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Editor’s note: Ren’s Ramen’s closing date has been pushed back to Sept. 3.
Love it or hate it, David Chang’s ramen has to be the most fussed-over bowl of soup in the entire goddamn U.S. of A. The chef devoted more than 15 pages to building the perfect ramen in his debut cookbook, Momofuku, right down to the homemade alkaline noodles. I sampled Chang’s soup the last time I was in New York, and it’s breathtaking in its depth, flavor, and unadulterated porkiness. D.C. has no ramen shop with a chef of Chang’s celebrity stature, let alone his obsession with Japanese tradition—or at least the next tastiest thing to Japanese tradition. But Ren’s Ramen in Bethesda is a superb stand-in when you have a jones for the stuff. Owners Yoko and Eiji Nakamura serve up Sapporo-style ramen that digs on swine every bit as much as Chang’s version. Their pork-based broth, whether miso- or soy-flavored, comes loaded with succulent roast pork, lengths of crunchy bean sprouts, ringlets of chopped scallions, little clumps of ground beef, a flat of seaweed, and thin strips of shinachiku, otherwise known as preserved bamboo shoots. Don’t be satisfied with this bounty in a bowl, though: Make sure to add a seasoned egg, which acts as a big time-release capsule, gently unburdening its rich, partially cooked yolk into your soup. Go for the fatty pork, too. The geological slabs alternate between layers of flesh and fat, so gooey and rich they’re like salted pig candy. You can also order a vegetarian version of Ren’s ramen, but, really, why bother?
6931 Arlington Road, Bethesda (301) 693-0806