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Tonkotsu Ramen Soho – eating my way through London’s latest food craze
Ramen is warming comfort food, perfect for chilly weather and brought to the UK from Japan where there are over 3000 Ramen bars! After the Second World War, the popularity of Chinese noodle dishes in Japan increased and according to Wikipedia, from the 1980s, Ramen became a ‘Japanese cultural icon’ and a Ramen museum was opened in Yokahama in 1994. There’s even a cult film, Tampopo.
Now my first taste of Ramen was at Bone Daddies in Soho. And, although (or perhaps because) I loved my lunch there, I wanted to check out the competition. So on one of the coldest days of the year so far, I trekked across Central London from Holborn to Soho, to make my way to Tonkotsu Ramen.
I very carefully ordered a bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen, their signature dish, and some tea in some attempt to be healthy. The waitress disappeared and returned a few minutes later to very apologetically tell me that the tea machine hadn’t warmed up so I ended up happily drinking Sake!
The Ramen was a slightly different style to that on offer at Bone Daddies, a little lighter and with finer noodles. I did actually manage a full bowlful, and even ate the egg (regular readers may remember my antipathy to anything based on egg) and actually found it rather good. The menu at Tonkotsu Ramen seemed to have fewer options than Bone Daddies and given a choice I’d still pick a chicken based Ramen rather than one with pork, no matter how slow cooked, simply because I don’t particularly like fat on meat but there isn’t one on offer. I wasn’t disappointed though, the pork was good, tender and soft and easy enough to cut with my spoon.
Despite the lack of chicken, Tonkotsu, unlike Bone Daddies, does have a vegetarian option, based on Miso stock and if you are interested in that, my friend and erstwhile dining companion
The Tonkotsu Ramen arrived in minutes and was as delicious as it looks!
I was eating lunch by myself and got chatting to my neighbour at the bar because he ALSO tried to order tea and ended up with Sake. He also ordered the Gyozo and Tokyo ramen and he kindly let me take photos. Such is the insolence of the food writer, we not only take photos in restaurants, we ask strangers to take pictures of THEIR food too!
Actually he really didn’t seem to mind…I think because the Gyozo really did look wonderful and apparently tasted great too! Or maybe that was just the effect of the Sake?
The Toyko Ramen, was darker, soy rich…and pronounced excellent by my new friend, who was also on his first visit to Tonkotsu.
So there you are. Writing restaurant reviews really does turn you into a slightly eccentric, wayward person who chats up strangers in bars and demands to take photos of their food.
Or maybe I was that way inclined anyway?
I couldn’t tell you which of the two Ramen joints is ‘better’ or which is more authentic. Bone Daddies serves a richer, more filling Ramen and has a slightly glitzier set of starters. Tonkotsu is more open, the Ramen chef cooks at the front of the restaurant. Both are a delicious form of fast food that will set you back around £10 for a bowl of noodles (a meal in itself). Neither take reservations. And neither were so busy we had to queue at lunchtime during the week, though I understand things are very different on a Friday evening.
The best I can suggest is to try them both and decide for yourself.
63 Dean Street