I once said ‘this is the best ramen in London’ at Tsuru Ramen's tasting event, which eventually led to the opening of Tonkotsu in Soho. The creamy white stock made from pork bones cooked for 18 hours, the gooey egg with the perfect soy saltiness is achieved by marinating overnight and the slices of extra tender pork belly had to be cooked for over 3 hours. It's not a hard science to cook ramen but it does require time and patience. The result is heaven in a bowl and something I crave from Japan all the time. The slurping, the extremely satisfying sigh and how something so everyday can be that delicious.
An oriental person can always tell if a traditional Japanese restaurant is opened by Chinese, Japanese or westerners. The Chinese ones always have Chinese waiters with lots of set menus and their way of decorations. The Japanese ones have that special warmth, like being welcomed to a family living room. The service is always superb and the style is always relaxed and homie (e.g. Ten Ten Tei). Western owned ones tend to have a more formal, not as homie and more upmarket feel, and Tonkotsu was no different.
The restaurant is very small with minimum number of tables but for Soho, it’s a good size. Wooden tables are matched with colours of black steel to give that upmarket feel. Contrary to the warm welcoming from a traditional Japanese restaurant (it probably didn’t want to be one), western waiters casually walked us to the communal table where the single page menu with 3 ramen options were already placed.
Tonkotsu ramen at the tasting event
In term of the ramen, it’s not as good as Japan but very good compared to London standards. The tonkotsu ramen (£11) with the signature white pork bone broth, half a gooey egg and slices of pork belly had a very rich stock. But, it wasn’t as creamy and delicious as the one in the tasting event, which I loved so much.
The tokyo spicy (£9) was more intense in flavour with cuts of pork shoulder than pork belly. When comparing the two, tokyo spicy was the better with a stronger stock.
Spinach and sesame salad
Hiya Yakko tofu
Verdict - 4/5
Food (good) - a very good start to bring up London’s ramen standards. The tonkotsu ramen tasted better at the tasting event but the tokyo spicy was very good. Side dishes were average, nothing you can’t easily make at home but we didn’t try the gyoza.
Service (needs work) - service was disappointing but probably forgiven in its first month of service. Two sakes came when we only ordered one, and both were charged £4 more than the menu. But they did update the bill when asked to. The two teas ordered never came and when asked, the waiter pointed to the sakes and said those were the tea?!
Cost (£28pp) - you’ll most likely to bill way below the £57 we spent because of the sake at £10 each. For the ramen, tonkotsu was £11 and tokyo spicy was £9.
63 Dean Street, Soho