Naomi Blair finds authentic ramen in the heart of Soho
Must-try: Soho ramen
Good for: Delicious dinner with friends
Overall: A ramen experience that puts Wagamama’s to shame
If your idea of a haute-cuisine ramen experience is slurping down a lukewarm Chicken & Mushroom Pot Noodle, then maybe Tonkotsu isn’t for you. But, for everyone else, Tonkotsu is here to provide noodles like no other; fresh, home-made and bouncy – perfect for ramen.
Ramen is a staple food in Japan, with over 34,000 ramen restaurants across the country, and even a dedicated ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama. Its popularity has been slowly spreading across the UK for a while now, but with chains like Wagamama dominating the noodle market, it seems many people’s experience of ramen has been an inauthentic one. Thankfully, there have been a whole host of excellent new ramen joints springing up all over London, and Tonkotsu is one of the best around. It gets its name from a type of ramen, where the thick broth is made from boiling pork and chicken bones to create a deeply savoury, creamy soup base for their noodles.
Located on Soho’s Dean Street, Tonkotsu is a narrow restaurant, where you are nestled in next to your fellow diners. The small size of the restaurant means that come dinner time, there is often a queue, but the charming staff make sure that you are kept up to speed with waiting times and offered drinks whilst you chat.
Once inside, the service is speedy and efficient, with food coming out as soon as it’s ready. We started with some amazing crab korokke (£5) which were light croquettes full of real crab and served with a home-made tartare sauce. We also had edamame beans (£3.50) and prawn gyozas (£5.75) which were nicely charred, but not the best I’ve had.
For mains, it had to be Tonkotsu’s signature ramen. I went for their namesake Tonkotsu ramen (£11) which came topped with meltingly soft pork belly, while my fellow diner plumped for the Soho ramen (£11). Whilst the Tonkotsu ramen was delicious and unlike any ramen I’ve ever had before, with it’s cloudy, buttery stock, it was the Soho ramen that gave me real food envy. It was served with smoked haddock and pak choi which imparted a really rich fish taste to the stock, almost like a noodle chowder.
Overall, Tonkotsu is a real destination for some of the best ramen in London, and one well worth seeking out should a noodle craving strike. Also, although I didn’t try it, I’m told by the staff that the chicken karaage (£6) is unfathomably addictive, and lovingly referred to as “Dean Street crack”. Looks like I’ll need to return to Tonkotsu even sooner than anticipated – I’ll see you in the queue!
63 Dean Street
All image credits: Tonkotsu