If you haven’t been paying close attention, you may have missed that D.C. has become something of a ramen destination. It’s gotten much easier to find a quality bowl of the savory Asian noodle soup lately, whether you’re on H Street or over in Clarendon. The latest entrant is Haikan, a Sapporo-style ramen shop and the third concept from the team behind Daikaya restaurant and Bantam King.
Haikan opened recently in the polished Atlantic Plumbing Building in Shaw (805 V St.). The space has just under 100 seats, including 40 outdoor spots to slurp soup and other appetizers. There’s also a full bar with a Japanese-inspired cocktail list designed for maximum flavor and efficiency. It’s currently only open for dinner starting at 5 p.m. but hopes to launch brunch and lunch service in the future.
The first thing you’ll notice is the bright, open decor. Haikan’s partners and design team say that the restaurant is meant to evoke a link between the design aesthetic of Washington, D.C. and Japan in the 1950s and 1970s – the time when Sapporo-style ramen got its start. It’s certainly unique among D.C.’s current crop of restaurants.
But before you get to the ramen, a cocktail or glass of shochu is definitely in order. For something different, go with the Wasabi Peas. The fresh, slightly spicy drink uses gin, yuzu, snowpeas and wasabi ($12). Or try the Gurepu-Furusu, a refreshing blend of shochu, honey and grapefruit soda with ice ($10). The bar also slings beer and several varieties of shochu, including the drinkable Beniotome seasame shochu for $9 a pour (get it on the rocks).
Next, dig into a few of Chef Katsuya Fukushima’s creative appetizers. They’re comfort food take on Asian favorites, especially the deviled eggs, crab rangoon and the ma po tofu poutine (not vegetarian). There are salads too, like the smashed cucumber salad and the “caprese salad” with burrata and strawberries. It’s a nice way to start, especially if you’re not in a hurry and want to stretch out your experience a little longer than just a stop for a quick bowl of soup.
Haikan’s Sapporto-style ramen comes in several styles of chintan broth: shio (salty), shoyo (soy) and a fantastic, light miso. Miso ramen was invented in Sapporo, so that’s a good bet to start with. Each of these bowls come with minced pork, sprouts, scallions and seasoning. The noodles are made specially for Haikan by a factory in Japan. Base bowls range from $12.75 to $13.75 and optional add-ins include things like pork, seasoned egg, corn, bamboo, butter and extra noodles . There’s also a 100% vegetarian option, brimming with flavor and hearty vegetables like lotus blossom root.
The ramen is cooked using hot woks, and the kitchen staff here know how to turn up the heat. It’s a fun atmosphere, especially if you can snag a table on the bar overlooking the kitchen. Just be warned that it’s a bit warm up there.
If you still have room for something sweet after your meal and cocktails, Haikan has few desserts to choose from, including steamed Kings Hawaiian bread with sweet red bean and butter as well as a rotating flavor of kakigori, a Japanese-shaved ice dessert.