It takes guts to open up a restaurant that sells just ramen. To be precise, just three types of ramen with one of which for vegetarians. Well, the menu at Tonkotsu is longer than that - three gyozas, four sides and one pudding, a grand total of eleven items on the entire menu.
Whatever happens to the seat by the window these days? For Tonkotsu, instead of the customers, it's the chef hovering over pots of bubbling soup while its patrons, the lucky few of them, get to perch at the counter staring at him. Sorry people, it's ain't aura radiating from him, it's just ambient light coming from the window behind him.
You know how it's like when the menu has only three mains. There'll always be one winner which is typically the most expensive of the lot, more often than not, is named after the restaurant itself. The other two are usually, well, for those who just can't handle the best option and decide to settle.
Naturally, I'm one of those. Not by choice though. You see, after dining out together for almost two decades, Wife and I have this implicit understanding - we shall never order the same dish, unless the only other option available is a vegetarian dish (we're meat people) Guess what? I usually let her have the first choice. I'd love to attribute that to me being a gentleman but that really boils down to survival instincts.
That was how Wife ended up with Tonkotstu (£11) and I with the one with a dodgier name - Tokyo Spicy (£9). Apparently, Tonkotsu is made with sea salt base while Tokyo Spicy's a soy sauce base. But I can't really tell the difference other than mine is a bit spicy - the broth could very well have been served from the same cauldron. It must be the layer of oil floating on top of it or the fact that the soup base had brewing for the last 18 hours. After awhile, things start to taste the same. Nevertheless, its thickness was a testament of the time spent over fire.
While the chilli pulled pork in Tokyo Spicy was lovely, I very much prefer the pork belly slices in Tonkotsu. But what made the ramen special was the seasoned egg. Marinated overnight with soy base, the yolk took on a dark orangey shade akin to the setting sun. The result was a rich almost creamy taste with a tinge of saltiness. It reminded me of the salted duck eggs that I have with plain porridge, only more gooey and seemingly healthier. If you can't get enough of it, an extra 50p will get you another half.
How do I know that? All thanks to the extensive write up on the menu itself. To reduce the white space due to its short menu, Tonkotsu included how they do their ramen, gyoza and even included a short history of ramen in their menu. Just so that you have something to stare at should meal conversation gets awkward.
Being the carnivores that we are, it would be weird just sitting there slurping down out ramen without sacrificing more animals. That was how we ended up with the chicken kara age (£6) as well. A little burnt was a first impression and it lacked the juiciness that oozed out the ones we had at Necco. I'd stick to ramen the next time round.
Udon has somewhat lost its lustre. Koya can only play its game till people wake up one day and realised that they're paying for some expensive chewy wheat pasta in weak broth. I know I shouldn't be comparing udon and ramen but I'd probably head straight to Dean Street instead of Frith Street for a noodle fix.
Why you should avoid the gyozas at Tonkotsu
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Jamie Oliver's Diner, Piccadilly
4 hours ago