Tonkotsu Bar & Ramen

The temperature outside may be rising, but my belly still craves a decent bowl of steaming Ramen.  Noodle fixes are to me what bamboo is to a panda.  Without them I get craggy, I can’t think straight and I’m not pleasant to be around.

Just as well then, that Tsuru plans to launch ‘Tonkotsu Bar and Ramen’ on Dean Street in Soho, and have been running a series of weekend Ramen tasting events at their Bishopsgate branch. You sample one Ramen dish at each event and are invited to give your feedback online afterwards.  Admission to 3 of their events guarantees you entry to their eagerly awaited opening evening…..come on Tsuru, hurry up!!

We kicked off with Seafood Ramen, having regrettably missed ticket sales for the Tokyo Spicy and Hokkaido events. Greeted with a finger bowl of salted edamame shortly after being seated, we promptly ordered some Pork Gyoza and Chicken Kara-Age to temper our appetites.  The Kara-Age I’ve had many a time – deboned and marinated free range chicken thigh, coated in potato starch to give an uber crunchy golden crust. Served with a zingy sweet soy vinegar dip and a little lemon (emphasis on little – I would’ve liked a bigger piece).

The Pork Gyoza, whilst still tasty weren’t quite up to their usual standards.  The pork filling for the dumplings was well seasoned and hit the spot but the final frying on the gyoza was a little rushed.  You can see the dumplings were stuck together and not browned enough which was a little disappointing, although I will add that they’ve been good on every other occasion so won’t hold it against them by any means.

Now for the Ramen…..when it arrived I’m sure my eyes bulged a little at the generosity of the seafood in the bowl – a large fillet of seared  sea bass, king prawns and (possibly) the largest clam I’ve ever seen (I must’ve lucked out on this one as my sisters wasn’t quite so fat!). The egg was perfectly cooked with its yolk still gooey. The fresh noodles were cooked al dente and still retained some bite. Anyone who knows anything about Ramen will know that the secret to a good bowl is all in the broth, where a combination of bones, vegetables and aromatics must be simmered for hours to give an intensely flavoured broth. Tsuru must’ve responded well to feedback from some of the previous events that the broth was over salty or lacked in umami, for the broth we tried was well balanced and packed with gutsy meaty flavours. We left very satisfied, eager in anticipation for the next event.

Next up…Shoyu Ramen, so called because of the broth which is flavoured with japanese soy sauce.  Generous slices of rolled pork, menma fermented bamboo), wakame (seaweed), that glorious boiled egg and finished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and spring onion.  i really enjoyed this, the pork was extremely tender and the broth satisfyingly meaty.

And last up, London Ramen.  An English Breakfast inspired dish with slabs of flame charred smoked bacon, japanese mushrooms (shiitake and shimeji) and half a seasoned boiled egg.  The broth was a hybrid between tonkotsu and shoyu, with a strong smokey flavour owing to the charred bacon. I did enjoy this bowl of ramen, but it wasn’t my favourite and found the end result a little too salty.  This time we were given a complimentary sample of their own ‘Eat The Bits’ chili oil which I particularly enjoyed.  Not too spicy and packed with garlic and nutty sesame seeds.  At £3 a jar, I didn’t need any convincing to take some home with me.

The ramen bar is due to open very soon and if the dishes I’ve tried are anything to go by, I’m sure it’s going to be a great success. My endeavours to hunt down a decent bowl of Ramen in London so far have failed miserably – noodle lovers are literally crying out for a joint like this and Tsuru have done a great job of drumming up interest through their tasting events this year.

Stay tuned, I hear Tonkotsu Ramen will be opening in July this year so we’ve not long to wait.