Friday Question of the Day – Best Ramen in DC?

by Prince Of Petworth January 12, 2017 at 10:22 pm 69 Comments


Since Toki has been toppled from their perch – where’s the best ramen in DC? Maketto? Bantam King? Daikaya? Sakuramen? Oki Bowl? Momofuku? Kintaro? Kanji-kana? Or is Toki Underground still tops? Where is your favorite? (please include neighborhood name or street where the restaurant is located.)

Ed. Note: We spoke about our favorite Thai restaurants in DC last Friday.

  • Glover Gnome

    I’m personally partial to Sakuramen (their veggie ramen is rich, flavorful and full of depth), but I’ve been on this ramen kick lately and am revisiting some spots I haven’t been in a while so it may change in the next few weeks! Went to Daikaya the other night; tasty but didn’t think it bested Sakuramen. Going to Chaplin’s (Shaw, P St) tomorrow; never been so we shall see! And going to Toki in a couple of weeks, which I haven’t had in a solid year+. I know I sound like some kind of ramen monster…

    FWIW, I tried Haikan (North Shaw, V St) a month ago, with some friends, and though the service could be better, I actually enjoyed their ramen more than Daikaya’s (same owners)! But that just might be me. Anyway, the bottom line is I’ve never met a bowl of broth and noodles I didn’t like, but Sakuramen’s bae.

    • Anonynon

      chaplins is garbage, had it twice. No flavor or spice very dissapointed

    • Kingman Park It

      I haven’t had Sakuramen; I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while. I’ll have to go in the coming weeks.

      I love Daikaya. Toki is great, but very different. They aren’t even close to what you’d consider classic ramen.

      I thought Haikan’s ramen was legitimately identical to Daikaya. I’ve only been to Haikan once, but I’ve been to Daikaya dozens of times and thought it was striking how similar the ramen was.

      Chaplin’s is quite cool as a bar, and they have good cocktails, but hte ramen isn’t worth your time, imo.

  • U neighbor

    No expert here, but spreading the love for Haikan!
    Located in the “Duke” district

    • Anon

      I was very underwhelmed by Haikan. I thought it was fine, but just that.

      • Anonymoose

        Agreed, and to add to an above poster, service was poor.

    • Ramen Jim

      I second your love for Haikan. Lots of taste.

    • Abby

      The veggie ramen at Haikan was so flavorful. I was really, really impressed.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      I haven’t been to Toki, but I also prefer Haikan to Daikaya (though both are amazing). Haikan was so smokey and delicious, plus the ability to get other food there is nice. Chaplin does not have ramen quite as good as Haikan or Daikaya, but its size, the fact that you can get a reservation, and the great happy hour (anywhere in the restaurant; not just at the bar) makes it a solid choice (and great date spot). Somewhat related, I tried the Reren Lamen place, and I was not a fan of that at all.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        ADD: I didn’t care for Bantam King. It was fine, but not nearly on par with Haikan and Daikaya despite being the same owners. It just tasted like chicken noodle soup.

      • Kingman Park It

        When did you go to Reren?

        I thought they were meh when they first opened, but the ramen has gotten substantially better.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          Not sure. Maybe 2 or 3 months ago. Def. Not when it first opened.

  • stcohi

    I will forever miss TAAN. But Sakuramen is tops IMHO. Yes, I am showing my NW bias.

    • MadMax

      TAAN was definitely underappreciated. Their wings were also exceptional.

    • Welshi

      TAAN was great when it first opened, I went there numerous times and loved it. But then it went downhill very fast and was absolutely terrible. I was not surprised when they closed.

      Aside from Toki, what ramen shop exists outside of NW?

  • MarkQ

    From an eater that thinks ramen is generally overrated (noodles? Broth? Sounds like struggle eating, not fine dining!), I do like Chaplin’s A.S.S.

    • DCier

      I completely agree. Chaplin does it right. Not overly salty, but simple. No crazy lines or people. Much more civilised.

    • Anon

      Ramen was never meant to be fine dining, though it is very trendy at the moment.

  • Lynnka

    I’m always hunting for good ramen. Still think Toki Underground tops, even though I wish there are better ones. The culture of ramen has never been fine dining. It’s meant to be quick, flavorful, paired with draft beer or gold whiskey, and in tiny space. From the traditional culture perspective, dakaiya also fits the character, but taste is mediocre. I didnt feel like I’m in an authentic ramen place the moment I walked into Chaplins or Haikan, and then the experience confirmed it.

  • JB

    Daikaiya has the best ramen. Sakuramen is the runner up.

  • A

    I assume Ren’s Ramen doesn’t count since it’s in Wheaton, so I’ll choose Daikaya.

