Category Archives: Ramen

Ren’s Ramen and Jewel of India: Revisitations

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ramen

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ramen

I’ve reviewed Ren’s Ramen (11043 Amherst, now with fully functional website) several times before so won’t go into excruciating detail this time, but it remains one of Wheaton’s best food purveyors, especially for lunch.  Ramen just seems lunchy to me, especially on an inclement gray early afternoon.  A big steaming bowl of ramen is just the thing, on those days.  And Ren’s is here to provide that bowl — as a bonus, it is really good.

So just a couple of notes: Ren always has specials to augment the three primary ramens on the menu.  This day they offered “Stamina ramen” featuring I think a fried egg and extra meat and some other stuff, which sounded good, although “stamina” is a word that makes me laugh for some reason.  At least when applied to random foods. Instead I got the regular shoyu ramen with added pork belly cha shu, rich fatty slices of roast pork, so so good. And Ren’s always smells so inviting, wafting soy and miso and pork…oh my…

Ren also has rules.  Every visit, it seems there are more rules.  Many of them are now listed on a big sign (pictured above) just inside the front door.  All the rules seem reasonable, especially given the size and layout of the place, and yet it is slightly off-putting to be confronted by all the rules immediately upon arrival.  I guess it’s better than doing it Soup Nazi style and making you guess about the rules, and kicking you out when you break one.  But it seems a little over the top to me.  Of course, the most important rule is not on that list, although it is noted elsewhere: do not park in front of the establishments at the other end of the strip mall, or you WILL BE TOWED.

You will probably not be towed from the parking lot at Jewel of India (10151 New Hampshire).  That parking lot is huge and never full and probably not policed at all.  You may have to be towed from Jewel of India after you are done with their lunch buffet, because it is fantastic quality and quantity, the best lunch buffet I’ve had in a long time, and it is really hard to stop eating.  The parking lot won’t get full, but I will, eventually.  This visit they had a spicy chicken dish whose name I neglected to write down, but OMG it was so good it makes me write, like, like a pre-teen girl.  Their goat curry is above average, and they have the usual array of appetizers and some interesting desserts (I am told by my friends who know more about Indian desserts than I do).  Also very good service and upscale yet casual atmosphere.  Their only failure is putting raisins in the biryani — Tiffin (1341 University Blvd. E, no longer functional website) continues to rule, raisin-free, on the crucial biryani front.

I’ve said it before and will now say it again: a place like Jewel of India would be an excellent addition to Wheaton, which lacks any Indian cuisine whatsoever.  Maybe in the old Suporn Thai space?  Or the Ferdinand’s space, which has been vacant for like OMG ten years now?  O. M. G.

Return to Ren

The best thing about Ren’s Ramen (11403 Amherst) might actually be the gyoza, whose nearly translucent, thin soft wrappers melt away to nothing on mouth contact, revealing their savory pork filling– the outside is just thick enough to contain the meat and to allow one side to be seared, adding even more flavor.

The ramen is great too, of course. They make a big deal about importing their noodle from Sapporo, and the noodles are good, but it’s really all about the incredible broth. Our group ordered three different styles (miso, soy, and salt broths), all good.  I noticed too late the special, written on a dry-erase board with a skull-and-crossbones logo: spicy “Bukodan” ramen. Hope it’s available next time I visit. I continue to believe that, at $10 per reasonably large bowl, the ramen is a good value considering the very high quality (I know some disagree).

Ren’s was practically empty on Friday night, hope that’s not a sign; Ruan next door was about 2/3 full both when we arrived and when we left, and the window tables at least had turned over in the interim.  I’d be tempted to poke my head into Ren’s periodically just to breathe the soy-miso vapors, the place just smells great.  They should start a spa or something.

Other important Ren’s notes: they don’t serve alcohol, they only take cash, they are closed the second and third Tuesday of every month.




More big media love for Ren. Wheaton’s own Ren’s Ramen is among the restaurants where WaPo’s Tom Sietsema wishes he were a regular, as noted in last weekend’s fall dining guideWheaton Calling may become a regular there based on her visit a few days ago (with photographic evidence!).  I know some people think Ren’s is overpriced, but it is awfully good.  Not sure I’d want to be a regular at a place where the menu only includes five items, though, no matter how tasty those items are.

This Week’s Mass Media Wheaton Eatin’ Lovin’

Todd Kliman’s weekly Washingtonian chat strikes again: two mentions of Ren’s Ramen this week, once at the top among his summer highlights, once more at the bottom in response to a question.  As he says, he is “still thinking about the marvelous bowl of miso ramen” he had at Ren’s weeks ago. Me too! Also if I focus I can still smell the wonderful miso-soy-umami aroma of the place.  Ren’s next-door-neighbor Ruan Thai also makes the summer highlights list, specifically for the Angel wings, which I haven’t tried yet.  Guess I’ll add that to my list.

