If you ever find yourself wandering the streets of Japantown in search of food, you're going to need to make some smart decisions, or you're probably gonna have a bad time. There are myriad options in this part of town, including a Benihana, but unless you’re on a date with a minor, you should pass on that one. Also, steer clear of the spots with the plastic Katsu curry displays sitting outside. No matter how many Sapporos you've had, that stuff’s not edible.
Luckily, we recently stumbled across Waraku, a ramen joint delivering on small plates and noodle bowls in a spotless, artsy, wood-paneled space with a surprisingly modern vibe. No carpet and hanging paper lanterns here. This is a really pleasant place to eat, and it always seems to be busy. We were not expecting either of those things from a spot positioned between the Chinese Visa Center and “Arty Hair Salon.” But here we are.
Waraku’s interior is definitely an upgrade from most of your hole-in-the-wall noodle dens, and more importantly, the service is quick without being overbearing, and the food is very solid. The small plates are crazy cheap and well-executed, meaning that they mostly spend a lot of time in the deep fryer and come out no worse for the wear. The ramen is where you really want to spend your time, especially if you upgrade with some extra toppings - specifically the spicy miso and sweet corn. Or you can just straight-up smash in an entire garlic clove, because Waraku does you the courtesy of providing table-side garlic presses. Yet another surprise from this restaurant of surprises.
The secret to Waraku's success seems to lie in the claim that their ramen broth is brewed for 16 hours. It shows in the deep-flavored, rich soup that they serve, and we respect that kind of commitment. The only thing we can dedicate 16 hours to these days is listening to every episode of Serial in succession, twice, because this is a god damn investigation and we're onto something. Whether or not that amount of time is arbitrary or scientific when it comes to making good ramen, we're not the ones to decide. All we know is that Waraku has some, and you should eat it if you find yourself nearby.
These are octopus balls, and you can't not order them. Sweet, savory, slightly greasy, and octopusy. What else do you want?
Fried tofu drifting in some killer broth. The spicy ginger sauce heightens this one.
Every table seems to get an order of this, and for good reason. Japanese fried chicken is sort of a no-brainer.
Gyoza is usually something we skip, since it’s always sort of the same, no matter where you have it. But we're glad we didn’t at Waraku. These pork dumplings were crispy and surprisingly meaty and better than most we've had.
These scallops arrive at your table rocking a thick panko armor. They're definitely tasty but also a little dry, and the sauce is some liquid iteration of egg salad, which doesn’t totally go with the scallops. Instead, try dipping these nugs in your ramen broth.
Damn. These are some good noodles. Thick and chewy and swimming in A-list pork broth. Waraku doesn’t skimp on add-ins either, so props for that.
Spicy Tan Tan Noodles
That broth. The noodles are standard ramen, but the ground pork and rich, spicy broth make this next level. Get it.
Disappointingly reminiscent of the instant ramen of our childhood. The broth was fine. The smoked egg was unique, but a little hard for our taste. Go with the tonkotsu instead.