The Source Brunch: Turnip Cakes

Turnip Cakes

When you hear the words “Dim Sum,” the encyclopedia of food in your brain probably pulls up images (and smells) of rusty carts being wheeled around by ladies who MUST be centenarians peddling chicken feet in something gelatinous along with unidentified deep fried parts. At the very least, you think of chubby dumplings.

But, there are no carts at The Source’s Dim Sum Brunch, a truly special treat available on Saturdays at the restaurant abutting the Newseum. Furthermore, The Best Thing on the Menu is not a dumpling, nor some noodles. Rather, the BTM is a set of humble turnip cakes dressed only in Szechuan sweet soy sauce and some wisps of green onion.

Asian food is as much about texture as it is about flavor, and that’s why this dish steals the show. Each LEGO-sized square is the best kind of chewy – keeping your mouth occupied long enough for your dining companion to tell a story. Those who have avoided turnips at family dinners for decades need not worry, there’s hardly a harsh radish taste. All you taste is the tangy sauce and a bit of earthiness.

Chive Dumplings

Chef Scott Drewno’s menu gives you ample opportunity to explore, and for a price that’s somewhat of a steal. Try 5 tastes for $32 or 8 for $42. Other can’t-misses include the Shanghai Noodles because they’re potpourried with fragrant chills and savory bits of oxtail; either the duck or lobster bao buns (an order comes with two baos, just like our city’s favorite panda); and the crystal chive dumplings bursting with kurobuta pork and Maryland crab. Pork and crab = the best kind of surf n’ turf.

Click here for more pictures from the meal.

Turnip cakes not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Taan Noodles: Duck Ramen

 THIS RESTAURANT CLOSED EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2014.

Taan Noodles Duck Ramen

Pork is overplayed when it comes to the meat component in most ramen. Taan Noodles takes it to the next level by going with duck confit that falls right off the bone and into your broth. The Best Thing on the Menu: Taan Shoyu Duck Ramen also contains pickled cucumbers, dashi tomato, scallions, shiitake mushroom, spicy mustard greens, crispy shallots, taan hanjuku tamago (pink egg!) and bamboo shoots.

Think fowl are foul? No problem, there are plenty of pork belly bowls to go around inside this Adams Morgan noodle shop. Like heat? They hook you up with togarashi spice flakes and spicy sesame oil, so you blast off your taste buds if that’s your thing.

Taan Noodles Okonomiyaki

If you’re ravenous and in need of a snack before your bowl arrives, there are a handful of appetizers that pull from Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisines. The best pick here? Japanese okonomiyaki, the traditional street food of Osaka. Having downed many of these fish pancakes from street carts in Osaka, I’m a tougher critic than normal. While the sauces were nailed (Japanese mayo and savory brown sauce) the fish to cabbage ratio could have been more generous. Daikaya has a cool take on this classic.

Unlike their friends Sakuramen down the road, these folks have booze. More importantly, they have a lot of fun with their booze. We loved Second Place is not First Place (the perfect drink while watching the Olympics at the bar) made with Bulleit Bourbon, grapefruit juice, Barenjager and togarashi spice as well as There are Hippies in Asia – a tasty concoction of Nolet’s Gin, lavender vanilla simple syrup, tonic and lavender spice bitters.

Taan Shoyu Duck Ramen not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.

Don’t miss a bite: Keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter. You might also like Toki Underground and Zentan.

Toki Underground: Kimchi Ramen

Toki Underground

Korea and Japan play nice inside of this bowl… real nice. Traditional ramen is elevated and enhanced by the distinct flavor of kimichi in Toki Underground’s Best Thing on the Menu: Kimchi Ramen. Their other flavors are top of the line too, especially the homey and comforting red miso or the subtly sweet (never spicy) curry. But those who like heat, and a little bit of funk, should go with our pick for BTM.

Each piping hot bowl at Toki Underground is adorned with a crisp sheet of nori, breath-busting green onion, incredibly tender pulled pork and our favorite: an egg softer than a Ritz Carlton pillow. Brave customers (who have already braved a heck of a long line) can invite even more guests to their party bowl, like deep fried shrimp heads, pork cheek or “Toki Endorphin Sauce.”

All of Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s ramen dishes are inspired by a Hakata Ramen shop in Taipei. In a fun coincidence, I spent two years living in Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan) and can say with confidence that I prefer Chef Yang’s piping hot, flavorful bowls to even the most secretive train station ramen shops.

On a final note, it’s nice that Americans haven’t adopted the slurping system of cooling noodles. Let’s keep it that way. That sound still haunts my dreams.

Kimchi Ramen not your BTM? Post your favorites in the comments section.