Spicy Beef Ramen with corn and egg toppings.
Pork Belly Ramen with egg and extreme spice toppings.
There are plenty of Asian and Asian fusion restaurants in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia that serve a variety of ramen dishes, but seldom are restaurants in which ramen is their specialty. Toki Underground has become notorious for reigning as the go-to ramen house in the area, but their H Street location in D.C. is quite an inconvenience for NoVa foodie lovers.
Say hello to Tanpopo Ramen House, located next to the well-known Chinese hole-in-the-wall restaurant, A&J, in Annandale, Virginia. The Tanpopo Ramen House establishment is small but their interior décor, level of cleanliness, and customer service surpassed my expectations.
As for the ramen, I ordered the Spicy Beef Ramen and my friend had the Pork Belly Ramen. Here is our ramen critique for both:
Spicy Beef Ramen (base price $12):
The beef was actually ground beef, which left me disappointed. I was not expecting ground beef at all. The level of spiciness is subjective; I prefer my soups to give my taste buds a real spicy kick and found this particular bowl not as spicy as the name claimed to be. The broth is a 3 out of 5; it did not possess a certain intensity of spice or flavor I was hoping to indulge in, but it was nonetheless enjoyable. As for the noodles, they are a 2 out of 5. The noodles were not under or overcooked, but they were the same quality as prepackaged ramen you can buy at any Asian grocery store. I expected better. At an additional charge of $1 each, I requested add-ons of corn and an egg (the corn was pretty much the focal point of the ramen). I give Tanpopo a 3 out of 5.
Pork Belly Ramen (base price $13):
My friend chose to add more spice to his ramen (for an extra $1). From the 3-levels of spiciness (1-spicy, 2-very spicy, 3-extremely spicy), he chose 3. As experienced spicy food lovers, it’s safe to say that level 3 is an EXTREMELY spicy option (I sampled the soup, it tasted like fire). Request with caution! As for the noodles, he also agreed that the noodle quality was exceptionally lower than he anticipated. The pork belly meat was the focal point of his ramen due to its supreme tenderness and deliverance of flavor. My friend gives Tanpopo a 3.5 out of 5.
This fairly new restaurant does not get a promising review mostly because of the noodle quality (arguably the most important aspect in ramen besides the broth). Hopefully, Tanpopo will switch up their noodles and revamp their broth recipe after reading this review (wink wink). This ramen house has A LOT of potential and a considerable amount of competitive leverage as a rare ramen house in Northern Virginia. I will come back in a few months to see if the setbacks have been tweaked.
-EHY (Guest Writer)
(Editor’s Note: See her other article DCFüd here. -JAY)