Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chaplin: Den of Ramen

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Chaplin popped up on the food scene several months ago, taking over the space formerly held by Burma on 9th & P NW. Like the name suggests, Chaplin is designed in celebration of the silent film star Charlie Chaplin. The restaurant reminded me of a trendy French space with tons of red and black and huge murals on the walls. They also had Charlie Chaplin films projected on the wall, silently of course.

 I arrived late and by the time I joined my friends had all ordered drinks. The drink menu has an extensive array of cocktails, ranging from classics like mules and old fashioneds to more creative and unique offerings. I sampled a few of my friends' choices and settled on a ginger-inspired cocktail. We all found the drinks tasty, but a bit heavy on the ice.

We started with a broad sampling of the appetizers, including edamame, steamed buns- both chashu pork and tofu, tori karagae- Japanese fried chicken, and the beef gyoza. Edamame is pretty hard to mess up and it did not disappoint.
The steamed buns were served with a sweet barbecue sauce and crunchy slaw. They were delicious, but coming with only one large bun per order, they were difficult to share.
The dumplings seemed to be a highlight of the menu, but they seemed a little generic to me. There was a whole list of dumpling options, including "dumpling shooters" to chase a shot of whiskey. I personally would love to see more creative dumpling flavors or sauces. My fellow diners seemed to enjoy them more than me. 
The star of the night, and what Chaplin is quickly becoming known for, was the ramen. The menu has 9 ramen options, including 3 vegetarian options. This is, by far, the widest ramen selection I have ever seen. While there is something to be said for specializing in a particular style of ramen broth or noodle, I have to say we all loved the broths we tried. Between the group we tried three different ramen options. 
I was immediately enticed by the Thai inspired ramen, the Chaplin A.S.S. I don't know exactly what that stands for, but I do know this ramen was delicious. It featured a coconut milk broth and chicken as the meat. It was less like a traditional ramen, and more like drinking the delicious broth of a Thai curry. My only gripe: it was missing the classic egg. How can you have ramen without egg? I was slightly annoyed that I had to pay extra for this add-on, but it was worth it. 
One of my friends opted for the Miso. As the name suggests this broth was miso based and had pork belly as the star meat. She described it as light, flavorful, and not too salty. Liz has since returned and has become a huge fan of this broth. She recommends adding butter corn and an egg. 
The last ramen we sampled was the Tan Tan Men. This was closest to a tokotsu-style ramen - a rich milky broth with complex depth of flavor and a comfortable level of heat for those who can't handle a ton of spice. The richness comes from the two types of pork- ground and pork belly- making this one a meat lovers dream. 
Overall, we loved Chaplin and have each returned many times since our first meal here. Another added plus, they are one of the few ramen spots that takes reservations in the area!

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