Based on Dean Street in Soho, Tonkotsu specialises in one thing – ramen. I’ll be honest, I’d never had a ramen before and if you haven’t either – it’s a traditional Japanese noodle soup made with stock from animal bones and vegetables then topped with a variety of ingredients. I’ve been reluctant to order one before because I thought it would be greasy and watery – oh how wrong I was!
I was hunger struck at 5pm and in the area so I decided to treat myself to a ramen-for-one. It’s a non reservation restaurant but they’d just opened and it was empty. Long shared tables were in the middle but I sat at the bar by the entrance. The restaurant had that ever familiar, stripped back warehouse look to it.
In the window were large pots which were preparing the stock for the next day – the pork bones simmering away for 18 hours before being used. This filled the air with a smell of delicious meat which made me even hungrier.
I started with some prawn and pork gyozas (£5) which are Japanese style dumplings. These are handmade in the kitchen daily which is good to know. The filling was absolutely delicious – light as air yet full of rich flavour. The dumpling itself was perfectly thin. They had been fried giving one side a crunchy outside. They were a little greasy but I loved them – the extra grease seemed to be where all the flavour was. Yum.
Next up I ordered the Tonkotsu ramen (£11) which had a pork stock base with thin noodles topped with pork belly slices, seasoned egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and spring onions. Having never eaten one before I was a little nervous about how to eat it – with a spoon, with chopsticks, with my fingers? But I used the wooden spoon to drink every last drop of that intense pork flavoured stock and I loved it. The pork belly slices were insanely tender and full of porky loveliness – the fat was so soft it melted in my mouth. The yolk of the soft boiled egg (free range of course) was more orange than any yolk I’ve ever seen before and tasted lovely. I then proceeded to drizzle a little too much chilli oil into my bowl which nearly blew my head off but gave the soup a real kick.
It was only when I finished that I realised I had pork stock splashed all over my trousers (I do hope it comes out!) but it was worth it. Absolutely delicious – and I’m glad that my first ramen experience happened in Tonkotsu.
For a tap water, some gyozas and a bowl of ramen the bill came to £17.60 including service. If I’d ordered some side dishes and sampled one of their local beers the bill could have easily rocketed. But for me, £11 for that rich, flavoursome bowl of ramen was worth every single penny.