Monday, December 21, 2015

Surprise: My Favorite Ramen Slurps At A Farm-To-Table Restaurant (For Now)

Ramen at White Oak Tavern
I stumbled on my favorite local ramen at a "guys night out" at White Oak Tavern.

White Oak is a casual bar and grill trying to push seasonal dishes and farm-to-table ideas on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  It's working a middle ground with aspirations for high-end meals, but a casual feel a little less expensive that a meal in DC or Baltimore.

Coming soon to Rte 40
It hit a home run with everything on my night out.  A brussels sprout appetizer that looks so good that we each ordered had one as an appetizer.  Then a main event of rich, dark broth cooked with chewy noodles, bok choy, and a just-cooked egg.

This is part of a "Surprise" series that I'm writing as I try to start blogging again.  Come back for more in the next few days.

A real restaurant reviewer would focus on the delicious broth.  A ramen expert could explain why that savory liquid paired so well with the tender noodles.  But I'm going to tell you about the pork belly.

It was the best pieces of pork belly that I've ever had in my life.

Slightly crisp,  Rich pork flavor.  No fattiness.  It was firm like a piece of meat, and it reminded me why pork belly has been a craze.  With a really good beer and the brussels sprout appetizer, it was as good a meal as I remember eating this year.  Now, it was a pricey bowl.  I don't remember exactly, but it was an out-to-eat dinner price like $15-25.  Absolutely worth the price, but entirely fair to compare it with the equally-fun ramen at Matcha Time in Ellicott City.

Ramen at Matcha Time
But it will be a blast to start comparing White Oak to Matcha Time to Uma Uma.  Uma Uma is the ramen and yakitori restaurant that has been planning and constructing since Spring 2014.  They're close now.  (Update:  I just heard that they plan to open on December 23, 2015!)  They had chairs there when Lil' Chow and I walked past 10 days ago.

Uma Uma sounds like a place that Lil' Chow will love -- soup, noodles, rice and chicken.  They're between Lighthouse Tofu and Boston Chicken on the north side of Rte 40.  When you check them out, walk around the corner for dessert at Tous Les Jours.  That French bakery by way of Seoul has great pastries, coffees, drinks and a great atmosphere to hang out.

But back to the White Oak dinner, my friend and I had a really good night.  It's a basic decor, more like Frisco Tap House than Aida Bistro.  But they're pushing for really interesting food, and the place impresses me.  I'd love to hear if other people can comment below with recommended dishes or reports about dinners at White Oak.

Folks have been emailing me about the Uma Uma sign.  I appreciate them all.  I'd love to hear from folks if they see it is open or (even better) if they get to try the food.


duanestclair said...

Glad to have you back. Its been too long.

Anonymous said...

Love White Oak Tavern! It's always good. It's hard to recommend a specific dish, because the menu is very seasonal and my "favorite dish" from right now might not be available in a month or two.

The burgers are always good. The "bowl of bacon" appetizer (yes, that's a thing) is always good. And the veggies that are in-season are usually done to perfection.

Oh, and don't forget the beer. Always lots of good options, and if you're overwhelmed by the variety, the staff is almost always on-point with a recommendation that will suit your tastes.

Katie said...

My husband says that their burger is one of the best in HoCo. The burger from Victoria and The Ale House Columbia are the other two that top the list.

Kat said...

Huh, I had the ramen at White Oak and found it to be SUPER salty, which was sad because everything else I've had there has been great. Pork belly was indeed awesome though. Maybe it was an off night for the cook? Glad you liked it though.

My experience with Matcha Time ramen, on the other hand, was phenomenal! Amazing broth, very rich flavor.

And I'm so excited for Uma Uma I can barely contain myself. If it does indeed open soon, then it's doing so at the perfect time of year.

brianscrazytalk said...

Katie's husband is right about The White Oak burger - it is absolutely one of the best in HoCo.

Sliprose said...

Agree with Kat on the saltiness of the ramen at White Oak. My wife ordered it and it was some of the worst broth we've ever had served in a ramen dish. It tasted like pure tare (the seasoning added to the broth at the end). The waiter did take it off the bill and asked if we'd like something else. When my wife inquired about salads, he mentioned a bok choy salad. After a long while, out came a small plate of wilted bok choy swimming in soy sauce. Yuk. Was the only time that we have been disappointed at White Oak - everything else we had there has been great. If this had been our first experience, we wouldn't return. Luckily we have a track record at the restaurant that implies these were dishes not to order.

Our favorite area ramen is at Ren's Ramen in Wheaton and a nod goes to Mi & Yu Noodles in Federal Hill for their take on the dish. Looking forward to seeing what Uma Uma can do.

Anonymous said...

We ate at the White Oak Tavern once on a Saturday evening in the summer. We were the only people in there. We ordered from the dinner menu. The food was...let's just say we'd never go back.

Frank Hecker said...

I went to Uma Uma yesterday (Christmas Eve) for ramen. (They opened the previous evening.) Since they're still in the "soft open" phase I'll postpone a final verdict, but I would definitely go back (especially since it's close enough to my house that I could walk there). They apologized for some service glitches, but I thought they were pretty minor. The one thing they do need to pay more attention to is their tea; they could take some lessons from Matcha Time Cafe there. (Though to be fair Matcha Time puts more effort into tea than pretty much any place I know.) But other than that I look forward to going back and trying more of the varieties of ramen.

Chris said...

We went to Uma Uma today for lunch. They definitely have to work out the kinks related to service. It took almost 30 minutes for our food to come out. I think servers don't seem coordinated yet on bringing orders to the right tables and are just filling tickets haphazardly. So probably some more training and practice is needed.

Food was decent. I've had better ramen but not in the local area. Broth needs to come out a bit hotter, and seasoning could be stronger as well. We'll definitely give them more tries in the future. Right now only a limited menu is being offered. None of the yakitori items were available yet when we went.

Lisa said...

We made a special trip to Matcha Time a few months and were sad when we were told they didn't have vegetarian ramen (despite some indications on Facebook that they would be offering it). The non-veggie offerings were quite tasty, though. Glad to see that they seem to be offering vegan ramen now! Will need to stop by.

In the meantime, I tried this ramen recipe last month and it was well worth the time spent on it (even meat-eaters will enjoy the richness, umami-ness and depth of flavors).

Vio said...

I had the spicy miso ramen and some pork gyoza at Uma Uma tonight. The ramen broth had the perfect amount of spiciness. The gyoza were good, but nothing special. The tea was properly brewed, which I appreciate. I had ramen at Ten Ten in the Baltimore city earlier thIs week and I think I liked the ramen Uma Uma better and the gyoza at Ten Ten better.

The restaurant was packed. The owner and servers apologized several times for the food taking so long, but I don't think it was bad at all. We sat at the counter and watched the kitchen which was kind of cool. They definately have some kinks in the service to work out, but it wasn't bad considering they've only been open for a week..

Jennifer sophie said...

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