words and photos by Dakota Fine
Toki Underground, a Japanese (via Taipei influence) ramen and dumpling shop, officially opens today on H street NE. Located above the Pug, look for the Japanese anime-inspired, blue flower logo on a door nestled between the pug and the barber shop next door.
Upstairs, the interior is painstakingly, purposefully kitschy, in a way that it almost looks like the editors of Giant Robot came in and picked out everything from the designer toys to the graffiti on the wall. Without ever having set foot in Japan, I think it is safe to say the place is effortlessly Japanese-American, in the best possible way.
The beer selection features at least 7 beers you won’t find elsewhere in a DC noodle shop. All Asian imports, all but one Korean import (the OB) are from Japan.
With skate decks to rest your feet on, and Japanese pachinko games to set your bowl on as you eat at the bar, Toki Underground features no shortage of cool little details to admire, continually making the dining experience more authentic. There is definitely nothing else like this in DC.
But on to the food! The dumplings are delicious. I recommend fried for those who prefer crispy and greasy, but steamed is also an option — healthier if a bit more chaste. The ramen is salty and delicious, spicy if you’d like, and mostly pork-based, although there is one vegetarian broth based ramen as well. Presentation was delightful, and the service was attentive and accommodating, with a neighborhood-y kind of feel to it, you could tell everyone on the staff are (still) friends.
So go check it out for yourself. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang works from an open kitchen, you can watch him work his magic on your ramen, his time spent working in a Taiwanese Ramen shop has certainly paid off, the experience at Toki Underground is one of a kind, and worth coming back for.
For the record, Jeff Jetton (BYT contributor, co-collaborator, and a dear friend of mine) along with a team of other investors have partnered to open this little gem on H street, so my opinion, though the unvarnished truth, is perhaps slightly biased. Nevertheless, seriously, this place is awesome. And on that note, I’ll leave you with a bunch of photos of the awesome collectible designer toys on display. Oishii!
1234 H Street NE
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