Pink Line Project's Diana Nash recently visited Adams Morgan eatery Sakuramen, where she enjoyed the restaurant's Shoki Bowl and other items. [Photo by Diana Nash.]
Pink Line Project's Diana Nash sampled gyoza dumplings during her recent visit to Sakuramen in DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood. [Photo by Diana Nash.]
Adams Morgan restaurant Sakuramen's decor features this wall mural of "Shoki" the Ramen Bar Guardian, by artist Jin Chung. [Photo by Diana Nash.]
Another wall mural, inside at Sakuramen. [Photo by Diana Nash.]
For everyone mourning the year-long closing of DC Noodles (due to construction on U Street), and daunted by the trek to Toki Underground and their no-reservations-after-six policy, I have one word for you: Sukuramen.
Open for just three months, this tiny ramen shop in the heart of Adams Morgan is serving up steaming bowls of broth and noodles and providing hope and sustenance to the many area residents who wonder why this staple of East Asian cuisine is so under represented in our city. While New York City seems to have a noodle shop around every corner, Washington is curiously lacking in them, forcing ramen lovers to drive out to suburban restaurants or endure the potentially hour-plus wait at Toki Underground.
So I am rooting for first-time restaurateurs Jonathan Cho and his brother-in-law Jay Park, along with Cho's wife, MyungEun, the cook behind the bowls of broth and noodles that come out of the kitchen, piled high with kimchi, scallions, seaweed, or any of the other various "toppings" that diners can pick to customize their orders. The dining room is small and cozy, with a long communal table and a dozen or so small tables. The walls, painted by local artist Jin Chung, feature long, wavy white lines that resemble strands of ramen, and a scattering of cherry blossoms against a rich, red background.
When I visited Sakuramen on Tuesday night, my group and I started with an order of gyoza, delicious pork dumplings that come steamed or fried. These and the steamed chasu and bulgogi buns are a great way to take the edge off an appetite revving up for ramen. In terms of entrees, the restaurant offers six different kinds of ramen, and hopes to expand the menu options in the fall. We tried three out of the six, including the shoki bowl, the best option for meat lovers that includes roasted pork belly and sliced Angus rib eye; chosun, a Korean inspired ramen dish that also contains rib eye, but adds a wallop of spicy, roasted kimchi; and the favorite of our group, gojiramen, the more traditional ramen dish with pork belly, bamboo shoots, and sprouts. The latter has a wonderful, rich broth that can be livened up with a side of Sakuramen’s original fireball spice (literally, a ball of spice paste) that dissolves into the soup spreading a fiery, crimson tide over the noodles, meat, and vegetables.
Despite the crowds Sakuramen is drawing-- even on a weeknight in the dog days of August-- the owners have experienced their share of struggles. A recent review in the Washington Post contained the incorrect address, leaving many diners (myself included) wandering up and down 18th Street wondering if the restaurant had closed. A bigger issue for the owners and patrons is the fact that Sakuramen currently has no liquor license, and the prospects for getting one anytime soon are daunting. The Adams Morgan commercial strip will likely face a five-year moratorium for new liquor licenses because of neighborhood complaints about noise and crime. The owners have applied for a license, but there is no guarantee that Sakuramen will be granted a license when the current moratorium expires next year. No need to be discouraged though – the abundance of bars and cafes on either side of Sakuramen are the perfect excuse to sip a cocktail before indulging in a delicious bowl of ramen.
And regardless of whether he succeeds in obtaining a liquor license, Cho and his partners think they are responding to a community need. "Opening a ramen bar in Adams Morgan was an easy decision for us. We feel that ramen is the ultimate comfort food, something that people crave regularly, if they're anything like us. So it all started with a simple idea,” he explains. “Serve great comfort food, the way we like to eat it, using the highest quality ingredients available. People tend to be happy around comfort food... and we like being around happy people."
For more information on Sakuramen (2441 18th Street NW, Washington, DC) please visit their
For more information on artist Jin Chung, who is Director at Treetop Art Studio (3545 Chain Bridge Road, #202, Fairfax, VA), please contact him at (703) 303-7602 or by e-mail at email@example.com.