Wait, what's this? Yet another thoughtful, well-executed Japanese addition to the Dongcheng dining scene? Just lemme stop at this ATM right quick, cause I'm about to throw down some pinkies.
Koharu Biyori (小春日和) is right next to Beixinqiao exit C in the space previously occupied by fancy haircuttery Wukan. No more dreadlocked, “tobacco” smoking stylists in the garden, that's for sure. This new venue looks really polished. It's gotten the obligatory wood and concrete treatment, which works successfully in a Muji showroom sort of way. The walls are lined with simple shelving and alcoves with carefully arranged plants, sake bottles, pottery and colorful paintings.
Their specialty is pork bone ramen (特制豚骨拉面, 43rmb), and that's what you're here for. Good ramen is a thing of beauty, and Koharu Biyori makes very, very good ramen. The broth is really like goddamn G-R-A-V-Y, it's so wildly thick and umami-rich. I'm getting giddy just recalling it. Loved the finely diced white portion of green onion scattered on top, the perfectly roasted pork and preserved bamboo slices. We killed it. Not a single drop remained in that bowl.
Noodle-wise, for a much lighter option, the Japanese-style cold noodles (日式冷面, 30rmb) had bits of sliced chicken, tomato, carrot, cucumber, and nori in a lightly vinegar-y broth. It was possibly too bereft of taste because it had me reaching for the shichimi, or Japanese seven-spice powder, which helped coax out flavor.
Meat! They've got a nice, simple grill menu. Have the shishamo (盐烤多春鱼, 16rmb), which is grilled pregnant smelt fish. They are sardine-like with rich, oily flesh and are filled with creamy roe. Other places have a habit of overcooking these, but here they were, just right, and generous in portion. Give 'em a whirl, but if you're bothered by dead fish moms with expressions locked in terror mode, the grilled mackerel (盐烤清华鱼, 22rmb) is deliciously faceless. Also, we were bowled over with the grilled chicken skin (鸡皮串, 6rmb), which elicited a WTF double take after each crunchy, pork rind-y bite. Awesome. Share a mess of these crispy chicharrón wonders.
The house sushi roll (小春日和自制卷, 48rmb) was the only real low point. They had sweet potato in them and were covered in Thousand Island dressing, so nope, not happy about this. We're already over-subjected to Thousand Island dressing in Chinese-style Western salads. Revolt! Instead, order the salmon avocado salad (三文鱼牛油果, 32rmb) for your raw fish fix. A+ yummy. Two delicious things put together make a doubly more delicious thing, duh.
Still in soft opening, I was assured that the menu would be more expansive in the future, but for now it's short and sweet and Chinese-only. For booze, they've also got a large sake menu and Asahi on draft. Ominously, popular lunch spot Suzuki Kitchen looms directly across, which makes for possibly stiff competition. But Koharu Biyori offers something very different, and mostly superior, to that old stalwart comfort food chain.
The verdict: Yes, obviously. You free tonight for grilled chicken skin and beer? 'Cause I know a damn good place. <3
Koharu Biyori is located in the southeast corner of the Beixinqiao intersection, directly outside Exit C of the Line 5 metro stop.