Ramen addicts were thrilled when Sakuramen opened in Adams Morgan last week and it seems a lot of them couldn't wait to get in the doors of the tiny below-ground restaurant. And, from a scan of most of the early reviews, nobody could really help themselves from comparing Sakuramen to some of its predecessors in ramen: the year-old Toki Underground, People's Noodle Bar, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ippudo and others. So how does Sakuramen stack up so far in the estimations of the early diners? Time to take a look.
The Ippudo News: Serious Eats got in early and had plenty of kind things to say, ending in a comparison to New York's beloved Ippudo: "Sakuramen isn't Ippudo, but it doesn't have to be. Given the current state of ramen in D.C., Sakuramen's soft open last week is a step in the right direction for the city. If nothing else, once it introduces late-night hours, expect to hear fewer drunken Jumbo Slice stories and more involving latenight ramen." [SE]
The Momofuku News: One Don Rockwell commenter left several updates on her experience at Sakuramen, but started off with a comparison to David Chang's Momofuku: "The buns that come out may be visually reminiscent of the Momofuku buns, but they are not attempting to be a Chang imitation. The pork belly was tender, but not strongly barbequed. The pork was balanced nicely with greens and scallions. We rather inhaled them, and I did not get a picture." [Don Rockwell]
The Japanese Ramen News: Even though Sakuramen is serving fusion rather than traditional Japanese ramen, one Yelper says it still scratches that itch: "I grew up in Japan, and eating here brought back memories of local ramen shops back home. Even the mochi ice cream is imported from Japan. What makes ramen perfect is the right balance of taste and texture between the broth, noodles, and other ingredients...and that's what I got at Sakuramen. This is the real deal. Consider me a regular!" [Yelp]
The Toki Underground News: Not Derby Pie is overall really glad to have Sakuramen around, but breaks down the differences between it and Toki Underground: "Some of the bowls at Saku have curly noodles, which I prefer, but they’re not clear about which. All of Toki’s bowls use the curly noodles. In the bowl I had at Saku, the noodles were ever so slightly undercooked. We’re talking just shy of al dente. I’ve made four or five trips to Toki, and the noodles have been perfect every time. The toppings at Toki also win the day. Better pork, better greens or seaweed, and - crucial - a way better egg. Toki’s is just barely set; the only way to describe it is custardy. At Saku, they marinate the egg in soy first, so the flavor is good, but they’re just way overcooked." [Not Derby Pie]
The New York Ramen News: A Don Rockwell commenter explains thoughts on Sakuramen as judged by New York City standards: "My point of comparison comes via places like Minca, Ippudo, Rai Rai Ken and various other purveyors of ramen in NYC. I didn't try the buns, because when we saw them, we knew they were not going to be that great. But the ramen, while maybe not up to the best NYC has to offer, was very good for a place that at that point had only been open for a night or two." [Don Rockwell]
The DC Ramen Spectrum News: A Yelper offers the restaurant's place on the DC spectrum of ramen: "This lies somewhere between People's Noodle Bar and Toki Underground in terms of quality, but due to it's proximity and ease of access, for me personally it gets the rounded bump up to the fourth star. It's important to note too that it's not exactly trying to be either of them, but almost distinctly somewhere in between the plain noodle counter where you order and take it to your seat and the full-on restaurant experience with an ever evolving menu and custom cocktail creations." [Yelp]
The Dorm Room Ramen News: Ask Men recommends a visit to Sakuramen on the grounds that: "This isn't your 25 cent dorm-room ramen. In the middle of the jumbo slice corridor in Adams Morgan, Sakuramen is serving up another college favorite, ramen. But this Korean-influenced ramen joint owned by brothers-in-law Jonathan Cho and Jay Park features noodles with freshly made broth in miso or shoyu broths, topped with meat, tempura, veggies or soft-boiled eggs that make this fare adult-friendly." [Ask Men]