -- it's early and I got a distinct sense that they really want to make this work. So perhaps some positive response to feedback, some working out of the kinks, and the coming tonkatsu, will make this a great addition to the neighborhood.

#9 turbogrrl

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 06:37 PM

I don't think it is fair to make the comparison to Toki at the moment. Toki is fantastically on top of their game, and their offerings have matured into something truly noteworthy in the last six months. The last meal I had at Toki was better than recent ones at Momofuku *and* Ippudo in NYC. (Ippudo in Tokyo still takes the blue ribbon). Of course, I had to drive down to H street, park, and then wait two hours before I could begin to *have* that meal.

That said, the bowl of ramen I had Sakuramen last night was more put together than the first bowl I had at Toki shortly after they opened-- too bad we can't actually do head to head comparisons with the ghosts of restaurants past.

In an absolute sense, my opinion is that Rens and Toki are both offering significantly better bowls than Saku *right now*, but Saku is significantly better than Satsuma and (the closed as of Friday) People's Noodle, as well as the infrequent lunch offering at Sushi Taro. My hope is that Saku will find their stride and then kick the noodles into higher gear. Also, unlike Ren's or People's, Saku has the ambiance to make a decent date night, which I hope will help it succeed in fickle A-M. And now I will stop dominating this thread.

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#10 DonRocks

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Posted 26 May 2012 - 06:48 PM

I don't think it is fair to make the comparison to Toki at the moment.


You kind of *have* to. If you draw final conclusions at the moment, then it's not fair (thus, your points are well-taken).

This is an excellent and historic discussion.

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#11 weinoo

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 01:29 PM

My point of comparison comes via places like Minca, Ippudo, Rai Rai Ken and various other purveyors of ramen in NYC.

I didn't try the buns, because when we saw them, we knew they were not going to be that great.

But the ramen, while maybe not up to the best NYC has to offer, was very good for a place that at that point had only been open for a night or two.

#12 petercarrjones

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:00 AM

Went last night, and after a 30 min wait (aka a beer at smoke and barrel), were seated around 9. The atmosphere is fun, interesting, and lively. The communal tables have a lot of energy and pack quite a few people into the small space. The 90s hip hop soundtrack helps too. Service was pretty good and starting to click for a place that was packed after 9 on a Thursday. After being open for less than a month, I was pretty impressed.

No liquor license (probably won't get one due to Admo moratorium), another plus for Toki. The spicy miso was quite delicious and flavorful, though my ramen palate is not very sophisticated. I could sense the strong Korean influence and my bowl even reminded me of bibimbap in presentation- all of the ingredients separated for the eater to stir and enjoy. The corn was an interesting addition texture-wise, but kind of weird in Asian food. GF got the gojiramen which I definitely enjoyed as well- much more traditional ramen to my taste-buds.

Sakuramen was definitely not up to Toki at this point, but it will be on my list of "date night" places in Adams Morgan. So while I would make the trek out to H st for Toki, I'm not so sure the Cap Hill folks will make a trek out to Adams Morgan for Sakuramen.
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#13 Tweaked

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:10 AM

The corn was an interesting addition texture-wise, but kind of weird in Asian food.


Corn is actually a common topping in Sapporo or Hokkaido style ramen.

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#14 Michael Landrum

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:26 AM

News Flash, Tim Carman:

Chefs have been arranging food on plates to look like penises and vaginas for years!

http://www.washingto...YzC3U_blog.html

It's just something we do for fun.

Also, the use of strategically placed grated cheese, grated carrots, parsley, etc. to mimic the pubic "garnish", as it were, has been known for years.

In fact, among the cognoscenti, the work of a true master is distinguished by his ability to artfully represent the pudendal cleft in a dish (for us it's kinda like hands are for a painter).

Now that's something you don't learn on Top Chef! or The Chew...

(On a related note, according to the Post, Why see the art when you can eat the buffet!--First Bite: Catalan Buffet Matches Art Exhibit http://www.washingto.../lifestyle/food )

#15 weinoo

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:53 PM

No liquor license (probably won't get one due to Admo moratorium), another plus for Toki.


What's the law regarding byob? Because if they don't get a liquor license, they need to think about allowing people to bring their own.

