Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ren’s Ramen review

Ren’s Ramen
11403 Amherst Ave.
Wheaton, MD 20902
Ca$h only!

Last week, just after Memorial Day weekend of 2011, I was telling the tale of my Memorial Day weekend 2009 full of good eats in NYC a couple years ago to my coworker, and we got to the ramen topic because of my incredible experience at Ippudo. He told me there was a good one in Bethesda, MD, and immediately I exclaimed “let’s go!” but he continued, they closed last year. Fast forward several days later, and he said his friend went to one. Apparently the same place reopened in Wheaton, and it opened up a day earlier! I was too excited that I broke my own rule of not going to a restaurant within the first 2 weeks. A couple weeks ago, I went to the new Shake Shack within a week of its opening, and it went pretty much perfect, so what the heck? I should have listened to my instincts.

Saturday night, 8PM, and there’s a line out the door. 1.) It seemed popular, since you can hear people talking about this location and how they’ve been to the previous one in the past and 2.) the place is just tiny. There’s a ledge that can sit about 6 that’s like a bar and about 7 tables where most of them only sat 2 people. I waited about 30 minutes before I was able to get a seat. The crowd was mostly Japanese, which is a really, really good sign. The staff was Japanese as well, except for a waitress and a busboy (who were Latino). Since I practically memorized their small menu during my wait, I knew exactly what I wanted. My table had 2 bowls "The Sapporo" style Ramen: one Tonshio, and the other Miso. Both bowls were topped with roast pork, seasoned boiled egg, and corn. The description is: “pork based broth, 1piece roast pork, bean sprout, bamboo shoot, scallion, onion, ground pork.” The stewed fatty pork is the topping I really wanted, and I was notified that they didn’t have any more. I was disappointed, sooooo disappointed. Had I not just waited for a half hour, I would have walked out. I still considered walking out, actually. I just got a cheap “Oh, so very sorry.” Obviously I stayed. Seriously, first weekend, and you run out of what would probably be the most ordered in a small joint like this? Whatever, I got the roast pork. The wait for the food was so long. I won’t hold that against them, since I am guessing it’s to make the food better than if they simply scooped it up. The food & drinks are delivered to all the tables there individually i.e. no trays. 2 hands hold 2 cups of water. Both hands hold one bowl. A table of 2 requires 3 trips. Finally, after the wait, the disappointment, the wait again, it’s eat time! Wait a tick… where are my eggs? There is no seasoned boiled egg here. Ah man. Another mistake? I call the waitress, she apologizes, and returns after another wait with an egg cut in half in a small bowl. There is one more mistake, however this was to my advantage; they added corn. Finally, the taste. I go right for the broth. It’s porky. It’s flavorful. It’s good! Did it make me forget about everything else? Nope. But I was happy to finally
dig in and enjoy this. The roast pork was much better than my expectation. If the roast pork is this good, I could only imagine the fatty pork would be even better. I had to search & search for the ground pork, and when I finally found it, it was clumped together – all ½ a teaspoon’s worth. Why even mention it on the menu? I’m not looking for an overload, but both bowls’ worth combined didn’t seem enough, especially since the bowls were so large. As far as the ramen noodles go, since I’m not an expert, I can only say it is much better than the ones in the package. I was thinking the ones at Ippudo were better, but I would have to do a side-by-side. I could really appreciate that Ippudo makes them on site, but I later heard, but not confirmed, that the ramen here are imported from Hokkaido, Japan at the last location, so I’m wondering if these are from Sapporo. The texture seemed to be the right al dente. I noticed older Japanese people trying it and nodding to each other in approval. The egg definitely added nice texture to the soup, especially with the gooey yolk. Both bowls were quite salty to the point where one of the tongues was burned at the tip and bright red so I finished off the other bowl since I didn’t mind at all. $31.55 for the 2 bowls. They start off at $10 or $11, and then everything is à la carte. They didn’t charge me for the corn they accidentally added to the bowl, so that was good. As highlighted above, this place is ca$h only. Would I go back? Most definitely. Obviously I would wait for them to iron out their kinks.

Food = B+
Service = C

Before egg mistake/after egg mistake
Tiny bit of ground pork

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