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Toki Underground, Atlas District - Chef Jonathan Uribe Steps in for Erik Bruner-Yang - Hakata-Style Ramen on 13th and H Street NE


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The rumored ramen and dumplings spot expected to open soon above the Pug has a name. Sounds like a very small space, but it is good to see more places to eat in an area that has plenty of places to drink, but is still developing good eating options.

I heard that this place is being opened by someone associated w/Sticky Rice.

[ETA No shit Sherlock! -- having read the BizJournal piece]

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I'm looking forward to checking this out - finding myself on H St more and more with all the cool stuff going on there.

Note: might consider a thread title change, H St NE between 12th and 13th isn't Trinidad (which is north of Florida Ave). Atlas District, H St or even Near Northeast would be more appropriate.

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I wonder if Taiwanese ramen is different from Japanese ramen, and what is "chashu" pork? Sounds like the sweet red roast pork found at Cantonese restaurants.

Japanese chashu is different from Chinese-style, but it is Chinese inspired. The big slices you had at Ren ramen (or Ippudo) are considered chashu, but both are from either the pork shoulder, belly or sometimes loin (but this will be really lean), depending on the recipe used (i saw one for pork cheek).

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Their website says they are a go...

They're definitely a go. We headed over tonight at around 6:30. It was a 3-hour wait and they'd stopped taking names. [We didn't wait so can't comment].

Wow! With only 25 seats and months of buzz and social media it may be quite awhile before Toki calms a bit.

FWIW, there's a relatively new mongolian BBQ type place called "Khan's Bar & Grill" a block west on H that's okay if you're desperate for a Plan B, out of time and without the flexibility to range farther afield as we were. Fresh, inexpensive with 6-9 sauce options. Just have to keep close watch on the cooks who throw everything on the big circular grill so they don't over-dice, over cook (proteins) or under cook (veggies like onion, broccoli and carrot)..

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I managed to get into Toki opening night on Friday. 30 minute wait. I think one problem is that they are serving alcoholic drinks/cocktails, which leads to camping out.

The ramen is good, not great, certainly not worth waiting longer than 20 minutes for. I got the Toki Hakata classic. Hakata is the style of ramen using pork bones for the soup, then sprinkled with nori, black sesame seed, and pickled ginger. It also come with a lean char siu pork, and a really good sous vide soft cooked egg. The noodles they selected are good, but I checked and they are not made, rather ordered (similar to Ren's). The broth was good. I did finish my bowl, but I do prefer a fattier piece of pork with my noodles.

I also ordered the steamed pork dumplings. These were just alright. The skins were good, there is a hint of ginger in the ground pork, and they are lightly drizzled with a tare or thick soy sauce. Because it's so dark in the place, I almost ate the cheese cloth at the base of the steamer, thinking it was a piece of cabbage.

I got the Taiwanese style tofu- a cold tofu dish topped with bonito and soy sauce. I'm used to the version with 1000 year egg on top, but I think it might scare the hipsters. It again was ok.

Their kimchee side was good- very fresh. I finished with the milk and cookies which were warm and delicious.

I think they are a little overhyped, and I don't think they are worth the current wait times they are having, but it was not too bad.

PICS

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Better, equal to, or worse than Ren's?

If going head to head, I would prefer Ren's. Although, I'd want a chance to try the other varieties of Toki's ramen- the miso, the chicken, and the kimchee.

Ren's noodles and fatty pork are better. The egg at Toki was awesome, but the broth might edge to Ren's favor as well.

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Better, equal to, or worse than Ren's?

I preferred Toki over Ren, although I've only eaten at each place once. Ren's soup was only warm (not sure if it was an aberration), whereas I thought Toki's soup was served hot. Otherwise, I agree with all of 100yregg's comments about the hakata classic and would add that the service was very friendly. Waitresses and a guy (manager?) seemed sincerely apologetic about wait times. Good but not worth going out of your way.

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After my wife and I were discouraged on two previous attempts by reported wait times of around two hours, we finally made it to Toki Underground on Wednesday. Arriving at about 7:45, the wait was only about 20 minutes, which we were happy to spend downstairs at the Pug. The place, as reported elsewhere, is tiny, and features only bar-style seating. We were at the bar facing directly into the kitchen, which we enjoyed as it gave us a chance to interact a little with the chefs, and to see some of what they were doing. Everybody, from the hostess to the waiters to the chefs themselves were extremely friendly.

