Why I can’t always trust Yelp // Sakuramen, DC Review

Sakuramen boasts 1,000+ reviews and a 4-star rating on Yelp. That’s usually a sign that it will taste good, right? Nah. Albeit the disappointment, it is ramen places like these that motivate me to create these reviews!

Sakuramen is Korean-owned, which might explain a few things. In my experience, traditional Korean management tends to cheap out and trade off quality for “hype-quality.” This means that they will purchase a cheap, boxed wine at the grocery store, pour it in a glass, and advertise it as an elegant, more expensive house wine on the menu. Inexperienced wine drinkers will gladly pay for the over-priced box wine because they will never learn that the glass they ordered was cheaper than the entire box. This happened at the sushi restaurant I worked at back in high school. It was pretty smart.

I tasted three different bowls here: Tonkotsu Red, Spicy Miso, and Spicy Shoyu. The option for customers to choose the spicy level from 1-10 is probably a big contributor to the hype. People blindly make their ramen as spicy as possible, which is meaningless to do if you appreciate Japanese ramen as an art. That said, I ordered the Tonkotsu Red with no extra spiciness. Tip: Don’t do that. It’s bland.

 

The following review is on the Tonkotsu Red.

 

The Positive

Light and crunchy menma
Bamboo shoots are one of my favorite toppings in ramen. Its crunchy texture and mild flavor supplemented the noodles and harmonized well.

 

The Negative

Cheap tasting noodles, not al dente
My parents asked, “I wonder how cheap they buy the noodles for?” I giggled. That’s never a good sign. The noodles were far from al dente and could have been from any standard noodle pack at your nearest Nijiya market. The noodles softened before I was half way finished with my noodles.

Lackluster, burnt broth
Asking how they prepared the broth only reaffirmed my unfavorable opinion of it. The waiter I questioned called over another waiter who then answered, “we use pork bone and…prepare it for 2-3 hours…” He stuttered a bit, which is understandable! He wasn’t the chef. Either way, it’s hard to create a bold tonkotsu flavor with only 2-3 hours of preparation. I’m not sure if the burnt particles were intended for the bowl, but either way, it accentuated the ramen in a way it shouldn’t have.

Uneven seasoning in chashu, too much fat
At first I thought the fat in the chashu was too blubbery. A couple bites deep, the flavor and saltiness overloaded my tasted buds and alerted my mind to prepare for another–only to be disappointed from an unflavored, bland bite of chashu. This chashu brought a new surprise with each bite! The inconsistency put a frown upon my face.

 

CONCLUSION

It’s important to keep in mind that these opinions are all mine! If you enjoy it, that’s great. To me, it seemed like they put in the bare minimum to crafting this bowl of ramen. No thought was put into the actual art of making it. No time was carefully spent pulling out the noodles at the exact second, nor evenly seasoning the chashu! All they did was give their customers the option to add a spiciness level from 1-10. A high spicy level will blind the taste buds from the true flavor of the broth, which was inherently bland.

 

Globo’s Ultimate Rating: 2.0
Yelp Review: 4 Stars, 1108 Reviews
Location: 2441 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009


Glimpse of Japan’s tsukemen: Marumen, VA Review

I went to Marumen with little expectation, especially because the location was in the middle of nowhere! I guess that’s what you’d expect from restaurants in Virginia.

 

What is Tsukemen?

Tsukemen (つけ麺?) is a Japanese noodle dish consisting of ramen which is eaten after dipping in a separate bowl of soup.

Essentially, the noodles and the soup are served separately. Tsukemen noodles tend to be on the thicker side and are usually served cold. The broth is, of course, hot. Why in the world would anyone want to eat ramen like this? First, keeping the noodles separate from the broth preserves the dense, thick, and chewy texture of the noodles. When you leave noodles in soup for too long, they get soggy! Second, the soup tends to be more concentrated in tsukemen, allowing you to cater the amount of broth you use to your own personal liking. If you prefer a richer flavor, you can soak your noodles in the broth – which, I’m guilty of doing.  Third, the cold noodles are refreshing to eat during warm seasons. Although, I think ramen can be eaten during any season!

 

Review on “Astro Boy” with shoyu dipping sauce.

 

The Positive

“Every bowl of ramen is made with paitan broth that has been carefully prepared for 14 hours.”

  • Authentic Japanese flavor
    When I visit ramen places in the states,  I’m always haunted by how “americanized” the bowls of ramen are. Eating at Marumen brought me back to a distinct memory of eating tsukemen in Tottori Prefecture. Its clean and simple flavor genuinely made me happy to inhale the noodles while comforted by the memories of eating in Japan. :’)
  • Density and chewiness of the noodles
    The noodle’s thickness was about an 8.5/10. I prefer thinner noodles, but the al dente style made each bite as satisfying as you could imagine. The larger width of the noodles made it a little harder for me to slurp – I haven’t mastered the art of slurping, yet.
  • Egg was timed almost perfectly
    ALMOST perfectly. I’m so picky when it comes to the egg. The perfect egg (for me) is on the runnier side, yet firm enough to hold the yolk in place – until you bite into it. It also has to be bold in flavor, yet harmonize with the essence of the bowl. Marumen’s egg almost satisfied this criterion, although you could tell it was a little cold.
  • Savory and sweet chashu
    After visiting here three times, each person’s reaction to the first bite of chashu is “wow, that’s good!” It really is good. Deep, sweet and savory flavors are infused into the meat. My only critique is that it stands out a little too much on its own.

 

The Negative

  • Mediocre shoyu broth
    Paitan, which means “white soup”, tends to be thick and cloudy. The tsukemen broth at Marumen was definitely thick and densely rich in flavor the first time I went. The third time I went, it felt like the flavor was lacking.
  • Consistency was different every time
    Why is it that the broth was different for each of the three times I went? I seek for consistency. Marumen failed in this category.
  • Taste and absorption of the noodles
    Although the chewiness was almost perfect, the noodles tasted a little bare. When I dipped the noodles into the broth, I tasted the noodles, not the tsukemen as a whole. You can counter this by drinking the soup with the noodles.

 

The LeftoverTsukemen Leftovers

 

Globo’s Ultimate Rating: 3.2
Location: 3250 Old Pickett Rd, Fairfax, VA 22031
Yelp Status: 3.8 Stars, 680 Reviews