Bantam King, the new ramen restaurant from the team behind Daikaya, is taking D.C. by storm. The noodle restaurant is located a block away from the Verizon Center in Chinatown, taking over a location formerly belonging to Burger King. The restaurant pays homage to the fast-food chain by resurrecting its booths and tile flooring. However, the addition of pop art decor gives the space an eclectic flair.
The interior of the restaurant features a bright array of colors, comic strip clippings, Japanese lanterns and Christmas lights. Together with retro hip-hop music, the vibe of Bantam King transports all patrons to the past.
The difference between Bantam King and its partner restaurant, Daikaya, is that Bantam King focuses solely on chicken ramen, while Daikaya focuses on a Sapporo-style ramen, which features a pork-based broth. Bantam King offers two types of broth: chintan, a clear broth, and paitan, a thicker, creamier broth. The menu also includes different flavors for the chicken broths, including soy, miso and a spicy option.
Bantam King’s menu also includes a popular fried chicken dish, a unique change of pace from the restaurant’s primary focus. The restaurant’s collection of Japanese beers and old-fashioned sodas furthers the feel of nostalgia that pervades the establishment. It also offers a list of sakes for those over 21 who are interested in adding a bit more flair to their ramen experience.
I ordered the miso paitan ramen ($13), a cloudier broth with a light taste. The warm broth, made with soy beans, chicken, egg and sprouts, was thick, and had just the right amount of salt. The flavor of the chicken married perfectly in the broth with the soy and sprouts, creating a layered palette. There was a generous amount of authentic ramen noodles in the broth. The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente and were not made soggy in the rich broth. The texture of the noodles paired with the savory broth had me scraping the bottom of my bowl with my chopsticks for more. The noodles were the star component of the dish.
My friend ordered the spicy miso ramen ($13.75), which is a variation of the miso paitan with a spicy kick. The broth of the spicy miso is darker and thinner as well. While the broth definitely had a sharp, fiery aroma, thick noodles and peanut butter were layered together in the broth to balance the intensity of the spice.
The broth also included other flavor notes including salty egg, rich chicken, fresh sprouts and soy beans. The spicy miso is a great option for people who enjoy a dish with a kick that will not set their mouths on fire or dominate the dish.
The service at Bantam King was also excellent. The servers were eager to explain the menu. They explained in detail each type of ramen and made insightful recommendations based on each person’s flavor preferences. The servers sported trendy outfits to pair with the swanky vibe of the restaurant. My only complaint was that the music was blaring — the noise echoed off the walls of the restaurant, making it difficult to hear the server and my friend, who was seated just across the table.
Bantam King is a perfect pit stop for anyone near the Verizon Center. From the speed of the service to its affordable prices to its wide range of choices in savory chicken ramen, Bantam King is more than your average ramen spot.