Short review: food was great, and we’ll definitely be back. In a little more depth, we each got an order of ramen (Kimchi for me and curry for my wife) and an order of steamed pork dumplings. I also got the endorphin sauce add on, which is like their version of Sriracha. We loved the ramen. The broth was very flavorful, the kimchi in mine added a really nice level of spice, and the noodles were outstanding. As somebody mentioned up above, the egg is excellent. The dumplings were good, although we preferred the ramen.

We'll definitely return, and they're a welcome addition to H Street. I wouldn't wait two hours to eat there, but I'm looking forward to trying the sweetbreads, and some of the other add ons on future trips.

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Two of us hit Toki after our DCCK shift tonight. The quoted wait at about 7:15 was 20 minutes, but I was no further than 3 sips into my pint at the Pug downstairs when they called to say our table was ready. I probably haven't finished a pint that quickly since college.

Started with a special that night - Japanese pickles with sesame seeds. Nicely balanced with vinegar and a little sweet.

I had the Hakata Classic ramen, and added pork cheek. I think this is the missing element that 1000yregg was looking for - the fatty pork really makes this dish. The broth was tasty, though I was getting tired of it by the time I got to the bottom of the bowl. I'd probably try the homemade sriracha next time, or get the Kimchi Hakata. $14 isn't a bargain for a bowl of ramen ($10 + $4 for the pork cheek), but 4 hours later I'm still feeling full, so I guess it was enough food.

I wouldn't drive across town for it, or wait an hour, but I'd happily go again if in the neighborhood.

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I live in the neighborhood, but even if I didn't, I would drive across town for it. I'll share my trip from last night.

Keep in mind that earlier in the day for lunch, I had enjoyed the ramen at Sushi Taro. Around 8:00pm, I had some unexpected "me" time, so I waltzed down the block to complete the head-to-head comparison.

I started with a Duck Confit Taco ($3.00 daily special), downed an Asahi draft ($6), and went for the Hakata Classic ($10) with extra ramen ($2) and tempura duck sweetbreads ($6 daily special). Buttered duck livers were also on special, incidentally.

IMO, the two ramens at both establishments are in the same class. I would probably prefer Sushi Taro's noodles (straight, a bit chewier) to TU's (kinda frizzy like dried ramen) by the slightest of margins. TU definitely has the nicer sous vide egg going on, compared to ST's hard-boiled. Ordering an extra egg though ($2) at TU is a bit annoying, as it comes in the shell and I'm not the best at cracking them open without making a mess. The pork loin is cut thicker at TU than at ST.

I'm really surprised that I like this place so much, I guess I thought it might be the ramen equivalent of Sticky Rice, which I've decided is not my scene. TU is similarly hipster, and I was the only suit in the place last night, but I like what they are doing.

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No wait at 6:30 on a Sunday evening. That's good because I really didn't eat all day and my round of golf in Leesburg was probably 5 hours long and the drive from Leesburg to wherever Toki is was too damn long. So I ordered the Hakata Classic and Taiwanese style cold tofu. I'm from Taiwan but I have no idea what is "Taiwanese style cold tofu." I was hoping for shredded pressed tofu but these were just chilled tofu cubes, dressed with some soy, scallion, and bonito flakes (I think). The dish looks like:

Taiwanse Style Cold Tofu

It's not something I would knowingly order but it's alright. I rather eat my cold tofu with 1000 yr old egg. Anyhow, I ordered my ramen with extra noodles and they put the extra ramen in the bowl, which I prefer. Unfortunately the pork was rather bland, and there wasn't a whole lot of veggies (a tiny roll of greens). Fortunately the broth was really good and I liked the slightly firm ramen. Will I go back? It's an awfully long drive for me...

P.S. should've reread 1000yregg's post above. I pretty much have the same feeling - except I think it's about a tie with Ren's as far as ramen goes.

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Just tried this out. I will have to make a return to Ren's but from memory, I preferred the broth here. Tried the classic and the kimchi and both were outstanding. I miss the hard boiled egg but loved the yolk with the soft egg Toki provides. But let's be serious, they had me with a cocktail of bourbon with pork belly.

