A Review: Toki Underground
What is it?
Toki Underground is a ramen noodle bar. But, it is so much more than that. The food has a Taiwanese twist and is so full of flavors that you will come back to try all that they have to offer. The food is authentic. They have dumplings, steamed buns, noodles, and of course ramen.
Where is it?
This is one of those places where if you are not looking for it you will miss it. I guarantee it. This is not a local restaurant that you will just happen to find while walking around DC. Like many cities, Washington DC has a problem with space. There is only so much of it in a city. So, they put the restaurant where they could: above a bar.
Located on H street in the heart of an up and coming neighborhood in Washington DC the location is not exactly ideal for tourists visiting the National Mall. You will have to walk quite aways to find it, and I can almost guarantee that you will get lost. The easiest way to find Toki Underground is to look for a bar called the Pug. It is exactly what it sounds like: a dive bar.
Where exactly in DC is it?
Would you try Toki Underground?
The food is flavorful. Refreshingly different. One of a kind. Took Underground is more than just a ramen bar. It has a Taiwanese twist and it has attitude. They offer several different kinds of dumplings. When I first read the menu on-line I was excited to try the chicken dumplings, but the veggie dumplings sounded just as good. But, after reading several reviews on several different food websites I decided that the steamed buns were a must do.
Now, that is just the appetizers. For the main dish they have noodles and then they have ramen. I'll be honest, we were there for an hour and I only saw people order the ramen. There are several different options for the ramen depending on your taste and ability to handle spices. The flavors blend nicely together and gives a sense of authenticity.
Have you ever been to Toki Underground?
This is a small restaurant. And I do mean small. I think at most it can seat about 30 diners. I've heard that the wait can get rather lengthly. After visiting I know why every recommends that you arrive when the place opens. It fills up quickly. To top it off there is no waiting area. The restaurant is above a bar called the Pug, and it seems a little sketchy. The neighborhood itself isn't very bad, but I would go in a larger group at night.
There also isn't a whole lot of room to eat the delicious ramen. My boyfriend was often putting his elbow in my face and keeping me from eating.
The Steamed Buns
I no longer live in the DC area. And even when I did, I was still 45 minutes outside of DC. To me, 45 minutes is a little silly to dive for dinner or lunch, especially when there are so many other options out there. However, that being said there aren'y a whole lot of places like Toki Underground. I now live in the Virginia Beach area. I thought my boyfriend was kidding when he said that his friends invited us to join them for lunch in DC. Yet, we drove over three hours for lunch on a perfect, beautiful day.
We just happened to go up on the day of the H Street Festival. So what does that mean? All of H street remotely close the the restaurant was blocked off. We had to walk about a mile and a half. For those familiar with the city, we parked a few blocks from the capital building. It was really cool to walk through the festival. I had been in DC many times over the years and I can honestly say that I had never been to that part of the city.
We got there just before opening and headed right up. If I hadn't been looking for the door I would have never found it. The stairs were old a rickety, which matched the rest of the building. The dining area was like nothing I have every seen. All of the seating was bar style and the room had a feel that was kind of Asia meets urban punk rock. Our waiter immediately brought us water and took our order.
It took only a few minutes for the steamed buns to come out. The chicken was spicy, but not enough to make me sweat. The buns were tender and they paired perfectly with the sides. The ramen was amazing. The noodles were tender and the broth was one of the most flavorful things I have ever tried. I was a little surprised that they had pulled pork and kale in the ramen, but it really worked. The guys downed their noodles and drank their broth, but I could go no further than the noodles. It was just too much. I wish I had been able to eat more, but I know that if I had the long walk back to the car would have been horrible.
The Toki Classic Ramen
I think that if you like Asian style food you should add this to your must do list for Washington DC. I feel that this would be an awesome place for date night. Its intimate and has good food. (The price is also not too bad, my boyfriend and I spent about $50 for the steamed buns, two bowls of ramen and a coke, water is free of course) I don't think it would be a great place for larger groups or families, just because the seating is so limited.
The music was a little on the loud side. I'm not too sure if that was just the way it normally is or if they were trying to drown out the noise from the festival on the street outside. I hadn't been expecting to hear modern rock and rap sounds. I guess I had expected more of an Asian feel, but it worked with the whole feel of the dining area.
I would totally go again! Just, not on a crazy one day trip. If I happened to be in DC checking out the museums or monuments I would strongly consider heading off the beaten path to get some amazing ramen. If you are someone that likes to eat where the locals eat when you are on vacation then this is the place for you.
There are a lot of locals that frequent this establishment. A lot of them have put reviews and pictures on food review sites. Simply google 'Toki Underground' and I assure you, you will find what you are looking for.