Thursday, 16 August 2012

Tonkotsu – Ramen Rediscovered

Tonkotsu translate to pork bones. And pork bone soup base is one of the most popular ramen soup bases around.  Generally people see ramen as the yellowy eggy noodles in soy / chicken broth with dumplings or Japanese char-siu or whatnots, which are mostly Tokyo style ramen. But ramen varies by regions, and my personal favourite is undoubtedly the miso-rich Sapporo ramen.

Judging from the success of Burger & Lobster, small menus are in fashion at the moment. The menu here couldn’t be simpler: 3 ramen choices: pork, spicy pork or vegetarian. 3 gyoza (dumpling) choices: pork, prawns, or vegetarian. And a couple of sides.

Tofu Hiya Yakko
The block of cold tofu was surprisingly generous. I drizzled the wobbly block with some soy sauce to give it a bit of colour.

Silken and delicate textures akin to creme caramel; subtle soy flavours, brought out by crunchy spring onions and bonito flakes. Clean and refreshing.

Tonkotsu serves Hakata ramen originated from Kyushu prefecture. The broth, made from extensive boiling of pork bones, pooling in the goodness of fat, collagen and cartilage to give a thick, creamy texture. The soup base here also mixed in some chicken stock. The contrasting dots of aromatic black sesame oil floated on top of  the milky broth, along with the glowing yolk of the soft boiled egg - it was picture perfect.

I started with a ladle of soup - beautifully seasoned with sea-salt, packed with piggy goodness and finished with a glutinous stickiness. Gorgeous. Unlike the eggy Tokyo ramen, the Hakata soba noodles are straight and thin, which allow the rich soup to 'cling' better, and so brings more flavours in every mouthful and slurp. The noodles were cooked perfectly, bouncy with a chewy centre. And I wouldn't expect less as I sat at the bar, I could hear the regular beeping of chef's timer.

The pork belly was probably too fatty, even by my standard; a couple of slices were 60% lard. I had to go easy on my arteries. The soft-boiled egg, on the other hand, was spot on; not dissimilar to the Chinese tea leaf egg, seasoned with five spices, together with a glorious gooey yolk. It was on par with the legendary onsen egg.

Compared to Koya, I prefer Tonkotsu. Partly because I prefer ramen to udon, but also I felt this meal was more accomplished and satisfying. Definitely a personal preference as opposed to quality discrepancies. They encourage slurping here, like the authentic noodle bars in Japan where men makes ridiculously noises sucking up the ramen. I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. But it's a nice effort to introduce some authenticity to the restaurant.

63 Dean Street
Tel: 0207 437 0071

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Tonkotsu on Urbanspoon

Square Meal


  1. We visitied on the 1st week of opening and it was delicious! We had the pork ramen - I much prefered them to Ittenbari down the road, and the chicken karage and veg gyozas were perfect. We also ended up ordering the pork gyozas being the piggies we are, but they were a let down.

    Hmm not sure if this place beats Koya though, I think fresh udon wins over fresh ramen for me =D

    1. It's interesting. Another friend said he preferred Ittenbari... it's the egginess in the noodles you see:)

    2. Ahh, I prefer my ramen with less egg taste and that's why I preferred Tonkotsu, but my other half preferred Ittenbari... battle of the noodles huh =D