Tonkotsu, on 63 Dean Street, Soho (London), has quirky features and a unique vibe that’s clear as soon as you walk through the door. Chunky vintage-style light bulbs with golden filaments shining, complimented by thin metal bars criss-crossing the ceilings. This semi-industrial style can sometimes be harsh, but here it adds warmth and a certain coziness. Look out for the extra-cheeky toilet sign…
The kitchen is exposed, inside and out – with big glass windows framing the flaming pans and woks. We chose to sit outside and make the most of the summer night. Tonkotsu is in a great spot, in the middle of Soho, directly opposite The Groucho Club, just metres from Old Compton Street. A great spot for celeb spotting while you sip on a cocktail or two. Make sure you try the simply presented Tom’s G & T with Yuzu syrup, a sweet, aromatic fruit native to Japan. Its distinct flavour really enhances this British classic.
Tonkotsu is a ramen restaurant – and these tasty bowls are the best I’ve had in London, making Wagamama’s watery offerings taste like dish water in comparison. But make sure you try some of the appetisers too. You can eat all the bits on the soft shell crab kara-age – crispy and crunchy on the outside, similar to the tasty skin on a roast chicken, with generous lumps of meaty crab flesh inside.
The freshly made gyoza’s include a quirky mix of shitake and bamboo shoots. These have a subtle mix of flavours and textures that are definitely worth ordering twice.
But Tonkotsu is all about the Ramen. The signature Tonkotsu Ramen is rich, creamy, comforting and full of meaty flavour. This is a pork stock ramen, with thin noodles topped with slices of melt-in-the-mouth pork belly, half a seasoned soft-boiled egg (cooked to perfection) with bean sprouts and spring onions. I can see myself tucking in to this regularly as the nights draw in and get a bit colder – the ultimate Japanese comfort food for autumn and winter.
If you fancy something a bit lighter (but just as flavoursome), the Tokyo Ramen is just that – a soy sauce base, with pork and chicken stock with medium-thick noodles topped with smoked haddock, pak choi, half an egg, and spring onion.
Both these dishes are packed full of soul-soothing flavour, made on-site with fresh ingredients. The difference in quality compared to any of the ‘fast food’ options in town is clear from the first spoonful. Once you’ve had your Ramen here, I doubt you’d want to go anywhere else in Soho.
The Mochi ice cream was a light and refreshing finish, washed down throughout with a range of hot and cold Saki – the Honjozo served hot has quite a fruity kick! Everything is beautifully presented in stylish glazed earthenware, including the cute little Saki cups. Prices are very reasonable for this part of town and there’s no need to book. Just turn up and tuck in.
Tonkotsu is on 63 Dean Street in London’s Soho. Check out their website for full menu and directions.
By Danny Hilton:
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