June might not be the month you crave a hot bowl of soup, but D.C. recently welcomed a great new addition to its ramen shop scene. Bantam King (501 G St. NW) opened last week in Chinatown, just a stone’s throw from the Verizon Center and around the corner from Daikaya, its sister restaurant. The casual restaurant focuses on chicken-style Japanese ramen and is built out inside a former Burger King space, giving it fun and nostalgic feel.
The idea for Bantam King was born on somewhat of a whim. The Daikaya team was in Japan doing research for another upcoming D.C. ramen concept when they got a call inquiring about their interest in the available restaurant space. After eating hundreds of bowls of ramen in Sapporo and the surrounding area, the crew decided that chicken ramen would be good fit in D.C. – the city didn’t have anything yet that specialized in serving it.
Bantam King’s menu has three basic styles of ramen: chintan, paitan and vegetarian. The kitchen churns out about 50 portions of clear chintan broth each day, so arrive early if your heart is set on this. This clear, salty and savory broth is basically chicken noodle soup. The paitan broth has a milky consistency, a result of all the chicken bones cooking and breaking down into a rich broth.
After choosing your base broth, it’s time to choose your tare (flavoring). Options are shio (salt), shoyo (soy) and miso. They’re all salty but have differences. Each bowl is topped with broccoli rabe, nori, onions, chicken and other garnishes. You can add extra toppings such as extra chicken or an egg for a few bucks each. Going for an egg is definitely worth it, and more meat is a must for particularly hungry guests.
While ramen is the star of the menu, it’s not the only option. Bantam King also has a chicken gyoza appetizer, a savory and slightly spicy appetizer.
In addition to the Japanese offerings there is also a decadent, shareable fried chicken platter. The skin is light and crispy and the skin remains juicy. It comes with all the standard sides like mac and cheese, slaw, mashed potatoes and biscuits. It’s not the greasy pleasure of fast food fried chicken, but it’s a good option for a hungry couple.
And no meal can be complete without a refreshing drink or two. Bantam King is well-stocked with Japanese libations from cheap beer like Sapporo and Orion to fancy bottles of sake and sochu distilled from barley, rice and even sweet potato. The staff when I visited was especially knowledgeable about the options and eager to help with the decision-making process.
That’s really all there is to know. Bantam King doesn’t take reservations, so it’s possible you might have to wait to get a spot, especially given how lines for nearby Daikaya ramen can last hours. But more seats in the neighborhood can only be a good thing, both for business and for customers. It’s a quick and cheap meal that’s as good of a place to spend the night as it is to end it. Hours are from 5 p.m. to 10, 10:30 or 11 p.m. depending on the day – details are on the shop’s website.