Oct 26 2012



Tonkotsu is a Japanese Ramen restaurant in Soho, which as many places in Soho has a no reservations policy so you may need to wait when you go there (I went there on a Friday evening and had to wait 20 minutes to be seated). Waiting is actually not that bad as you can watch the chefs plate ramen noodle soups, as they are located just by the entrance. The restaurant occupies two floors and we were seated on the second floor. You may know another very famous noodle restaurant in Soho called Koya, which has been named by many reviews as one of the best Japanese noodle restaurants, and I love Koya (MMMM), so I was very keen to try Tonkotsu, as I had also read somewhere that they served great gyoza, of which I am a huge fan.


Koya serves udon noodles, the thick white wheat flour ones which are served in a very lightly flavoured broth, whilst Tonkotsu serves ramen, which is also a wheat based noodle but it is usually thinner and the main difference is how you make the broth, which is the main ingredient of ramen, and this broth is made out of pork and chicken bones with vegetables and sometimes fish bones, a concentrated liquor of soy, miso or salt and toppings.  Ramen originated in China but it is extremely popular now in Japan and apparently there are 34,488 ramen shops in Japan, and ramen accounts for ¼ of all meals taken outside of home. 


Tonkotsu is named after the ramen typical in Kyushu, Japan’s southern-most island, but found all over Japan. Tonkotsu makes their ramen by cooking pork bones for up to 18 hours, which allows collagen and other porky goodness to be emulsified into the stock (you can the stock in the pictures that I took whilst waiting to be seated, and the stock did look quite impressive). The menu in Tonkotsu is very small and you can only have 3 types of ramen, 3 types of gyoza and 4 other sides. It was 2 of us and we ordered quite a few dishes as we wanted to try a lot of things and ordered 1 of the ramen to share. You can order: 1) thin ramen noodles in rich, sea salt-based pork stock with pork belly, 2) medium thickness ramen in Soy sauce-based pork and chicken stock with pulled chilli pork or 3) no noodles in Miso-based, konbu and shiitake stock but with shimeji mushrooms, a handful of bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. All the dishes contain a soft-boiled egg, and when I was in Tonkotsu I was reading on the menu how the chef makes the soft boiled eggs and marinates them and it takes him a long time apparently to make them the way they are. 


We chose the “soy based ramen with pulled chilli pork” and the broth was extremely powerful and flavoursome. The noodles were also very nice, but I did not think the pork was extremely delicious or that much, and I thought if I am paying £9 I could get a bit more meat, and in Wagamama although I don’t think their noodles or broths are comparable in any way you pay the same price but you do get more food. We also chose the “prawn and pork gyoza”, which I thought was funnily presented as it was presented in 1 piece and you could see how they had cooked all these gyozas together attached to each other and did not bother separating them when they were done. I did think they were nice, but not especially amazing. We also had the edamame beans (I actually did not have any but we had ordered them and my boyfriend ate them all), “Spinach and bean sprout salad with sesame dressing”, which I did not really like as there was too much bean sprout and too little spinach and the dressing was not amazing.


We also ordered “Chicken Karaage”, and karaage just means a Japanese cooking technique where the meat or fish (in this instance, chicken) are  deep fried in oil, after being marinated, similar to the preparation of tempura. I did enjoy the chicken, which was juicy and delicious and it was like a great version of Kentucky fried chicken. And to go with all of this food we had some “Japanese pickled cucumber” and even though I usually love this dish, here I was not so keen, and I did not think it was the bet Japanese pickle I have had, probably one of the worst. 


During the meal the funny thing that happened was that the restaurant lost electricity so for a while we were sitting in darkness with some light coming through the windows from the street. It was extremely romantic, but not very practical for eating ramen, which could go all over your clothes if you were not careful. 


After this meal I can say that I do prefer Koya as a noodle place (as I am not that fussy whether to have udon or ramen, I just like noodles in a broth) and not just because of their food, also because of the decoration of the place (Koya does Japanese minimalism to perfection) and the atmosphere as it seems more authentic there with Japanese staff, whilst in Tonkotsu all staff were foreign. Also I think the food is just better at Koya, not only the noodles, but also the side dishes.


Date: 26/ 10/ 12

Price for 2 including a whiskey and a bottle of sake and service charge: £51.97

Location: Soho

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Square Meal

Maija rated: 



63 Dean Street, W1D 4QG
United Kingdom
Tonkotsu Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 3