H Street ramen joint Toki Underground is filled with a symphony of sounds: dumplings sizzling on the grill, indie music swelling out of the speakers and the staff cheerfully calling out orders. Chef-owner Erik Bruner-Yang splits his time between cooking and keeping an eye on the cozy, counter-lined dining room. “There’s Dean; there’s Brook; there’s Kristin,” he says as he points out customers slurping up steaming bowls of noodles. “Ramen shops are supposed to be for locals, so I should know everyone who walks in the door.”
Vision: To clarify: This is not the 10-packets-for-$1 Top Ramen you subsisted on in college; this is gourmand-approved, Taiwan-style ramen, which Bruner-Yang learned how to cook during a monthlong trip there in 2009. “I wanted people to feel like they were eating out in the streets of Taipei,” the Asian food mecca where he was born, Bruner-Yang says.