#16 jparrott

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 10:02 PM

While it's easy enough to try to make comparisons, the way to look at Sakuramen is as a proper, neighborhood noodle bar, with an intentionally lighter style. In that oeuvre, it is brilliant.

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#17 hmmboy

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:21 PM

I really enjoyed the vegetarian Sakuramen tonight. Lighter for sure, but perfect for a warm summer evening for someone trying to get ready for bikini weather. And it was nice to see Jake as well.
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#18 sunshine

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 02:51 PM

We are big fans of Ren's, because it was really the only place to get good ramen for the longest time. We checked out Sakuramen because we were excited about the Korean spin and its location. We really like it. The broth is lighter but also more refreshing. The noodles have good texture and are plentiful. The toppings are generous. I had the Shoki which was loaded with meat (bulgogi and grilled pork belly) and bean sprouts with a piece of nori and shoyu egg. Husband had the ramen with roasted kimchi and bulgogi. We've had the pork buns at Momofuku, and the pork buns at Sakuramen are different - grilled pork belly (instead of roast pork) with a spicy greens/scallion sauce (instead of plum/hoisin sauce). I thought Sakuramen's buns were delicious in their own way. The gyoza/mandoo are porky (actually tasted of bacon) and come with soy/vinegar dipping sauce. The set-up is in a basement with a large communal bar and some 4 and 2-top tables against the wall. Casual, pleasant decor (definitely date-friendly because of the dimmer lighting and basement setting). The waitstaff are welcoming and congenial, and the owners are committed to making the place a neighborhood spot. I am glad they chose a neighborhood near ours. As a bonus, they were very nice to our kid who slurped up his noodles like a champ. Another kid-friendly bonus is that the food comes out fast. I'm glad that we now have some choices for good ramen joints in D.C. The more the merrier.

#19 saf

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 04:41 PM

What's the law regarding byob?


In DC, you need a liquor license to allow BYO.

#20 deangold

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 09:09 PM

My one meal here last night will prompt a return visit in a way that my one visit to Ren's Ramen has, so far, not.

I had the met lovers bowl. Whoever thought that putting bulgoggi in a bowl of ramen was a brilliant idea, its not. Having said that, everything else about the bowl was fine. The extra spicy fire ball, which I was asked 2 or 3 times was not extra spicy, but nice. The osinko plate was superb. The kim chee, while fine and tasty, did not add any to the festivities. The Pork bun was good for the most part, but the pork belly had that jiggly texture that, to me, means under cooked. Kays plainer Ramen was good. The place hasd a good vibe and the bill was fine for what we got.

Ren's has incredible broth, but simply was not a fun vibe and the pork and egg in the ramen were better at Sakuramen.

Thanks for the passionate recs.. its on my way home to the restaurant from running errands on a regular basis. Too bad they don't have cold sake.

#21 porcupine

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Posted 14 August 2012 - 08:49 PM

I had the met lovers bowl. Whoever thought that putting bulgoggi in a bowl of ramen was a brilliant idea, its not.

...says the guy who put Tuscan Banh Mi on his menu. :P

I really like this place. Service can be sloppy but is friendly as can be. I don't mind service mistakes when they're cheerfully corrected. The spicy miso is not terribly spicy, but the broth has a good (if mild) flavor, and the noodles are wonderfully eggy and chewy. The bar is a much more comfortable place to sit with friends than the tables are.

I wish I had a place like Sakuramen within walking distance of my house.

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#22 discojing

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Posted 17 August 2012 - 09:06 PM

I wasn't impressed and won't be going back. The service was bad and not professional. The buns were soggy and piled with far too many green onions. We had the goujiramen and spicy miso and both were just ok. They're both one-note in terms of broth and lack the complexity in flavor that ramen is supposed to deliver. The texture of the noodles themselves were okay, but didn't make up for the issues with broth, flavoring, and topping, paired with the lack of ambience and service.

