The fall season seems to be on the cusp of ending in the DMV area which means only one thing – winter is coming. For anyone who has experienced winter on the East Coast knows it is not something to take lightly (literally when thinking of the number of layers you will need to wear). To prepare myself for the freezing cold I have started to scout for the best food to ease the upcoming cold season. First stop is ramen at non-other than JINYA Ramen Bar at the Mosaic District location.
The moment you walk into JINYA Ramen Bar you know you are in some place special because you are greeted immediately with a shout from all the staff welcoming their guest of the evening (aka you) in Japanese. Why Japanese you may ask? Because ramen is originated from Japan and is central to their cuisine. JINYA Ramen Bar was opened in the US by founder Tomonori Takahashi in the US in 2010 with the hope of sharing real Japanese ramen. Lets see how they did.
After the unique welcome into the restaurant you are immediately faced with four different seating arrangements: (1) Dining tables (2) Stools in the middle of the room (3) Chef’s counter (4) Bar. I would personally recommend the following options from most favorable to least: 3, 2, 1 then 4. I placed number 3, which is the Chef’s counter as the highest because as shown in the picture below you are faced with the color coded bowls that match the different ramen types you can choose from (from vegan to pork to super spicy) and you experience the Chef’s hustle first-hand.
For my review I decided to start at the bar then move to the dining table. On both seats, you can’t help but be reminded constantly that you are dining at JINYA Ramen Bar. Why? Because everything is decked out with their name and logo (from the napkins to chopsticks to sauce holders), something I greatly appreciated.
Now enough with the introductory talk, let us dig into what really matters – the food. First order was the Spicy Tofu Salad which to the tofu-repellent people may sound unappetizing but this dish may be the one that converts you into a tofu fan. Trust me when I say it is that good. The dish comes with several cuts of cold tofu topped with finely chopped onion, kikurage, and green onion topped with roasted sesame seeds, kizami nori and a spicy chili sauce.
Second dish was the Takoyaki Octopus Ball. This dish made a smaller entrance when compared to the Tofu salad. The octopus was too small to taste and it seemed to be compensated with a ton of mayonnaise (something that I think needs to come in small portions). Personally, I would not reorder this dish due to its heaviness and very small tease of an octopus but I’ll rely on your comments to prove me wrong and push me to give it another shot.
Third dish which is the star (or at least should be) of the restaurant was the ramen. For ramen we tried two types: vegan and chicken. First picture shows the best vegan ramen I have tried in my life and definitely embodies what JINYA says on their website: “Anyone from Japan can tell you: Real Japanese ramen isn’t about the noodles, it’s about the broth.” The vegetable broth embodied so much flavor you could smell it as it was on its way to you.
The broth is slowly simmered for more than ten hours where they combine whole pork bones, chickens or vegetables with just the right amount of bonito, dashi, kombu and other authentic ingredients. The result (or shall I say truth) as written on the website is a rich broth that is thick, full-flavored, healthful… and unforgettable.
From my research it seems another amazing thing about JINYA Ramen Bar’s ingredients is that they only use FUJI water which is 99.9 percent free from impurities. Taking care of every ingredient put into your dish is what truly creates an unforgettable ramen. But lets not get too hung up on the broth as the second most important component of ramen are the noodles. Apparently the JINYA Ramen Bar’s are not only made fresh daily in house but the noodles are meticulously aged for three days to maximize their flavor. They taste delicious.
I would note that the ramen bowls are quite large and myself and the two other guests could not finish them (given we had two starters). My recommendation would be to try one starter and keep the stomach space for the real meat of this place which is the ramen. I look forward to making my way back to JINYA Ramen bar and try the other 30+ menu items yet to be devoured. With that I will leave you with this random cat found in the unisex bathroom for you to enjoy. Happy ramening! (yes this is a word I just made up).