Akira Ramen and Izakaya: Worth the to Drive to Rockville
Slurp it Up in Rockville
There are few reasons why I leave the District. Having spent many years commuting on 270 and 66, I tend to stay within the beltway and explore all of the culinary delights that DC proper has to offer. However, I've found the perfect spot for those of you who live north of the diamond -- Akira Ramen & Izakaya.
This authentic Japanese ramen shop features the classics - from karaage and okonomiyaki, to traditional and innovative ramen bowls. Upon entering the cozy minimalist space, you'll feel as if you've just been transported straight to the streets of Tokyo as you watch the chefs create your masterpieces in the open kitchen. The noodles are made in-house daily, freshly shaved bonito dances atop okonomiyaki, chashu pork is flame broiled to order. and new fusion items are added seasonally so there are constantly new dishes to try.
Below are some things I tried, I can't wait to go back and try the rest.
Hands down one of THE best things you'll ever eat if you get the chance to travel to Japan, and the one at Akira is as close as you'll get in the area. This sweet and savory Japanese stuffed pancake is funky, luxurious and gluttonous all in one. The variety at Akira comes stuffed with bacon, shrimp, cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce (like soy sauce, terriyaki sauce, and barbecue sauce had a baby), some aioli situation, and topped with bonito flakes that dance atop the pancake. It is fantastic and was gobbled up in minutes - a must try.
Akira's nod to the Japanese pork dumplings are well executed. As a dumpling addict, I order any version of the stuffed dough wherever I go. The crisp on these babies was audible with each bite, and the attention to detail was apparent as the gyoza are plated crisped side up to prevent soggy bottoms from the sauce! I also love a thinly shaved scallion, so kudos to the knife skills on these chefs.
The main attraction of Akira is surely the ramen. Their house-made noodles come in two styles: curly and skinny, and are always the first thing to go during my slurping bewilderment. The noodles are toothsome and eggy, just the way I like 'em. A hearty helping of charred-to-order chashu pork accompanies the soft boiled egg, tender narutomaki (those pink swirly fish cakes of happiness), crisp corn kernels and unctuous, fatty, tonkotsu broth. It's great.
I also tried the noodle secret menu item, Tantanmen. It's a rich and spicy broth made from chicken, shoyu and sesame paste - chili oil topping optional. The broth is filled with bok choy, minced pork, a soft boiled egg, scallion and cilantro. To me, it seems like the Japanese version of the Chinese classic - dan dan noodles, and it's delicious. The sesame paste mimics the familiarity of peanut butter and pairs beautifully with the spicy broth.
There is so much left for me to try at Akira Ramen & Izakaya, and it will likely be the only reason I brave 270 in the coming months. The owners also own the bubble tea shop and hot pot restaurant next to Akira to satisfy all of your Japanese cravings.
So get out of your comfort bubble of the District, and head to Akira Ramen & Izakaya for some truly authentic Japanese cuisine.