Ramen is the new hamburger. About a year ago, it seemed as if a burger joint was opening every few weeks. Noodle shops have begun appearing with almost equal frequency. Ren’s Ramen and Toki Underground kickstarted the craze, and Adams Morgan basement ramen joint Sakuramen got into the game in late May.
Sakura is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom,” so one mural features delicate petals floating alongside curling, noodle- mimicking white and gray lines. The shop is the creation of first-time restaurateurs and second-generation Korean Americans Jonathan Cho, 40, of Alexandria, and co-owner and brother-in-law Jay Park, 35, who lives in Adams Morgan. Cho generally handles front-of-the-house duties, while Park oversees the kitchen. They developed the menu — which is all available for takeout — along with Cho’s wife, MyungEun Cho.
Make a beeline for the steamed Chashu Buns ($7), one of four appetizers on the menu. They are filled with slow- roasted Berkshire pork belly bolstered by a marinade of hoisin, fish sauce, sugary mirin rice wine, sake and a bit of caramelizing brown sugar. Scallion circles scattered on top add a fresh counterpoint to the fat-ribboned meat. In an effort to enhance the flavor of the gyoza ($8), the pork dumplings are graced with a few threads of red chili pepper, which don’t add any punch. Furthermore, the crimped half-moons are flash- griddled all too briefly, leaving the dough faintly translucent, slightly undercooked and underwhelming.