Tried Sakuramen today. In case you’ve no clue what I’m talking about: Sakuramen is the new ramen place in AdMo, my neighborhood. Needless to say, I was thrilled by its arrival. AdMo has been a near-wasteland for years, but between Mintwood Place and now Saku, the hellish construction seems to be playing off.
While Toki is basically a world away on H street NE, I’ve made the trek several times and - spoiler alert - will probably continue to head over there when I want a killer bowl of ramen. Indulge me in a comparison:
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 chicken bones for either shoyu- (soy) or miso-based broth. Clearer, lighter, and - IMHO - not as good. I’ll be eager to taste their tonkotsu when winter rolls around.
I had the Gojiramen, a straightforward bowl of shoyu broth with pork belly, seaweed, sprouts, and thin, straight noodles. Some of the bowls at Saku have curly noodles, which I prefer, but they’re not clear about which. All of Toki’s bowls use the curly noodles. In the bowl I had at Saku, 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.
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).
If you’ve had things at Saku that you’ve loved, do share. Like I said. I’m sure I’ll be there frequently.