I'm sad because I wanted some good soup that wasn't in Maryland or H Street!
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#23 Food Nomad

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 03:20 PM

I went to Sakuramen shortly after it opened and my experience was a little different. I actually liked the green onions as they helped cut through the fat of the pork belly. I did want the pork belly slices to be a bit thicker but honestly, when do you not want more pork belly? I didn't try the spicy miso but the gojiramen, I thought, did bring a lot of what I was looking for in ramen. I looked at it as their basic ramen and their menu allowed you add additional items to enhance the flavor. I did wish I added some egg into the mix but as a stand alone basic ramen, it did the trick for me. I liked the place because they're not pretending to be anything they're not. They won't be Momofuku but they fill a nice niche and so they don't have to be.

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#24 weinoo

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 05:38 PM

I don't know why you'd want them to be Momofuku, at least not for Momo's ramen. That aside, I think this place does a fine job with their offerings; we were just here this past Wednesday night, and enjoyed it a lot. We only tried the buns on our first visit, and they're definitely NOT Momo, but both of our soups were just right.

Service is always friendly. $2 a piece for oshinko and kimchee is less than 1/2 what I pay in NYC, and that's fine with me too.

I also don't understand what kind of ambience the above poster is looking for in a noodle joint?

#25 Escoffier

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 06:59 PM

You really should change the title of this forum to Sakuramen, A Korean Noodle House with a Japanese Influence, especially when you consider it's owned by Koreans and Korean ramen is as good (if not better) than Japanese. (Cho and Park...two really old-time Japanese names :D).

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#26 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 07:44 PM

In this Serious Eats write-up, they said "Cho [an owner] likes to keep the cuts of pork on the lean side for health reasons." I had the gojiramen today for lunch. After I nibbled off the little bit of protein that was there, I was asked if I didn't like the chasu. I pointed out that those big hunks floating in the bowl are just fat. I also wasn't a big fan of the thin noodles - tasted too much like Cantonese egg noodles, which don't have much texture at all. I also didn't drink the broth, which prompted a question about how's the broth. The broth is fine but these days I rarely drink a big bowl of soup and eat chunks of fat.

Full disclosure, I've never had a bowl of ramen that really excited me. I watched Tampopo 20 years ago and since then I've looked for ramen that might be as good as that movie, to no avail. There is a new ramen shop opening in Annadale (also Korean owned), called Tanpopo (coincidence? probably not). According to CH, grand opening is this upcoming Thursday (8/26). It's in the same building as A&J, on Markham St.

#27 discojing

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 09:40 PM

I actually liked the green onions as they helped cut through the fat of the pork belly. I did want the pork belly slices to be a bit thicker but honestly, when do you not want more pork belly?


here's a pic i snapped -- the onion ratio is ridiculous, especially on the one in the back!

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#28 turbogrrl

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 08:08 AM

I actually steal as many of the onions from my husband as I can before he notices. To each their own, I guess.

Should also note that as of a week ago they are now offering a tonkotsu ramen. Also new to the menu: spicy pork buns. I prefer the pork belly buns, but then, I really dig on the onions.

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#29 Xochitl10

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 07:50 PM

Azami and I stopped by for an early dinner on a perfect night for ramen. We each got an order of pan-fried gyoza, which were fabulous -- nice and crisp on the outside, filled with juicy pork and chive goodness on the inside. The dipping sauce was a bit sweeter than we're used to (shoyu, vinegar, and as much chili oil as you care to add is typical in Japan), but was nice nonetheless. Azami had the tonkotsu ramen with spiciness at level 3, and I had the Gojiramen. His tonkotsu looked great; it was cloudy with a sheen of red, and was spicy enough to make him weep. I liked the Gojiramen well enough, finding the chashu, crisp sprouts, and flavorful noodles to be the best parts. The chicken broth grew on me, but I think I prefer a pork-based broth. If we find ourselves in Adams Morgan again, we'd likely go back and I'd try one of the miso-ramen or tonkotsu options.

As a peanut allergy sufferer who has encountered ramen with a finish of peanut oil and miso ramen with peanut butter-enriched miso, I had to ask whether they used peanut ingredients. Thankfully, they do not.

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#30 KeithA

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 02:55 PM

Stopped in here for a quick pre-dinner bite last night. Nice vibe - very cozy at the communal table. Since it was pre-dinner, I only had the 2 nice-sized, bulgogi buns, but they were very good. Reminded me of an Asian spin on a hamburger - beef, buns, lettuce and onions - but gussied up, leaner and sweeter than an American burger. Probably not the comparison they were going for - but very good nonetheless. Next time, I'll have to get the ramen - as a non-pork eater- I'm pretty excited that most of the menu is chicken broth.