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Right. I live in adams morgan, so of course it seemed like it would be a brilliant idea to drive over to H street for ramen at 8:30pm on a Friday night. The friday night before the big street festival, even. The party district gods decided to be kind to me and I found a quiet parking spot just off H on 11th. We found The Pug, then found the door to Toki, and stumbled our way up the pitch-black staircase. Two time-travelling asian skateboard kids were in front of us. (I wondered, suddenly, if I'd climbed a staircase to 1991.) The verdict: two hours. Sure, why not? Put our name down, gave the nice man our phone number, and then we set out to explore. Ambled around the neighborhood for a while, then settled in at Fruit Bat for some drinks and doughnuts, and then wandered around some more. Spotted the time-travellers taking their leave of the locals that had gathered to watch them on their skateboards, and figured we'd be up next-- just then my phone buzzed to tell me that it had been an hour and forty-some minutes since we put our name down.

We slowly strolled back towards Toki, and I poked my head in to make sure we were still good. Yup, up next. He'd come get us downstairs. Sounds good.

So, after the two hour wait, was it worth it? Well, I wouldn't want to hold up a wall for those two hours, and I think if I had I'd be much less happy. But I'd had a great evening. We started with the pan-fried pork dumplings- they were good, but my mouth is still craving the dumplings I'd had in Hong Kong. Not Toki's fault. For the ramen: I got the Miso, Nick got the Classic-- he got his with the chashu, and I got mine with an extra egg. (i'm greedy. Also, it's really fun to crack a cooked egg into one's soup.) I really liked the miso base; there were intense flashes of ginger hidden somewhere in there, but it wasn't constant-- the effect was that each spoonful had a slightly different flavour. Made it like a treasure hunt- 'what am I going to get in this bite?'

Space is definitely at a premium. The bathrooms don't have sinks- the sink is hidden in the dark wall by the entrance; my only clue was the soap dispenser, next to this dark cave that I gingerly extended my soapy hands into until the water turned on. Yay, I got my hands back, and they were clean!

The Mr. Brown canned coffee woke me up enough for the drive home, and Nick's Marble soda was fizzy and fun to rattle around. We had a great evening. But in the interests of science I'm going to have to have several more bowls here and at Ren's to figure out which one I like better. Woe is me.

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Went again to Toki Underground last night for dinner, and right now this may be my favorite place in the entire city. Folks complain about the wait time (and it is true, last time I went on a weekend we did have a two hour wait to be seated), but I've found that on week nights the wait seldom exceeds 20 minutes. The fact that you can bring your drinks upstairs from the Pug makes things go even more smoothly. Yesterday, one of the specials was a pork bao, which, having loved the bao served during the "pop up" with Eddie Huang a couple of weeks ago, we had to try to start things out. Verdict? Eh. It was tasty, if a bit doughy and dry. On previous visits we have also found the dumplings to be good, but not great, and since we were a small party we elected to focus on the ramen. The kimchi hakata ramen is always my go-to, and delivers a wonderful punch of flavor, and solid heat. I like to throw in some endorphin sauce as well. The egg is pretty much perfect. I've never ordered a second one as an add-on, but I'm sorely tempted. We did order the fried prawn head add-on, and they were wonderful, crispy and flavorful.

Service was friendly, knowledgeable and fast, and I love the atmosphere of the place. And it won't break the bank. I'm really happy this place is in my neighborhood.

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Yesterday, one of the specials was a pork bao, which, having loved the bao served during the "pop up" with Eddie Huang a couple of weeks ago, we had to try to start things out.

Peter of People's Bao has been selling really delicious pork bao at a number of farmers markets this year, including Foggy Bottom today. If you're in the area and hungry, wait till around 4 PM to be safe, since it sometimes takes him a while to get everything set up.

*************

PS. I recommend the kimchee ramen here.

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Went again to Toki Underground last night for dinner, and right now this may be my favorite place in the entire city.

After several visits, it’s up there for me as well. I don’t mind the weekday waits (although they’ve been closer to 45 minutes than 20); the surrounding bars keep you occupied well enough. Once you get the call and find some elbow room, the service is especially sharp -- lots of patience and warm attitudes, despite having a continual rush and plenty of crazy Yelper types.

While I don’t have any ramen expertise, the Hakata classic ($10) and curry chicken ($10) have both been pretty good. I don’t think the add-ons are necessary considering their price, except for the imported straight noodles ($2) they offer as a special. More bite to them, which I prefer. Side dishes and appetizers are closer to good than great, but they (like everything else here) are improving with each visit. And I appreciate the ever-changing variety.

The atmosphere isn’t for everybody, with a certain hipster ambiance. But I like propping my feet on a skateboard, eating ramen, and listening to Black Moon at a loud volume. A fun spot that D.C. could use more of.

