Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Chinese New Year

Photo courtesy of Dave Newman (newmanchu)
Chinese New Year courtesy of Dave Newman (newmanchu)

It’s the Year of the Dragon folks, which other than promising good fortune and fire-breathing glory also means mouth-watering Chinese menus at some of DC’s best Asian haunts. Starting January 23rd  Zentan, Toki Underground, and The Source will be paying homage to the Dragon through the culinary traditions of the Chinese New Year.

Now, for some brain food. The Dragon, also known as the divine beast, is the fifth sign of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar which consists of 12 animal signs, and is a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense power. The official Chinese New Year is Monday, January 23rd and is celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving, for a whole 15 days. Traditional foods include a whole fish (represents unity and abundance), chicken (for prosperity), uncut noodles (representing long life) and dumplings (for good fortune).

So, where can you get your Dragon on and eat for good luck?

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Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Toki Underground

Toki Underground, Washington DC courtesy of Plantains & Kimchi

Culinary Ninja. That is the only way to describe Erik Bruner-Yang, the man behind Toki Underground, a tiny ramen sanctuary on H Street. Recognized only by the small blue emblem on the door, this Taiwanese restaurant is serving the best ramen I’ve ever tasted, and in the coolest, freshest environment I’ve been to in a while.

It’s not as if Toki hasn’t received a share amount of praise and hype and I found me a secret. Au contraire, it’s been one of the most buzzed restaurants in town, and given their no reservations policy, a one to two hour wait is to be expected. What the kimchi is right–but seriously–it is worth it.

When you walk up the stairs you enter Erik’s world. A world filled with the most wonderful smells–of fried dumplings, hearty ramens, and tempura vegetables–sights and sounds that transport you. Every inch of the place screams rockstar genius. The walls are filled with graffiti art, skateboards form a faux roof above the kitchen, plastic toys battle each other on the edges. It’s a man’s world, and one which I never wanted to leave. The music blares and track after track the beats just get better.

Hello ninja house party, where have you been all my life?

The drink menu includes imported beers, an extensive list of premium sake, and some Thai drinks I had never heard of. I opted for the Toki Monster- a perfectly stirred Bourbon with honey liqueur, served on the rocks, with a pork belly skewer accompanying it. I’ll repeat–a pork belly skewer, as a garnish. One bite and sip of this monster and I knew this place meant business. I also knew that pork belly skewer was singlehandedly responsible for my increased BAC as one is never enough. But on to the food…
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