#31 anhdeluxe

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 11:19 PM

I've been to Toki, Taan, Daikaya and Sakuramen. This place is my hands down favorite and it's because the eggs here (and the service!) are superior. Each of the soft boiled (circulator?) eggs is peeled and marinated in mirin, sake, soy and sugar. I could eat a plate of them alone. i think the broth is too salty and smoky at Daikaya, the noodles overdone and broth bland at Taan, and the wait is not worth the bowl and service you get at Toki. At Sakuramen, I usually get the chashu or mushroom buns, and my gojiramen ramen without scallions because I've never been a fan. The result is clean, rich, clear flavors and nothing to get in the way of the eggs, noodles and broth. If you want spicy, the fireball and ordering on a spicy level 'off the menu' is the way to go. Some real chilihead friends of mine discovered this method and really enjoyed their ramen after that. I go here pretty regularly and one time they forgot and left the scallions in my soup, they saw me picking them out and felt so bad they gave me a green tea ice cream on the house. That little gesture and the friendly welcome every time I return keeps me coming back. 


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#32 dinoue

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 04:02 PM

Realized the difference between Japanese ramen-ya and American restaurants today. Assumed Sakuramen would be open for lunch becasue what ramen place wouldn't be open for lunch everyday, but only so on Fridays and weekends. Daughter really wanted ramen so she went home with mom to make it at home and I went back to work to eat what was being served there. :-(



#33 Barbara

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 07:42 PM

Realized the difference between Japanese ramen-ya and American restaurants today. Assumed Sakuramen would be open for lunch becasue what ramen place wouldn't be open for lunch everyday, but only so on Fridays and weekends. Daughter really wanted ramen so she went home with mom to make it at home and I went back to work to eat what was being served there. :-(

 

I can tell you for a fact that they are only open for lunch on Fridays and the weekend.  Works for me because my maid comes every other Friday, which usually means I escape to Sakuramen (it's embarrassing, but the staff knows me very, very well and treats me like an old friend--I also tip very well  :rolleyes: ).  Adams Morgan has always been kinda iffy for lunch.  Probably has to do with the fact that there aren't many office workers around here looking for lunch--unlike downtown and other spots on the Metro lines. Pickings are kind of slim at that time of day--but Pho 14 is open, along with MixTex and, of course, Astor and a few other places--and TAAN is no longer open for lunch due to the change in "management."



#34 DonRocks

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 07:53 PM

Works for me because my maid comes every other Friday, which usually means I escape to Sakuramen (it's embarrassing, but the staff knows me very, very well and treats me like an old friend--I also tip very well  :rolleyes: ). 

 

Another maid-flee person - I do it too. "The invaders are here. Ahhhh!!!" Wifi.


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#35 Barbara

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 08:04 PM

Another maid-flee person - I do it too. "The invaders are here. Ahhhh!!!" Wifi.

 

Dame Edna flees the premises long before the maid shows. :blink: I should mention that Sakuramen seems to do bang-up lunch business on Fridays, and from the comments I've overheard (particularly from what I am assuming are Korean-Americans) in those very close confines, they probably should reconsider their lunch time hours.  But, what do I know?  Except that I am sure the staff would plotz if I showed with Dame Edna in tow.



#36 dinoue

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 09:05 AM

We had been there for lunch before, I guess it was a Friday. I do work in Adams Morgan and love having Pho 14 a block away from work. They certainly do pretty good business for lunch. Mixtec is usually about as far as I walk for lunch, so rarely make it over to Sakuramen unless family is joining me after work or for a getaway lunch, then we hit places like Sakuramen and Astor. Other places I do go for lunch are Doner Bistro, Pica Taco, Old Jerusalem, and Pollo Granjero.

 

Of course I get free lunch at work, so that's always the first preference.



#37 sheldman

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 06:15 AM

My sad poem about dinner.

 

 

Cacophonous cave;

 

my broth was lukewarm, egg cold.

 

And no alcohol.

 

 

(on the other hand, the mushroom buns were very good).


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