For that reason -- and because it's 30 degrees outside -- there's no better time to get acquainted with the curiously fuchsia bowl of ramen being turned out by Jonathan Moto Bisagni's kitchen at Taan in Adams Morgan.
Taan's current vegetarian ramen ($12) is inspired not by the fare at Japanese noodle houses, but by the Russian staple borscht. While the other menu options arrive with clear broth, duck confit and nori, this bowl arrives at your table a peculiar shade of cherry, thanks to the beets. Also lurking in the broth, just above the noodles, are thin sheets of pickled beets, aubergine-colored potatoes, charred corn, baby carrots, yuzu-laced creme fraiche, and a few drops of basil-scented olive oil.
It's weird. It's also ridiculously good. "It's the black sheep bowl of soup," says Bisagni. (And for those fighting off wintertime colds, it's loaded with vitamin C.)
Ramen, says Bisagni, "is pork. In Japan, everywhere you go, it's pork." So the chef, whose previous gigs included jobs at Sticky Rice and Toki Underground, aimed to create a dish that didn't mimic its meat counterparts but could "look just as impressive as the other bowls." He loaded the soup with colorful vegetables, with the pickled beets giving it an unexpected tang and the citrusy creme fraiche balancing the heat.
Bisagni says the bowl is popular with vegetarians, but he's just as likely to see omnivores ordering it with chicken. Vegan diners, rejoice: You can order it without the noodles and creme fraiche for a vegan dish, or, if available, add mochi (rice cakes) as a substitute for the noodles.
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