The patrons of Oki Bowl @ Georgetown are as charmingly eclectic as the decorations surrounding them. Walking into the restaurant is like travelling to a new world. Leaving behind the bustling traffic of Wisconsin Avenue, visitors of the restaurant sit beneath the warm glow of decorative, muted lamps and twinkling lights, talking and laughing over steaming bowls of ramen.
Oki Bowl, sister restaurant of Oki Bowl & Sake Bar, opened this past July and continues to whet customers’ appetites for Asian cuisine.
Metinee “May” Lieppert entered the restaurant business when she opened Oki Bowl & Sake Bar in October 2014. Originally hailing from Thailand, Lieppert has embraced ramen’s variable flavor profiles while putting a new spin on the Japanese dish, introducing flavors and ingredients from her youth.
Nestled just a block away from Simply Banh Mi, which serves Vietnamese dishes, and Zannchi, which serves Korean dishes, Oki Bowl caters to Georgetown’s residents who have a penchant for different Asian cuisines. A15-minute walk from campus, its location makes it a convenient place for students to curb their ramen cravings.
When seated at one of Oki Bowl’s tables, it is something of a challenge to draw one’s eyes away from the restaurant’s decor to pore over the menu. The walls and ceilings are covered with intricately crafted replicas of trees and flowers — elements of nature with a youthful flair. These natural elements are accompanied by other abstract accents, but all adhere to the same bright color scheme.
Although some might find this decorative choice overwhelming for a small, one-room ramen joint, the restaurant maintains a consistent aesthetic; even the bathroom walls sport vines, black lights and fake fish tanks. These lively decorative touches enhance the casual atmosphere of the restaurant. It is more than a sit-down establishment — it is a relaxed place to hang out and enjoy a hearty meal.
The exciting embellishments may be fun to look at, but the menu is certainly the main attraction, reading easily with vivid photographs accompanying each item. In addition to traditional appetizers, like edamame and pot-stickers, Oki Bowl offers two main types of entrees: rice bowls and ramen.
Embracing familiarity and simplicity, the rice bowls combine nourishing ingredients with warm flavors. The Mushroom Bowl ($13), for example, features three different types of mushrooms doused in a delicious sauce. Served on top of rice, this dish is an uncomplicated and safe choice for those who may be less accustomed to traditional Japanese flavors.
The ramen, however, shines in comparison to these simple flavors. Although adhering to the traditional foundations of Japanese ramen — long, curly wheat-based noodles swimming in a flavorful meat or vegetable broth — the chefs of Oki Bowl combine these traditions with other more nuanced Asian flavors, ultimately producing inspired dishes that demonstrate the chefs’ creativity.
For example, the Galanga ramen ($12), the only vegetarian ramen dish on the menu, combines a vegetable broth with steamed coconut milk, an ingredient often used in Thai dishes. The creaminess of the milk and subtle taste of coconut coat the tongue and awaken the taste buds to the other marvelous flavors.
The Kimchi ramen ($12) incorporates the pickled cabbage normally found in Korean cooking, creating a tangier and spicier soup that offsets the earthy flavors of Japanese cuisine. The chili peppers strengthen the flavors and complement the less flavorful tofu that accompanies the dish, helping to create a balanced entree.
The soups are delicious, but it is difficult to finish an entire bowl. Not only does each item come with loads of noodles in mouthwatering broth, but irresistible toppings also rest on the surface. From chicken and fried crab meat to tofu and kale tempura, these flavorful additions are hard to resist.
Oki Bowl fosters a sense of community throughout the entire dining experience. Not only do the restaurant’s innovative dishes and flavors bring different cultures together, but the restaurant has also arranged its tables to encourage conversation and shared experiences with friends or family.
The restaurant itself is small, but the tables can seat at least four people; each customer sits on a bench rather than on separate chairs. The friendly wait staff, happy to take questions and give opinions of dishes, helps encourage this laidback atmosphere. Rather than trying to promote a certain menu item, the service seems only to want to provide the fruitful experience of a fantastic meal.