    • silverspringanon

      Ren’s really is the best ramen in town, although the lack of atmosphere and a liquor license is going to turn some people off. Still, their noodles are top notch.

  • Anon

    Sakuramen’s my favorite at the moment, followed by Daikaya. Toki fell off the map for me personally.

  • Evan Lee

    Daikaya hands down.

  • AdMoRez

    Toki isn’t traditional ramen, and the broth isn’t boiled for a long time, it’s a quick fix and it’s reflected in the broth. My favorite is Daikaya in the district, but in the area, Jinya is King. LA/West Coast ramen beats DC ramen hands down, and Jinya is proof of that hailing from LA. Anyone who is a real ramen aficionado and has traveled around eaten ramen, knows Toki isn’t real Japanese ramen. Erik, the chef, even concurred on that. It’s not to say it’s bad, it’s good and flavorful, but it doesn’t have the heart and soul of ramen broth’s that boils and simmers for at least 24 hours.

    • Anon

      No offense, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. Erik hasn’t been the chef for a couple of years now. And They do indeed long-boil their broth (or at least they used to before Erik’s departure). The food went downhill pretty quickly after his departure.

  • Joshua Shnider

    daikaya in the district, for sure. ren’s ramen in wheaton is just as good though.

  • big fan

    Daikaya and it isn’t even close. The spicy miso bowl with some added pork belly is not only the best ramen in town, I think it’s the best affordable dish in all of DC.

    • Kingman Park It

      Agree with Daikaya, just wanted to chime in that the pork belly has been super disappointing recently.. It’s always lukewarm, which makes the fat feel gelatinous rather than melty goodness.

  • MasterOfRamen

    Stuff from the supermarket that cost $1

  • lizcolleena

    Daikaya! Haikan was also pretty good. I didn’t care for Momofuku’s or Cafe Grande’s at 17th and K.

  • ctk

    I’m not a connoisseur but I do like the lamen (not a typo) at Reren in Chinatown.

    Daikaya & Toki also yummy, I think those are the only 3 I’ve tried.

    • Ach forgot about Reren – been wondering about them!

      • Tsar of Truxton

        I was not a fan of Reren at all. The noodles are like giant, overcooked Campbell’s soup noodles.

        • Oh that’s a bummer :(

          • Tsar of Truxton

            Reasonable people can obviously disagree, but I wasn’t a fan. It wasn’t awful, but there are much better options imo. The noodles are definitely different than the typical ramen noodles though.

          • Anon

            I was similarly surprised at what BKK called “ramen noodles” in their Green Curry dish. The dish was good, but the noodles were thick and much more resembling of chicken noodle soup noodles than the skinny, curly ramen noodles I expected.

        • Kingman Park It

          Ah, just saw this.. I responded to you earlier, but the noodles are substantially better at Reren now than they were months ago. They also have a wonderful assortment of veggies served in their bowls.

  • Cam

    Still waiting for excellent ramen. Having lived in Japan spoiled me.

  • uppermostnorthwest

    Kanji-Kana on Vermont between K & L NW is pretty delicious authentic Japanese Ramen.

    • lizcolleena

      I forgot I’ve been there. I still prefer Daikaya’s though.

  • Great!
    Daikaya (possibly the best anywhere)
    Toki (has gone slightly down over the years but still great)


    Not Good
    Momofuku (sadly, the whole place is very disappointing)

    • horrible formatting by me but you get the idea :-)

  • A.S.S.

    I like Sakuramen and Chaplin’s A.S.S., partly for yummy taste, and partly because I can’t deal with the crowds and cramped atmosphere of other lauded ramen places like Toki or Dakaiya.

  • DF

    Bantam King! Plus, their dumplings and accompanying sauce is one of the most memorable dishes of 2016 for me. We did have ramen at a place in Charlotte called Futo Buta and while the broth wasn’t on par with BK/Dakaiya, the pork belly was smokey and so unctuous. Dear lord it was good (but again, it’s NC so it better be good pork!).

  • MadMax

    Ever since Erik left Toki (and frankly even before then, as his attention got diverted to other projects) their quality has declined precipitously. (I’m not going to argue about authenticity, merely flavor.) And oddly it’s still one of the best tasting bowls in the city, although that speaks not as much to their effort as the general blandless of the broths found everywhere else across the city. I’ve had almost every shop that’s popped up over the last couple years and most of them are just underwhelming. A few deliver a great bowl occasionally but counter that with imbalanced bowls elsewhere on the menu. It’s just so inconsistent in DC, and ramen is one of those dishes where consistency is everything. I’ve kind of given up on it at this point…maybe DC has developed its own brand of whitewashed ramen (similar to the saltena/empanada discussion yesterday) that is here to stay, due to the demand of the clientele.