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Can anyone confirm no msg (soy excepted) at either or both locations of Ren's Ramen and Toki Underground?

I asked this question because I wanted to enjoy both Ren's and Toki in the same week. I went to Ren's on Monday evening, and was going to go to Toki tomorrow night, but now, based on the terrible things people are hinting at, I may not get to enjoy Toki at the master's hands.

One thing's for sure, something really bad happened. :(

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I went with a group of friends on Saturay which was a bit of a mistake because the seating arrangements are flush with the wall so you can talk to your neighbor one or two down but that's it. I guess that you're supposed to hunker down and eat your soup. Of course when the food is as good as Toki's who needs conversation? We put our names down at 6ish and then waited at fruitbat which is an excellent underrated bar on H street with fantastic concoctions. We were seated at Tokis at about 7:45ish. Husband and I ordered pan fried dumplings which were okay, these pork fat fried noodles (amazing!) and shared a bowl of the Hakata classic with their hot sauce and an extra egg. It was a rainy, dour spring night, my throat was a bit inflamed from seasonal allergies so the soup was a perfect antidote. I don't have a lot of experience with ramen but I found the broth to be a bit oily/fatty until we used the siracha to cut the fat a bit. I kept drinking the broth spoonful by spoonful. I noticed most of my friends just ate the noodles and didn't drink the broth so maybe it was too fatty for them too.

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Finally made it here last night after a couple of aborted attempts (meaning I had time to bar hop for 1.5 hours after we put our names in at 8:00). Truly worth the hype. We started with steamed beef dumplings which were tasty and rich, but the sauce while great itself kind of overwhelmed the flavor. I would have preferred it on the side for dipping instead of drizzled on top. I had the kimchi ramen with a special of fried prawn heads. Just fantastic, but next time I think I'd get the hakata classic to appreciate the broth in it's unadulterated state; the kimchi was appropriately spicy. The down side is now I know that great ramen exists near my house and have to live with the agony of knowing that the long waits will keep me from eating it more often!

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So is Toki's basic broth an evolving entity? My first visit in September 2011 was very memorable. I read this Washingtonian article soon thereafter and became concerned that the soup I loved would be changing.

I based my concern mostly on these two sentences:

The stuff is sure to get even fattier in the coming months. Peach season is over and the chef plans to refine the sweet summery stew into an even thicker, porkier broth for fall and winter.

I went back for the first time last week. The broth had indeed changed. I've attached pics from both visits. It was still very, very good, but I felt it wasn't quite the same. You can even see that the September version looks a little richer.

Before the soup came out, I asked the server if they tweak the broth at all. He said he wasn't sure, but didn't believe there was anything in there that would be seasonal.

I guess I'll have to wait until peach season to see if they go back to an old formula or adjust it yet again. My confidence in convincing first-timers to come with me drops a little if I'm not sure which version they'll get.

post-66-0-60688900-1337372766_thumb.jpg

post-66-0-49575600-1337372787_thumb.jpg

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I know everyone else is "oh yes, done that (yawn)" now, but I finally got to dine at T.U. last night thanks to a wonderful couple I'm friends with. Eric said to be sure to try the fried green tomato appetizer accompanied by in-house aged stinky tofu. We did and it was a good thing. A serving each of the pork dumplings and seafood dumplings was consumed. I'm not big on seafood, but found these something that I could enjoy. The pork was pretty good too, could be spicer I guess.

I was a kimchi virgin until last night, when one of my friends ordered the kimchi app, and the kimchi ramen, and I had some of his app, I liked it, but couldn't finish a whole portion. I had the Hakata Classic with pork belly, an egg, and the "endorphin sauce". I was amazed and pleased at the size of the serving. I couldn't finish it, but very much enjoyed trying!

The service that I experienced was definitely focused on making me have a good experience, and grateful for our coming to join them.

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I was there about 8, by myself. I had about a 25 minute wait--went next door to Granville Moore's for a beer ($8.50 for a draft Belgian witbier, which was half of my bill for dumplings and ramen at Toki-- an amazing bargain for what you get). The two young guys who sat down next to me just as I was finishing up said that they had waited two hours. There was a crowd of hipsters camped out on the sidewalk, waiting, as I left. I must say I was pleasantly surprised to find that big open Auto Zone parking lot directly across the street. I had expected to have to cruise the neighborhood looking for a space to squeeze into, like I did in Logan Circle the night before.

