Monday, August 9, 2010

Ramen, Ramen, Ramen

Maybe you remember my post a few months back about homemade Ramen, maybe not. In case you don't and are too lazy to click over to that link... (I promise there is the most delicious photo waiting if you click that link) (come on click it!) I'll tell you I made a bastardized version of the Ramen from Momofuku. It was incredible. Go read the post if you want to know why. Don't be lazy, you wont regret it. READ IT NOW. Look here is another link homemade Ramen.

Now, get all of the salivating under control and I will continue.

The story goes like this:
I have been craving ramen for weeks! Finally, on Monday, I convinced Jen to come to McClean, VA to check out the Ramen at Tachibana. Another friend of mine introduced me to the amazing Japanese sushi, etcetera at Tachibana months ago and I have driven about an hour and a half for it about 3 different times.

One time early this year, just after all the snow storms, my two friends and I decided to go to Tachibana to try their Ramen at lunchtime (they only do lunch Ramen). I was so hungry and so excited. But, we got stuck behind a plow on the highway blocking travel lanes with walls of snow! When we got there we had missed the lunch menu. I was so disappointed. Since then I have been craving ramen like no ones business.

So a few weeks ago, Jen and I embarked on a journey. I think she is my friend partially because she is willing to allow my food cravings to dictate how, when, where, and why we hang out. And she is usually willing to go along for the ride. So, we ordered Ramen, Chirashi, and a Spicy Scallop roll. On the waitresses recommendation we ordered the miso Ramen. Most places around here seem to have 3 different styles of broth. At Tachibana the options were soy, salt, and miso. It was good for sure but I could tell it wasn't the best Ramen, nor the most authentic. I did really like the noodles though, they were more similar to the noodles in my bastardized Momofuku version. Check it out:

Photo by Robin- Miso Ramen at Tachibana 

Sorry, I know it isn't beautiful. It's my LG camera phone.

Oh, but just look at the egg, and pork, and seaweed, and fish cake (that cute white thing with the pink swirl). Tachibana also includes some traditional pickled bamboo shoots (learn more about these from Momofuku), and bean sprouts. Yum!

Photo by Robin
This is my version of Ramen in case you were too lazy to read my other post, jerk. (sorry you cant see the broth). My Ramen has enoki mushrooms, scallions, seared pork belly, and pickled shitake. If you want the large image you have to click the link homemade Ramen.

My other favorites from Tachibana are the Spicy Scallop roll, and the Chirashi. In case you aren't familiar with Chirashi it is basically sashimi on a bed of seasoned rice. It's not the kind of thing you want to order if you don't trust the seafood to be 100% fresh. The marinated shitake I added to my Ramen were actually inspired more by the mushrooms in the chirashi at Tachibana, and by Momofuku.  They are not a traditional item in Ramen, but since I skipped the pickled bamboo shoots I wanted some other form of pickle. Tachibana's Chirashi includes tuna, the best, and only mackerel I've ever wanted to eat, shrimp, salmon, those pickeled shitake, omelet, good pickled ginger, and some other stuff I can't identify (but I will find out and report back soon).

Spicy Scallops (Photo by Robin)

Chirashi (Photo by Robin)

A few nights after my successful trip to Tachibana, my friend, who introduced me to Tachibana, decided we should drive to this Ramen bar in Bethesda, also about an hour away (if you are lucky). Of course I was in. (And by "my friend...decided", and "of course I was in" I mean I had to beg him to go eat with me instead of going to the gym, which was very difficult, NOT). My stomach drives my car sometimes and I find myself in places my wallet would never take me because gas is not cheap. (To be fair, my friend drove, but I paid for dinner to make up for it).

The place is called Ren's Ramen, and before I say more to entice you to immediately drive to Bethesda, I must warn you that they will be closed for a while. They are finding a new location, so call ahead to be sure they are open, and maybe ask to be on their email list.

This place is legit. I knew this from the outside because it is a hole in the wall, literally. They are doing construction in the rest of the office-like building it is a part of and there is plastic sheeting up, and exposed beams, and power tools. They even have a blueprint map with mark to show you how to get to the restrooms, with a hard hat hanging on the wall in case you need it on your way. But this only portends good food in my book.

And damn, was it good. The noodles were more like top ramen (that 89 cent stuff most college kids buy) which threw me for a loop, but the egg was cooked perfectly. Honestly, if they had had nothing but stewed pork belly, I couldn't have been a happier woman. Their toppings are an additional, high, fee. But, it is delicious and worth it. They only have three types of Ramen, we ordered salt and it was so good. Broth was gelatinous and unctuous. The pork belly was incredible. I was thrilled. I can't really elaborate more. All I can say is mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Ren's Ramen (look at the little fat globules floating in the broth. fat globules = quality). Included in their ramen is 2 types of pork belly, a piece of dried seaweed, boiled egg, scallions, and bean sprouts).

If you have never had real Ramen. I suggest you go, and go now. Don't wait for fall or winter or a cold. Go.

Ren's Ramen on Urbanspoon

Tachibana on Urbanspoon

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