There is a new ramen place in town. Jinya Ramen Bar in Logan Circle is a modern restaurant that describes itself as “Crazy About Ramen.” Named after a Samurai who was close to the community this restaurant embodies, Jinya Ramen was started by Tomonori Takahashi. Takahashi’s father owned an Izakaya-style restaurant named Jinya, and he opened his very own Jinya in Tokyo, Japan. Now his foodie empire spans multiple locations in the United States and Canada. We are excited to welcome Jinya to its second D.C.-area location, at 14 Street NW (Logan Circle). We were excited to be invited to the VIP Sneak Peek event for media and local influencers. Our first impression from trying the side dishes, drinks, and of course, the ramen was that Jinya is an excellent addition to the local food scene.
When it comes to Ramen, it’s all about the broth, which can make or ruin a dish. At Jinya, their broth is cooked for 10 hours with whole pork bones, chicken or vegetables, and authentic ingredients. Another essential part of this dish are the noodles. which are made daily and aged for three days to maximize flavor. They even have spinach noodles, though we didn’t get to try them on this visit.
Kikusui Funaguchi Nama Genshu Sake (5/5 NOMs)
Following proper Japanese tradition, we will be drinking some Sake with our starter dishes to get brain tipsy and get those hungry tommies going. Sake is a Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice instead of fruit like in western wines. This Japanese sake is imported by Kikusui Sake Company and is specifically known for its sweet flavor, which pairs well with ramen. We enjoyed how smooth and sweet the flavor was and how well it went with the savory, meaty broth. The alcohol hits you very slowly and then is gone in no time. This sake goes well with heavy food and ramen helps offset all that hoppy goodness.
Takoyaki / Octopus Balls (5 NOMs)
Who doesn’t like some balls, especially when they come in the form of our favorite Takoyaki/Octopus Balls from Jinya Ramen Bar, masters of soup and balls! Takoyaki, a popular Japanese snack, can be found in many ramen and sushi places and is a must-try at Jinya. These little balls of joy were our favorite way to start the night. Every bite starts outs with a crunch of fried octopus and wheat batter shell and ends with the soft gooey inside made of diced octopus, tempura, green onions, and sauce. This dish is traditionally served with an assortment of sauces and bonito flakes on top (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna) that add a light smoky flavor to the dish. Also served on top is an egg tartar with Kewpie Mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce, similar to Worcestershire but thicker and sweeter. We were wowed by the presentation and quality of this dish at Jinya, and thought it was a great way to start our nomnom adventure. It truly showcased their serious approach to great flavors and the quality of food in all dishes. Such small little balls combine so many flavors to bring you a great starter dish. Be careful not to fill up on these fried goodies as you still need to enjoy some more great food. Price-wise, you only pay $8 for a lot of Takoyaki. We felt that was a fair price for a plate that was great for sharing with friends.
Pork Chashu Bun (5 NOMs)
Steam Bun sandwiches are taking over the city and Jinya is serving up some great Pork Chashu Bun to hungry ramen lovers. Steamed Bao, also known as Gua Bao, are originally from Taiwan and we were very excited to try Jinya’s take on it. Chashu reference to a Chinese traditional cooking method where long strips of seasoned pork are skewered and placed in a covered oven or over a fire. While we can’t 100% guarantee these are prepared traditionally, we were big fans of this dish. The flavor combination of sauce, meat and veggies gave us joy in every bite. We just fell in love with that thick piece of slowly braised pork chashu combined with Jinya’s original sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. Also, for that extra crunch, there are cucumbers and baby mixed greens. Jinya’s Pork Chashu Bun was one of our favorites and we think it might be the best in the area. Make sure you add it to your order. Each order includes one bun for $5, but it’s so good we would recommend ordering a few. Just remember to save some space for the Ramen.