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I've been told that Auto Zone will tow cars, they want the spaces for their own customers. I know a server at Granville Moores once warned another customer not to park there. This was awhile back though, maybe things have changed. I would ask someone at whatever restaurant you go to, they will know, I bet. Glad it worked out for you Zora, maybe it's open parking now.

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The Auto Zone lot was empty Saturday evening when I was there. The police use it as a gathering spot, as there was a cruiser and several bike police gathered near the building. A couple of law enforcement guys were next to us during dinner. At least we guessed they were law enforcement as they were drinking tall cans of Schlitz. :P One had his sunglasses on like Guy Fieri and was packing. :ph34r: I can't imagine having to dodge the trolley cars and look for parking at the same time. :o

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The Auto Zone lot was empty Saturday evening when I was there. The police use it as a gathering spot, as there was a cruiser and several bike police gathered near the building. A couple of law enforcement guys were next to us during dinner. At least we guessed they were law enforcement as they were drinking tall cans of Schlitz. :P One had his sunglasses on like Guy Fieri and was packing. :ph34r: I can't imagine having to dodge the trolley cars and look for parking at the same time. :o

You got lucky on the parking. Police presence has nothing to do with it; the private towing company patrol that is in charge of the lot must have not coincided with your visit.

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You got lucky on the parking. Police presence has nothing to do with it; the private towing company patrol that is in charge of the lot must have not coincided with your visit.

Yes, if that lot was empty on a Saturday night, I'd guess there's a good chance that they have a 24-hour towing policy. I certainly wouldn't risk it.

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Agree with what's been said above on the parking, you got lucky, but in the future I would not risk it. Your best bets are on the side streets off of H Street.

As for the wait times at Toki, the past few times I've popped in they've averaged around 45 minutes to an hour and a half (all on weeknights). The Pug will allow you to bring your drinks upstairs if your seats open up while you're mid-drink (they share a liquor license). Granville's, the Queen Vic and Smith Common are also good options if you want to grab a drink while you're waiting.

And finally, I have never been disappointed in ordering a special here.

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I've been told that Auto Zone will tow cars, they want the spaces for their own customers. I know a server at Granville Moores once warned another customer not to park there. This was awhile back though, maybe things have changed. I would ask someone at whatever restaurant you go to, they will know, I bet. Glad it worked out for you Zora, maybe it's open parking now.

Definitely not open parking. Be very careful there - AutoZone has a private company towing cars 24 hours a day. I hesitate parking there to grab carry out because I've seen so many cars towed...
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As for the wait times at Toki, the past few times I've popped in they've averaged around 45 minutes to an hour and a half (all on weeknights). The Pug will allow you to bring your drinks upstairs if your seats open up while you're mid-drink (they share a liquor license). Granville's, the Queen Vic and Smith Common are also good options if you want to grab a drink while you're waiting.

Well, I'll have my two teens with me, so a drink before isn't really in the cards. Nor is waiting 90 min for a table - I can drive to Ren's in Wheaton, eat, and drive back in that time.

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DanielK,

Understood. While I think it is really good, probably my favorite place in the city right now, I don't blame you, I wouldn't simply wait standing on the street for 90 minutes for really anything. They do take reservations, but only for their first seating on Monday through Thursday (I think). So that could be an option for you.

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Seriously, favorite place in the city? Not "favorite semi-cheap soup meal"?

This is better than Komi, Corduroy, Fiola, CityZen, Elisir, Oval Room, Adour, Marcel's, Palena, etc?

I've been a couple of times, I liked it well enough, but I don't think it's any better than Ren's. And it's not even necessarily the first place I think of for a bowl of soup for a meal, when there's also Vit Goel (soondubu), Pho 75, and the taquerias in Little Mexico for menudo, though I suppose those are all outside city lines.

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Well they have a good cocktail list too, and other interesting bar fare. Those other semi-cheap places don't. Also, for as much as I like TU, it is a terrible family joint, every seat is a tall barstool, inappropriate for most kids. There should be a sign there similar to what they use for roller-coasters, saying "if you're not taller than this line, you can't dine here." Your teenagers should be fine.

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Favorite, in my mind, is different than best. My two favorite places in the city and immediate surroundings are Toki and Taqueria La Placita in Hyattsville. I would never claim that they are "better" than Komi, which I believe is the "best" restaurant in the city, but they fill different roles. I love tacos, I grew up eating tacos, and La Placita is cheap, I can go there all of the time. Hence, favorite.

I hope this makes sense. It does in my mind, but that's not necessarily a reliable judge.

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