Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where to Eat: Toki Underground

The Saturday night after Thanksgiving, my roommate, Lauren, and I decided that we were finally hungry for the first time in two days. We also decided that we wanted to go out for dinner because the city would be quiet with everyone else out of town. But where to go? Lauren suggested ramen noodles at Toki Underground because the place is usually packed, so hopefully we could get in without waiting.

At first I was a bit skeptical to go out for ramen noodles. Ramen noodles reminded me of college. And while college was a friggin blast, I like to pretend think that my taste is more refined now. But, always up to try something new, I agreed to her idea.

Toki Underground is on H Street NE. H Street is in many ways the new place to hang out in D.C. And for good reason. A densely populated bar scene without the chaos and skanky girls of Adams Morgan? Yes, please. With lots of different venue types to choose from? Yes, yes, please. And men with beards everytime I turn around? God, just writing this makes me want to head over there right now.
There are chill, laid back places with big couches and dim lights like Smith Commons. There are bars with games like H Street Country Club and Star and Shamrock. There are divey bars like The Pug and Red Palace. There are places to dance like Little Miss Whiskey's. And then there are all the new restaurants popping up left and right.

Toki Underground is one of those restaurants. It opened over a year ago and has been packed ever since. Toki serves traditional Taiwanese ramen noodles and dumplings. And I am so glad that I checked it out.

But remember that wait we were hoping to avoid? Yeah, even on Thanksgiving weekend it was packed. A table for two was a 55 minute wait. But Toki offers a nice service. The hosts adds your name and phone number to the wait list and will call you when your table is ready. So, we skipped across the street for pre-dinner drinks at Smith Commons. When the host called, we just walked back across the street and were seated immediately. Pretty cool if you ask me.

The space is small and cozy. This is a photo of the bar area.

The restaurant does not have tables though. Instead, there are high countertops that run around the perimeter of the restaurant with bar stools for seating. Interesting use of the small, cozy space and it also allowed us to meet (and flirt) with the two guys sitting next to us. And, yup, both had beards.

The menu is small. And our server, although very serious, was extremely knowledgeable and described the various dishes to us.

We decided on the pork dumplings and the seafood dumplings to start. And then for our entrees, I ordered the Curry Chicken Hakata and my roommate ordered the Toki Hakata Classic.

Pork Dumplings

Both variations of the dumplings were good, but the pork definitely had more flavor and would be what I would order if when I go back. As we nibbled on the dumplings and chatted with our new friends, rap music played in the background (while I cannot remember the exact song, my notes say it was a song that had "suck my dick" in the lyrics) . By the time our main course arrived, the music had changed to opera. And while our server was serious and had a very "down to business" attitude, the manager who came by to see if everything was okay was in a flannel shirt and had a typical H Street hipster look to him.

Curry Chicken Hakata
The noodles were delicious. Lots of flavor and nothing like those ramen noodles I ate in college. And at $10 a pop? So, so worth it.

The entire experience was eclectic, unique and awesome. I encourage you all to check it out. Just plan to wait a while. The wait is not only worth it, but with so many bar options in the area it makes the night more fun. Then, after dinner you can do what I did: Head to H Street Country Club for drinks and then onto Little Miss Whiskey's for late night dancing and bad decisions.

And there you go, just like that, I created a perfect night out for you. Have fun!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The song was probably "Party Up" by DMX!