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Noodles & broth – all the world over from Vietnam to Italy to America people have had the culinary genius to match these to foods together. Japan is no different bringing Ramen to the table. I can almost my readers rolling their eyes, reminiscing about eating Top Ramen – 5 packages for a dollar. Real Japanese ramen is a far cry from the dessicated, plastic wrapped, poorly seasoned ramen of your college days. It is the rival of Pho: the true love of my life. It keeps you toasty warm in the winter, cools you in the summer, soothes you when you’re sick, and can cure even the meanest hangover. And now, this paragon of tastiness has come to Adams Morgan in the form of Sakuramen. Of course the District has at least one other ramen spot, Toki Underground. Sakuramen has already surpassed Toki in at least one regard; the wait for a meal. My one and only trip to Toki underground found me waiting 2+ hours for a bowl of Ramen. I was so annoyed by this that it colored the rest of the experience.
The opening week of Sakuramen, in Adams Morgan no less, found us seated with zero wait time. The meal only got better from there. Located in the heart of Adams Morgan, Sakuramen sits in a basement, there are the normal tables that are found in every restaurant, but the majority of the space is taken up by a humongous communal table. Sakuramen’s low lighting, accompanied with the deep red walls that are only interrupted by what can only be described as artfully mastered squiggles give Sakuramen an atmosphere that is both fanciful and serious. The imposing mural of a samurai, reminds guests of Sakuramen’s Japanese roots, while the addition of kimchi to the menu suggests a fusion of flavors that patrons obviously appreciate.
My friends sat at one end of the table on the corner. We started to order beer and were informed that Sakuramen did not have a liquor license. After a lengthy debate, about two seconds, we decided to stay anyway, and were promptly rewarded tasty, colorful, aesthetically pleasing fare.
We started out with a round of appetizers: tasty pork filled dumplings called goyza, Kimchi, and an assortment of colorful pickled radishes and other vegetables. We skipped the pork buns, though after seeing them on other people’s tables I decided that this was a serious lapse in judgement to be rectified on subsequent visits.
We placed our orders and they arrived neither to early or two late. Looking down into the carefully arranged bowls of ramen I was reminded of the topography of land, there were mountains and valleys and rivers all coming together in a melding of flavor. I opted for the Gogiramen, while my companions ordered the Sakuramen and the Chosun.
In keeping with the communal atmosphere we decided to share and sample all three bowls. Each had a distinctive flavor; something new in every bite. The ever changing texture of the bowl due to the myriad of different vegetables and meats in each bowl made eating the ramen a joy. There was a new texture and flavor in each spoonful. Each cut of meat was incredibly tender and very generous. The broth in my Gogiramen was neither over or under salted. I’ll agree with Brian Oh or Serious Eats, about the absolute necessity of porkfat in my ramen, but I’m sure my arteries are thankful for the owners more healthful outlook
After finishing our mean, my companions and I stepped outside and were greeted by one of the owners, inquiring about our experience. We gushed at his selection of Ramen, lamented the lack of an alcohol license, and complimented his seemingly effortless kimchi. Needless to say, I was immediately enamored with Sakuramen, and plan to make many return visits. If I could “like” them on Facebook any more, they would be inundated with my digital love.