So yesterday ended Ren 2 Ruan 1. But Ruan tied it up this morning when Tom Sietsema, in his WaPo chat, responded to a “best Thai in DC?” question by citing his “love” for Ruan, and also for Silver Spring’s new Kao Thai, which will get reviewed in this Sunday’s Post Magazine

I would love to be able to say the WSJ, NYT, NPR, or some other national acronym broke the tie, but I would be making it up.  Ren and Ruan are even for now, and will have to go to delicious penalty kicks. It is a small strip mall, and yet there are those who love it…

Kliman on Ren’s Ramen

Every week, Washingtonian’s Todd Kliman leads his chat with a mini-review of a DC-area restaurant, and today it was Ren’s Ramen.  He says the food is even better in the new Wheaton location than it was in the old Bethesda location. I don’t doubt that, I thought it was great too. But should we tell Todd about the lard? (!)  And remember: cash only.

Who’s Your Umami?

I can’t quite pinpoint the aroma inside Ren’s Ramen (11043 Amherst), newly opened next to Ruan Thai in Wheaton, having closed up shop in Bethesda last September.  It involves soy, and miso, maybe some oil, probably pork, but the overall smell is savory and complicated, in a really good way.  It is the smell of umami(mmmmm, glutamates…).

Stripmall Looks and Tastes Better Than It Used To

Ren’s menu is short, just a selection of four styles (i.e. broth flavors) of ramen (three with pork, one veggie version featuring seaweed broth), sides of gyoza or rice, and a few non-alcoholic drinks.  You can add extra ramen toppings — more pork, corn, egg, butter (!) — for an extra dollar or three, but I’m not sure the value is there.  The ramen costs $10 per bowl ($11 for the vegetable version), which sounds kind of steep, but the bowls are huge — does anyone ever actually pay $2 extra for the “large size serving”?

Not only huge, but delicious. The broth, like the ambient aroma, is rich, salty and complex, laden with a couple of pieces of roast pork, sprouts, bamboo (almost mushroom-like in appearance and texture), onion, bits of ground pork, and piled with scallions in the middle. It is also served hot (temperature, not capsaicin), I scalded my tongue a bit. Lurking beneath the surface is a tangle of ramen noodles, imported from Sapporo; they are fine, but the broth is the real star, nicely augmented by the tender pork. Did I lift the bowl up to drink the final drops of miso broth nectar?  Are there pupusas in Wheaton?

I also tried the house-made gyoza, delicate dumplings stuffed with a super-finely-chopped pork mixture, seared on one side and then steamed. Five pieces for $5.50, very tasty.  Overall the food here is not a superb value, the prices were higher than I expected, but the quality is very high, it will fill you right up, and you can’t get food like this anywhere else around here; Moby Dick is also Japanese cuisine and also very good, but completely different menu.

The only real issue is parking: the lot out front is tiny (do NOT park in front of the other businesses in the strip mall, at risk of being quickly towed), and most of the (metered) street spaces are 30 minute spots thanks to the post office a few doors down (meters/zoning not in effect for dinner of course, just lunch).  Lots of hour-plus parking on Amherst on the South side of University, including the big Metro garage.

Ren’s is also still sorting out its staffing, it is family-owned-and-operated but in the process of hiring additional servers. Not much on the walls at this point either, just a couple of banners, but maybe they are going for distinctive minimalism? Beige tile floors, beige walls, dark wood chairs and tables.  If the ramen doesn’t work out, they could serve whitefish sandwiches and Swedish meatballs and not change the decor at all.  But I think the ramen will work out!

Ramen and Ruan and ‘Rithmatic

The three R’s are lining up in the dingy little stripmall on Amherst just north of University. The new addition, Bethesda transplant Ren’s Ramen, has its shiny black sign in place above the front door; newspaper still covers the windows but I think they are close to reopening and can’t wait to visit.

Not to be outdone, Ruan Thai also has a new addition in the works: they are expanding their space to include the store between the current Ruan and the future Ren’s.  Ruan has always been such a tiny dive (with great food), it will be interesting to see how they redecorate, and if the food or service suffers at all when they have twice as many tables.

Add it up (there’s your ‘rithmatic!), that’s three R’s right there: Ruan, Ren’s, Ramen.  We get two bonus baby r’s in Brother Chinese, anchoring the strip nearest to University; Brother’s food is not in the same class as its neighbors but offers big portions at low prices and clearly there is a market for that because they’ve been around quite a while.

This will be your best-bet strip mall when you have a group of Wheatonians variously demanding Japanese, Thai, and Chinese and unwilling to compromise.