While ramen is often served in simplistic, modest Japanese restaurants, Toki Underground’s hippie furnishings and weekly anime nights will redefine your ramen-eating experience in every way.
Toki Underground delves into the Japanese hippie underground culture with mainstream Japanese-style decor, ranging from the artistic graffiti of the restaurant logo to a spread of colorful stickers that bring a funky yet stylish vibe to the interior. The restaurant celebrates Japanese-inspired, Taiwanese-style dishes and offers events like “Weeb Wednesday” when I visited – a day where customers can watch anime on screen under dimmer lighting as they enjoy a selection of discounted drinks and food during happy hour.
For an appetizer, I ordered fried chicken steam buns (two for $10, four for $15) – two conjoined Asian buns with sweet chili sauce, seasonal pickles, cilantro and thai basil. For all those pickles lovers, this is a must-try along with a similar but vegetarian option, the sake-battered cauliflower steam buns.
Toki Underground features an authentic and aromatic tonkotsu, a broth of boiled pork meat and bones, that creates a thick and hearty soup with a meaty flavor. Scallions, beni shoga – a japanese red-pickled ginger – sesame seeds and nori are served as toppings that elevate the broth’s flavor.
I ordered Taipei curry chicken ramen ($19), made with the tonkotsu broth, which is one of the most expensive ramen dishes on the menu. The dish, along with all ramen plates, is discounted to $14 during happy hour, which lasts from 5 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday.
Shallots, greens, a soft poached egg and seaweed adorned the top of the ramen while also partially sinking into the broth. A thin layer of roasted sesame seeds garnished the bowl, spreading a subtle smell of caramelized hazelnuts without any disturbance of the rich smell of pork broth sitting underneath.
The well cooked, crispy curry chicken combined with the elastic and chewy noodles to create a distinctive and fulfilling texture pairing as I dove into the dish. I loved how the layout of the bowl gradually transitioned from the softest to chewiest ingredient – from the poached egg to the fried curry chicken to the noodle. The meal made for an easy and smooth-tasting meal.
Food aside, Toki Underground also offers a wide selection of wine with an emphasis on Japanese whisky and sake. The non-alcoholic selections – including apple soda and watermelon and mint juice – are sourced predominantly from Japan and Taiwan.
I ordered the Toki Monster cocktail ($14) which contains Japanese whisky, vanilla-orange syrup, bitters and grilled pork belly. A small piece of rich but not so fatty grilled pork belly on a stick was placed on the whisky cup, which serves as a sweet add-on to the already drier, smokier taste of Japanese whisky.
Toki Underground illuminates an artistic, underground aspect of Japanese culture while craftily blending traditional Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine to craft a substantial meal and fresh atmosphere.
This article appeared in the August 12, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.