With the recent closure of Veneta at St James’s, you do wonder whether the project of turning that area into a foodie destination by the Crown Estate has stuttered somewhat. Anzu, which we’ve reviewed previously on Townfish has made an intelligent move by opening a Tonkotsu ramen residency for most of January and February (the owners run both restaurants) and judging by the full-house and queue forming on a recent Saturday night visit, I suspect it might be a project they will take up on a more permanent basis.
The decor has the kind of clean, minimalist design you would expect from a top-quality restaurant although you can’t help to think the furnishing is more catered towards fine-dining rather than being a ramen bar, which you suspect is what the owners originally went for.
Why is Tonkotsu one of the most outstanding ramen restaurants in London? Because they make their own noodles daily at Tonkotsu East and Mare Street with special machines shipped all the way from Japan. This gives the end product added bounce and bite which you will struggle to find a better version of anywhere else in London. As they very cheekily claim “If you don’t make your own noodles, you’re just a soup shop”.
We started off with a very strong mushroom-tasting shiitake and bamboo shoot gyoza: the skin was suitably thin and it was fried just to the right degree. Creamed crab and corn korokke was generously portioned and absolutely rich, luxurious tasting. This along with a bowl of ramen will cure all your winter woes.
The highlight was, of course, their ramen offerings. What I was particularly impressed with was the vegetarian offering, frequently ramen is cooked with pork broth or chicken stock but their curried pumpkin and spiced corn ramen is enriched with a konbu and shiitake stock. Added to that is squash and tonyu soy milk puree with a hint of Japanese curry spices to ensure maximum flavours and no compromise in taste. Finally, it has pumpkin, that’s been cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
The seafood ramen is every seafood lover’s dream with king prawns, queen scallops in shell, crab, wakame and topped with an expertly seasoned egg that still has a soft yolk inside. The al dente nature of the noodles is unrivalled anywhere else in London.
The only downside to my Tonkotsu experience? The portions are rather large so I had no room to try their exotic sounding salted caramel, miso, chocolate and Guinness cake ice cream sandwich. Looks like a repeat visit is on the cards very soon.