Friday, November 30, 2012

Tonkotsu, 23rd November

I have never tasted anything that tastes so porky, other than pork, in my life. It was a like a gustatory illusion –  you get all of the taste that something your mind and tongue expect to be fleshy meat, yet the texture is completely wrong. Your brain finds it hard to compute. It's almost like something the modern real-life Willy Wonka - Heston Blumenthal - would conjure up. I definitely had a case of food envy when I’d had a mouthful of that - the tonkotsu a sea-salt based broth flavoured with pork bones with a mildly disconcerting appearance, looking a little milky, not clear like I am used to from pho, for example. 



However, after getting through my Tokyo ramen, a lighter, soy sauce-based dish, I did wonder if maybe such a rich, deeply flavoured broth would be a little hard to finish. Stephen said that he felt that way as well, so perhaps my choice with pork and chicken was the better option after all.





Either way, they were both very tasty, and the meat inside was as flavoursome as you would expect of something that had imparted such flavour to its surrounding liquid. The unexpected highlight, and I can’t really believe I’m writing this, was the ‘seasoned egg’. Now, I’m a big fan of eggs, in almost any form, but they're not the sort of thing you normally get taken aback by. An egg’s an egg’s an egg. Unless it’s a seasoned egg, in which case it is amazing! They are marinated in soy overnight, which gives them a pleasingly salty taste and unusually deep flavour.

Along with your bowl of noodles you have the option of ordering more noodles (given how much you get, this seems completely unnecessary), a garlic shot (I was tempted, but we were going out drinking after and I thought I’d spare my friends the after-effects) or another half season egg. Definitely worth getting them to pop another one of these fellas into your pot.

We turned up at a little past six. I thought we’d get a seat but was a little anxious we might have to wait a while. It was surprisingly empty, considering I feel like it hasn’t been around that long. We chose two seats at the ‘bar’ which was right in front of the kitchen area.

There are only three choices – two meaty ones and one veggie, so naturally Stephen and I had one each. As I said, he had the tonkotsu, for which the restaurant is named and I had what was called Tokyo Ramen. We were hoping that one of them was going to be the spicy one we had read about but I guess the menu changes every now and again. The noodles were the thin kind, which I like, and were topped with big slices of fatty, ever so delicious, pork belly. Pork belly is always good but this seemed to be extrarich in flavour, perhaps soaking up some of the meatiness from the very broth it was sitting in. Highly satisfying.

They’re a little on the pricey side for noodles - a bowl of pho down the road at Nam will only set you back £6.50 whereas these are £11 and £9 respectively - but I don’t mind paying £15 for my dinner, especially when that includes an alcoholic beverage. They serve quite a good selection of beers – Stephen went for the 8-ball, loving snooker as he does, and I had a glass of rose wine. It was actually a very nice rose, not at all too sweet and better than the one I then had in the pub later. 





You can probably take your time over a meal here, as they have starters and sides and seem happy enough for you to order more but we just wanted something hot, tasty and filling before our night’s revelry and Tonkotsu met all three criteria. They do gyoza and something called Kara age chicken which sounded very nice (garlic and ginger - can’t go wrong) so they’re not just a one-trick pony. Although I suppose they could do these very badly, in which case they would be, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.


Our waitresses were all very friendly, even if one was slightly barmy – they seemed to be having a good time among themselves anyway! 


Next time they put that spicy broth back on the menu, I'm there, going heavy on the seasoned egg and putting their gyoza to the test!


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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.