Wednesday, 19 September 2012
When Tonkotsu opened, it was midsummer. Sweating over a bowl of hot noodles was the last thing I felt like doing when it was 26 degrees outside, and it was possibly for this reason I wasn't initially completely won over by the place. There was nothing exactly wrong with anything - the ramen was pleasant enough, the gyoza soft and fresh, the fried chicken (kara age) tasty and crunchy - but it seemed a shadow of the amazing stuff I'd tried in Japan (I know, I know, but it is a factor) and I wasn't desperate to return.
However, more has changed since those opening weeks than the weather. Certainly the fresh autumn chill has made the prospect of a bowl of warming ramen much more enticing, but something else has happened at Tonkotsu - the product itself, based either on early feedback or simply due to a more settled kitchen, has improved noticeably. The fried chicken was more moist, the coating stronger and more satisfyingly tearable. The gyoza, while still not perfect, had a more intensely porky filling and thicker golden crust. And though this time I went for the signature Tonkotsu (pork) ramen and so can't compare it directly to the Tokyo Spicy back in June, it was still a much more richly-flavoured and enjoyable thing, especially when laced with their (also much improved) chilli oil.
So Tonkotsu is now well worth a visit, and not just for the food. Although the 18% Brewdog Tokyo they had on the list in June for a bargainous £12 (it's usually over £10 retail) has sadly (though understandably) disappeared, they still offer a great range of interesting local beers including my beloved Kernel IPA and a few from Beavertown Brewery, Hackney. The room is an attractive place to spend time in, in that stripped-back industrial style that seems to be everywhere all of a sudden, and staff are unfailingly smiley and efficient. I won't even begin to pretend I know much about what makes a "good" or "bad" bowl of ramen, but I do know that £18 seemed a very fair price to pay for a very nice lunch, and Soho is richer for having them.