  • cpt12

    I’m partial to Chaplin. I know it’s probably not authentic, but man is it tasty!

  • Abby

    I like Haikan, Sakuramen, and Daikaya. I’m vegetarian so I can only speak to the quality of their veggie broth. I love that Chaplin has 3 veggie options too. And Toki Underground is great too. Can I like them all?

    • LGformerlyofMt.P

      Also a veg, and I know our ramen is wayyy different from the real stuff.

      I like haikan, daikaya, and chaplin’s

      I am impartial to sakuramen

      And I distinctly do not like toki or momofuku

    • KillerTofu

      I love Toki but haven’t been there in a while. Daikaya’s broth I didn’t enjoy as much but mainly because it was not what I was expecting ramen to taste like, and I wonder if it’s because it’s their veggie broth. Do us vegetarians need our own rating system?

  • CatieCat

    LOVE Haikan, though I havent been a ramen eater for that long. I was also super impressed by Bantam. The chicken broth was lighter and different, but if I had to choose, Haikan has my heart.

  • RamenLover

    Daikaya hands down. They are the only ones that import their noodles and you can tell the superb quality.

  • iHawkeye

    Diakaya to me is by far the best. Great broth and fantastic noodles.

    Momofuku’s was really disappointing (maybe it was just the night we went or too high of expectations). Noodles were pretty pedestrian. Plus my fiance ended up with stomach pains the entire night afterward.

    Haven’t made it into Toki (although we did get it on Postmates but I don’t think that is fair to judge it on).

    Haikan was fine but I was more excited about the apps and short wait than the ramen.

  • skj84

    My personal favorite is Bantam King. The Shoyu Ramen is lick the bowl good. Also a fan of Taste of Japan in Farragut Square. I wasn’t impressed by Chaplin’s. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t knock me off my feet good either.

  • Victoria

    I always go back to Daikaya. For me, it’s the closest I’ve had to what I enjoyed in Tokyo, and it’s a fun place too.

  • Will

    Toki Underground

  • LongView

    Daikaya is by far the best. (Haven’t tried Haikan). The basics that make good ramen, stock and noodles, are the best there.

    Toppings-wise, Sakuramen and Toki are more diverse. But the blocks of what makes the best ramen is at Daikaya.

  • Nick

    Chaplin hands down.

  • former petworth

    oki Bowl DC is tasty!

  • Pleasanter

    Absolute Noodle is great on 5th St. in Chinatown!

  • That One Guy

    There should be a PoP Ramen Challenge (aka cook off) to pronounce which ramen is the best in DC.
    What I’m more interested in finding out is which ramen place serves the best pork buns.

  • anon&confused

    Oki Bowl is one of my absolute favorite ramen places. I like that they offer a few traditional options, and a few out-of-this-world non-traditional options, like the Thai curry ramen.

  • Jen

    Chaplin’s is my vote. The spicy stamina is sooo good! so is the A.S.S

  • Ramen Eater

    Haikan > Daikaya because Haikan is 4 blocks from my house and they have a full bar. Haikan is also a bit larger so there is less of an issue getting in on most nights. But I would not turn down Daikaya in any case.

    Bantam King is pretty interesting for a change of pace — get the chintan if you can, it is special.

    Sakuramen is worth a visit as well — the line can be a bit rough and it is a bit too noisy but the ramen is sold.

    Bar Charlie’s ramen isn’t particuarly good, but the bartenders and the atmosphere is pretty cool. I’d get dumplings and cocktails there.

  • MtP

    Daikaya is my hands-down favorite. Toki is great too. Haven’t tried Bantam King or Haikan yet.

  • Johanna

    For me, Daikaya and Chaplin’s are tied. Both have, in my opinion, the best egg-free, veg options. I used to love Toki, but they recently started using egg noodles.

  • Easyenough

    Sakuramen! I like that they have a local take on ramen instead of trying to imitate a specific Tokyo style. Osaka ramen doesn’t generally taste like Tokyo’s, so why should DC’s?

  • Theo

    Forget ramen, man! I want a good tempura soba. With one of those delicious tempura vegetable pancakes. 400 yen.

  • Liz

    Not sure anyone will see this since I’m so late, but I felt like I needed to add that Sushi Taro does pretty great ramen about once a month. They announce it on fb the day before (or sometimes the day of) and it’s a good idea to make a reservation because it can get busy on ramen day. Their broth is awesome. I’d say that and Toki are the best, but I also love Sakuramen as a great neighborhood spot.


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