Any up-and-coming corner of London would be incomplete without a ramen bar being added as part of their developing scene. Tonkotsu East joins the revamp of Haggerston arches, continuing from the success of its first and much smaller sibling branch in Soho. Bare-brick walls, oversized lampshades, industrial-style orange bulbs, exposed copper pipework and the thundering roars of the trains passing overground are enough to cure your Saturday night hangover and that’s even before we get started on the food.
The simple menu reflects true Japanese style, offering only a handful of items guaranteed to deliver consistency in quality and maximum freshness. We made the ultimate schoolboy error by ordering too many appetisers. Starting off with the Salt and Sansho Pepper Squid (deep fried squid with sea salt and lemony Japanese pepper called sansho), and the Chicken Karrage (chicken marinated in soy, ginger and garlic and fried), we expected succulent pieces of squid and chicken wrapped in a pungent crispy batters both packed with huge flavour punches. Unfortunately, both batters seemed to have absorbed more oil than flavour, drowning the seasoning, resulting in the sansho and ginger and garlic barely tiptoeing across the taste buds.
We were most looking forward to the Prawn Gyoza (dumplings) and Crab Korokke (Japenese-style croquettes served with tartar sauce). The gyoza were delightfully light, evidently fresh and finished off with a crisp bottom, which was a welcome relief from the preceding dishes. The crab korroke were packed full of fresh crab meat perched on a bed of (slightly underwhelming) tartar sauce lifted our expectations once again ahead of the main show – the ramen.
The flavour-lacking appetisers were no doubt enhanced by their incredible homemade chilli oil, an triumphant condiment full of many of the flavour profiles the appetisers missed – think roasted garlic, sesame seeds, miso, onions and of course, just the perfect amount of burn. Available to by in the restaurant and online, it would awaken the taste buds of the simplest of palates.
Tonkotsu’s main event, the ramen, is silky smooth broth mastered by cooking pork bones for up to 18 hours, allowing the collagen and pork fat to be fully saturated into the chicken and pork bone-based stock. We tried both the Tokyo and Tonkotsu ramen, the Tokyo being least favorite. Tonkotsu’s website claims, “fresh noodles are essential for the best ramen experience – bouncy, soft and perfect for slurping up tasty stock” and we couldn’t agree more. Behind a large glass wall at the back of the room, a chef uses an imported traditional ramen noodle-making machine creating noodles worth slurping for – that’s right, no one’s looking!
Let’s not forget to mention the bar, which acts as a holding area as the restaurant doesn’t take reservations for groups under six guests. Who would have thought beer and ramen pair so well together? The extensive drinks lists includes Japanese imports such as Sopporo and Kirin Ichiban alongside locally brewed Beavertown and Kernal brewery ales and excellent Japanese-inspired cocktails. With just a select few options on the menu, you can ease through anything from a quick snack to a long lazy Sunday lunch, but just make sure you make it all the way through to the main event.
Tonkotsu East: 47/60
To book a table at Tonkotsu East, Arch 334 1a Dunston St London E8 4EB, call 020 7254 2478 or for further information visit here.