Ok, if you're like me, when you think of ramen, the first thing that comes to mind is this. The over-salted, underwhelming, cheap stuff that only has a time and a place at 3 AM in a freshman dorm. I was vaguely aware of the traditional Japanese ramen, but I've always been a bigger fan of soba, udon, or shirataki. But when I was trying to think of what would be a perfect cure for a hangover on a particularly cold New Year's Day, I thought ramen just might be the trick.
I've been really, really, really, excited to go to Toki Underground for a while. I wasn't deterred by the long wait times (typically 2+ hours), or the trendiness (Toki has been known to host famous clientele like Manny and Doogie Hauser). And although I don't know the difference between Japanese and Taiwanese ramen, its difficult to keep me away from a hearty bowl of noodles, dumplings, and a soundtrack handpicked by Geologist from the Animal Collective.
If you're claustrophobic at all, I'd suggest ordering food to go, as space is limited to bar seating around the perimeter, and in front of the tiny kitchen. We were seated between the 2 street-view windows, in front of some shelves that held jars of bonito flakes, the biggest cinnamon sticks I've ever seen, house-made preserved lemons, and togarashi. The menu is simple and straightforward:
When it came to the ramen, I chose the kimchi kae-dama (which means with extra noodles), while Kara chose the Taipei Curry Chicken. It was everything I was hoping for...packed with umami, there was a savory, flavorful broth, tender pulled pork, perfectly cooked noodles which absorbed a ton of flavor from the broth, and enough heat in the kimchi to clear out my sinuses. The soft egg was a pleasant surprise, especially when I broke the yolk and let it mix into the broth. Kara's bowl had perfectly crispy pieces of chicken, spinach, some nori, and a delicious broth that didn't overpower the other items in the bowl. The ramen was so filling that we didn't even have room for milk and cookies. Maybe next time!