When it comes to ramen it’s best to pull your hair back, tilt forward and start slurping… loudly. Even better, go solo to avoid awkwardness about breaking the western protocol for good table manners or make polite conversation mid slurp.
I recently made my way to Dean Street in SoHo, perhaps one of my favorite streets in London, where I know something utterly satisfying is just around the corner. It was my 5th visit to Tonkotsu and my 3rd visit going alone. I read somewhere, probably in one of the two ramen books I just finished reading: The Ramen King & I and Ivan Ramen, that in Japan many people enjoy their ramen in silence so as to take it in as quickly as possible (it’s best while still piping hot) and many eat on their own.
I followed the socially acceptable Japanese habit this time around, parked myself at an outdoor table for four, just as the restaurant opened for the day, and demanded to be fed.
Service is a mixed bag at Tonkotsu, I’ve had a few good experiences and a few that failed to impress. For example, during my last visit the waitress said a quick hello as she glided by past my table to have a nice long chat with her colleague who was taking his cigarette break. It took a full 10 minutes before she came to take my drink order. But it’s not customer service I come to Tonkotsu for, it’s to sate my ramen cravings.
The handmade pan-fried shiitake and menma gyoza arrived and I knew it was going to be good. It wasn’t stuck together like the previous times and glistened attractively. One small bite provides a satisfying crispy crunch before the softness of the filling comes filtering through and I’m hooked. In these little gyozas I found comfort and warmth.
A heaping bowl of Tokyo ramen was quick to follow. I’ve had the ramen with the same namesake as the restaurant but seem to prefer the shoyu (soy sauce) base instead here. The noodles, which are made in house, is what sets Tonkotsu apart from the other ramen bars I’ve tried in London – they are consistently fantastic. Their noodles offer the perfect springy bite, much like that extra spring in your step when you’re feeling oh so good. Then there’s the thick cut pork belly that rounds out a great bowl of ramen. I tend to prefer thinner pork belly slices and do wonder why they serve a thick cut for the Tokyo ramen, perhaps it’s to do with compatibility with the cut of noodles?
I’ll probably be making my 6th visit to Tonkotsu soon, maybe after I finish the rest of my London ramen chronicles by making a trip to Ittenbari and Mitsukoshi or right before I hop on that flight to Tokyo in September for the ultimate ramen experience.
63 Dean Street
London W1D 4QG
020 7437 0071