Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FULL AT LAST - THANK GOD ALMIGHTY I AM FULL AT LAST

REN’S RAMEN
6931 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD 20814

4 OUT OF 5 GRAINS OF RICE

Those of you familiar with the blog know how we feel about Ramen. Simply, one of life’s great pleasures. Yet, surprisingly hard to do well and all too hard to find in our neck of the woods. Trips to NY and the occasional and all too infrequent trips to Japan aside, we have long needed, wanted, begged for and craved Ramen in America’s capitol. I’ve even talked with friends about quitting our jobs, moving to Japan for 6 months to learn the trade and coming back to DC as the Ramen king. Now, after 10 years of disappointment, I am thrilled to announce that DC has entered the Ramen Zone with the arrival of Ren’s Ramen.
OK, OK, technically, it is in Maryland (Bethesda) but it is just outside the city line and within 15 minute drive from my house - so it counts. And, more importantly, it is goooooood. Not the best Ramen you will ever have, and not better (or even as good) as the best placed in NYC (including Sapporo and Ippudo). But way better than anything that can be had within 150 miles and given how long we have waited, a real relief and pleasure.
The location leaves a bit to be desired – in a business/strip mall. The ambiance is underwhelming, with more linoleum than wood, and conference tables as opposed to a bar. The florescent lighting also lays everything bare. But, let’s face it, those in search of good noodles are willing to deal with a lot for the real thing. Screw how it looks, how does it taste?!
And Ren’s is the real thing. The menu is very short but offers four styles of ramen, all Sapporo style. These include Miso, Tonshio (pork bone), Vegetable shio (salt flavored), and Shoyu (soy flavored) soup. In addition, there are extra toppings, including extra pork, bamboo shoots, flavored boiled egg, corn, seaweed, and even butter.
I ordered the Shoyu on my first visit – although I was later told by a Japanese friend than Miso is the main Sapporo style to eat. I also ordered with the extra pork (if you are a long time reader, you understand) and the egg.
The broth is excellent. Yes, a tad salty, but has a nice deep flavor, a slight sheen from fat on top and a deep brown color. This took some effort. More importantly, the noodles are excellent – yellow, kinky and with a bit of bite. Really delicious stuff. The roast pork is also excellent – nice a fatty.
The cost is a little annoying– each of the extras is . . . well . . . extra. So a bowl of soup with some extra toppings can quickly come to $15-16 bucks. But it is a lot cheaper than a bus trip to New York or a one way ANA flight to Narita.
All in all, I sleep much better knowing DC has now come to terms with its Asian eating compulsives and opened Ren’s. I’ll be back again and again, and in fact, may be there this weekend.