Brussels Sprouts Tempura (4 NOMs)
Even meat lovers love deep-fried veggies, so bring on the Brussels Sprouts Tempura from Jinya. Fun fact: Tempura is originally from Portugal and was brought to Japan, where it was popularized.. Honestly, we weren’t sure how this might go. It could be just us, but tempura often doesn’t have much flavor. We were happy to see the chefs at Jinya change that with the great flavor combination of tempura batter, Brussel sprouts and spices. While not our most favorite dish of the evening, we still really enjoyed this and would try it again. Maybe next time we’d add some of Jinya’s special sauces.
Crispy Chicken (5 NOMs)
Our other favorite dish of the night was the Fried Crispy Chicken, which was a bite-size nomnom starter. These little meaty goodies are fried in garlic pepper and served with original ponzu sauce on the side. The chicken tasted so good that we didn’t need any sauce, but this traditional Japanese sauce added a nice citrusy flavor. What sets this apart was the fact that a bit of fat was left on the chicken, which was a nice surprise that added a different texture and flavor to the dish. It made the dish a lot softer and juicy and it was great for those of us that like to sometimes say yes to the fat.
Pork Chashu Kimchee Tacos (4 NOMs)
Small things can bring big flavors, as we learned with these Pork Chashu Kimchi Tacos, which brought together different kinds of cuisines. So far we’ve had some Japanese dishes and Chinese dishes. The tacos added the fusion combination of Mexican, Chinese and Korean flavors. The tacos are so bite-size small that we just ended up eating a few of them. They are just so hard to resist, and the pork and kimchi combination made us happy nomsters, especially because off of this, it is served in a fried crispy wonton taco shell. Each order comes in two pieces and costs $6, which we think is a bit pricey. While we loved it, we would need a few more of these orders to fill us up.
Jinya Tonkotsu Black Ramen (5 NOMs)
After all the drinks and starter dishes, we were very excited to try the main course: Tonkotsu Black Ramen. Tonkotsu is a standard pork broth ramen that comes with everything that ramen lovers expect, like nori dried seaweed, green onions, fried onions, and seasoned soft eggs. Served with thinly sliced pork pieces and thin noodles, the presentation was beautiful and the ramen had great flavor and a kick to it. The broth was thick and flavorful, but unlike many other places we’ve tried, it did not make us feel oily or eeky afterward. Here, the broth allowed other ingredients to shine through and be enjoyed equally. Especially when it’s those delicious fried onions and thick pieces of pork. As always, one of our favorite things is an egg – we are big egg lovers and the seasoned soft boiled egg here was excellent. Next time, we will make sure to order extra ;). Price-wise, this is not the cheapest ramen you will have. It’s got a price tag of $14, but it’s so good that we think it’s worth it.
Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen (5 NOMs)
Most ramen comes with a meat-based broth, but here at Jinya, our vegetarian and vegan friends are taken care of with the Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen. You would be surprised how hard it can be for a non-meat eater to enjoy ramen. While this ramen has vegetable broth, we didn’t think it suffered a sacrifice or flavor over the pork broth option. Even this meat lover enjoyed it. It comes with soft tofu cubes, onion, green onion, spinach, crispy onion, garlic chips, garlic oil, chili oil, sesame seed, and thick noodles. All of these different ingredients combined with the excellent vegetable broth to make for a great ramen dish. The various spices and the sauce added a nice kick to every bite or slurp of broth. Slightly cheaper than their Tonkotsu Black Ramen, is priced at $13.Like the black ramen, this is, a great dish we would order again.
Mochi Ice Cream (4 NOMs)
After a heavy comfort meal, one needs a refreshing dessert like the Mochi Ice Cream. Mochi is one of the cutest dish names out there. For those who are not familiar, mochi is a combination of two desserts, a rice cake shell filled with ice cream. This is a more recent creation based on much older traditional desserts like the Daifukumochi rice cake, which is stuffed with sweets, and the Manj red bean cake. Like many Japanese desserts, mochi ice cream has a lower sweetness level but us sugar addicts still enjoy it. It’s a fascinating combination, as the shell is thick and the inside is cold and smooth. Jinya offers two different flavors: a green tea and chocolate, which we thought had a higher flavor profile and was our favorite.