Paul Dunn discovered a moreish menu at the minimalist Tonkotsu Mare Street
Ken Yamada’s latest ramen bar is so minimalist that the doors don’t have handles. OK, that may be due more to tardy builders than Mies Van der Rohe, but less is certainly more at the new Tonkotsu on Mare Street.
The mini-chain debuted on Dean Street in 2012 before launching in Haggerston a year later, then Selfridges, and now Hackney. With Bone Daddies multiplying as well, the once-humble noodle soup’s takeover of the capital continues.
Tonkotsu no 4 is a converted post office: a long dark cocktail bar and circular banquettes lead to a canteen area seating 50 ramenologists.
The bar offers Japanese whiskies, artisan beers, an unfussy wine list and cocktails, which are brilliant in name, price and execution; try the whisky-based Tokyo Strangler (£8) and vodka-rice wine highball Hell’n’Mirin (£7).
We kicked off with another “terrifying cocktail”, the Hanako San, a Japanese twist on a Blood Mary: sake, tomato juice, soy, wasabi, chilli and sansyo pepper. Far too easy to knock back.
Starter-sides were as minimal as door handles. Namely okonomiyaki (£5), the cabbage pancake, which was unavailable.
We plumped for the chicken kara-age (£6) instead. The bird was authentic and abundant: apalimpsest of crunchy layers covering meat marinated in soy, ginger and garlic, though lacking Japanese mayonnaise that came with another side, tenderstem broccoli. Our condiment became Eat the Bits chilli oil, roasted garlic, toasted chilli and sesame seeds – so oleaginous and unctuous we demanded a jar to take home.
The mains menu is minimal: four ramens on offer. My famished fellow dinner selected the restaurant’s eponymous dish (£11) and committed carbicide: adding extra noodles. Made freshly on the “magnificent Shinjuku Yoshino machine”, they lived up to the hype: perfect bite, bounce and texture.
The tonkotsu did not disappoint either: delicious pork belly, week-long marinaded eggs, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and spring onions nestling in a rich pork stock – collagen and fat simmered for 18 hours – twinned with an interesting Coedo sweet potato craft beer.
I picked the signature seafood ramen (£11) – unique to Tonkotsu E8 – with trepidation. Why? I had suffered a Pot Noodle-quality ‘effort’ on the other side of London the day before at Hare & Tortoise. Actually, that is unfair on Pot Noodle. I need not worry: juicy prawns, tasty clams and squid came to the party, again with sprouts and shoots.
Tonkotsu Mare Street, Hackney London E8 1HR
For more information visit tonkotsu.co.uk/home
Pictures by Paul Winch Furness
Words Paul Dunn. Paul is a lifestyle and sports writer, you can ctah him tweeting @twunnsy