First, I will give it away…it’s good. And it’s gonna be packed – it’s a tiny place and we are just catching with the ramen game here in B’more. (I will say that Dooby’s makes some tasty ramen.) Ejji is ramen with a bit of an edge, as the pronunciation of the name indicates: “edgy.” The menu has a Malaysian spin, given that the chef/owner, Ten Vong, was born in Malaysia…however, he was raised here in Baltimore. In his early 20s, he moved to NYC and worked in many restaurants as both a chef and a restaurant consultant. He was Chef de Cuisine at some pretty impressive places like Aureole with Charlie Palmer and Mercer Kitchen with Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He also helped to open Guastavino’s (under the 59th Street Bridge) in 2000. That’s some good training, I’d say… Now he’s back in Baltimore – closer to family – and we get to benefit from all of his culinary experience. Win-win.
Ejji is in the former location of the sushi counter in Belvedere Square Market, which was run by Chef Vong’s brother. So, the transition is all in the family, which also runs Chocolatea in Tuscany-Canterbury. They’ve been working on Ejji’s concept, menu and eventual opening for about two years, so Ten and his crew are very anxious to get things up and running.
The ramen can be ordered in a few different ways: “create your own” or “try something new.” In the first option, you may choose your broth – Tonkotsu, Miso Corn or Laksa Curry Seafood. Then, you choose the noodles, toppings and sauce. The sauces are very flavorful and change the dish – some are sweeter, some turn up the heat. If you’re more of a “You’re the pros, please guide me” diner (that’s me…) you simply order a bowl of one of the three kinds of ramen on the Be Bold section of the menu – and I’d add the sauce that they suggest, too. But you should also play around with the sauces, trying some of each before you add it to your dish to see which you like best. Chef Vong told us that his ramen is purposefully less spicy on the base level, so that guests can control the heat a bit. I added a lot of heat – I especially liked the green Sambal sauce. Great kick with a tiny bit of sweetness.
Side dishes include vegetable gyoza (cabbage, shitake mushrooms, smoked tofu) with a fantastic soy sesame chili dipping sauce, Yakitori and Satay (meats on skewers) with beef, chicken and pork belly. Get the pork belly and add togarashi (spice) to it. It’s delicious.
We were able to sample all three ramen dishes. My favorite was the Miso Ramen with miso corn broth, crispy shallots, corn, bamboo shoots, enoki mushrooms, scallions and a poached egg.
A few important notes…
No takeout. They want to have a bit of quality control here. Depending how long your ramen sits, it will change significantly and they want you to have it how they intend to serve it. Hot and beautifully arranged…not tired or cold, etc. But you can take your ramen and sit anywhere in the market. (I recommend Grand Cru!)
Limited seating. Only a few seats at the bar for now. In a few weeks, they will have a more ‘grand’ opening and will offer additional seating at two communal tables adjacent to the counter. I would highly recommend getting there mid-afternoon, in between lunch and dinner crowds. Or go late on a Friday or Saturday, they’re open til 10:00pm on those nights.
No booze on menu or BYOB from outside the market. However, you can head next door to Grand Cru and grab a bottle of something great. Ejji or Grand Cru can help you choose the perfect beverage pairing. We were treated to an organic Junmai Sake by Momokawa, which I’d definitely be happy to have again.
Monday-Thursday 10:00am – 8:00pm
Friday, Saturday 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday 10:00am – 5:00pm
Brunch (which includes four additional dishes created by Chef Vong) is served on weekends until 3:00pm.
A few folks commented on my Insta pics asking how Ejji compares to two very popular ramen spots in DC: Daikaya and Toki Underground. Tastes for ramen really do run the gamut, I prefer mine with a kick and Toki’s rich, complex broth is like none other to me. But….the ramen at Ejji will make me very happy, that I know. The miso ramen with the corn broth, to me, was pretty freaking tasty. Again, I added a little green Sambal sauce and I was the happiest girl in all of Belvedere Square. I was giggling. Giggling. Jess Mayhugh and Ryan Detter can vouch.
Thank you, Ten, Oscar and the Ejji crew. Nice job, guys. I will be back soon.
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