There are few places in the District that are hard for me to get into: I got into Minibar after calling the day of for a reservation (*unheard of…), I dropped in on Rogue 24 on a couple of occasions where seating would not be a problem and the list goes on and on. This could be charged to luck or knowing the right people at the right time but Toki Underground put me on a humble plate. After three failed attempts at trying to get into the 20-something-seat restaurant, I finally made it in and it was well worth the wait.
Reminders of times spent in China a few years ago, Toki exudes all of the characteristics of a restaurant you might find while roaming the streets of Beijing: casual, bathroom sinks situated outside the bathroom and simple ingredients that leave you wondering why you did not try this in your own kitchen. After the three failed attempts and making a reservation two weeks in advance to finally getting a 6 pm reservation time, I expected some level of pretension to accompany my meal but just the opposite happened. The waiter was attentive, engaging and eager to assist in choosing the perfect ramen selection for my taste buds.
The meal began with the steamed seafood dumplings ($5) and I followed up with the Miso Hakata ($10) ramen. For those of us that lived off the $1 ramen noodles during college, it might be hard to understand the ramen craze going on right now. Toki helps you see how such a simple ingredient can make you wait three tries and two weeks for a mound of noodles twisted into a Miso based broth choke full of scallions, shitake mushrooms, egg and seaweed.
To keep things cool on that warm summer day, a bowl of kimchi was in order. A little light on the spice factor, which fell below my expectations for traditional kimchi, I would probably double up on my dumplings the next go around.
The restaurant not only dabbles in ramen bowls, they brought out their Toki Monster which should be renamed “Hello, I’m Drunk”. Loaded with Bourbon and Scotch with a slim skewer of porkbelly to let you know your playing with fire, the Toki Monster is not recommended for the light weight. Though I am not a fan of the term “foodie”, Toki is quintessentially the foodies recess from the overpriced, experimental playgrounds. The restaurant invites everything from ripped jeans to your old Chuck Taylors, dress comfortably in other words, no Giseppe’s for this outing. Will I return? This goes without saying it but it really depends on when my next craving allows me a two week wait allowance…