1970s Tokyo-style retro ramen Panton Yokocho opens at Japan Centre off Leicester Square
The team at Yokocho – the Japanese ramen experts, with branches in Heddon Street, Mayfair and in Westfield White City – aim to celebrate Japanese regional ramen cuisine, “from northern Hokkaido to Kyushu in the south with all the broths and ramen noodles in between”, and they’ve just opened a third venue at the Japan Centre on Panton Street, off Leicester Square. The 5,800 square-foot Panton Yokocho branch, with covers for 120, will offer many of the same delights with the addition of noodle favourites udon and soba.
The word yokocho refers to the particular alleyways in major Japanese cities, full of hustle and bustle, food vendors and street soul food, and playing a major part in Japanese social lives and community spirit. They are rowdy, animated spaces, full of mouthwatering tastes and smells, and Panton Yokocho will be no exception. It includes replicas of yatai stall dining areas, as well as authentic touches such as hanging lanterns, vintage posters, alleys, cosy drinking dens with crate seating, noren curtains, manga masks and steam rising from the open noodle kitchens. A soundtrack of Japanese pop tunes from the era offers a convincing backdrop, furthering the nostalgic Tokyo street food vibe.
The menu will celebrate the history of ramen, udon and soba, and the differences between regional noodle cuisines in Japan. There is a choice of speciality bowls with different iterations from across the country, from the snowy northern islands of Hokkaido to the southern tropical archipelagos of Kyushu. There will of course be the well-known Tonkotsu Ramen but also regional specialties such as Sapporo Miso (a miso-based chicken and pork broth ramen) and Hakodate Shio (a salt and miso-based broth ramen). There are some vegan options, including a Vegan Napoli (a tomato-based ramen with grilled tomato and mushroom, topped with basil and vegan cheese). The venue’s signature dish is The Yokocho, a soy-based chicken and pork broth ramen with slices of barbecue pork, topped with menma bamboo shoots, naruto fish cake, whole nitamago egg and nori seaweed.
Alongside retro ramen, diners will be able to choose from a range of freshly prepared udon and soba dishes. From Prawn Tempura Udon (or with buckwheat soba) – topped with crispy prawn tempura, wakame seaweed, spring onion and kamaboko fish cake – to Sukiyaki Udon (or soba) – topped with tender sukiyaki beef and Yamakake Udon (or soba), served with grated Japanese yam, creamy yolk egg and kizami nori seaweed. There’s also a hearty selection of soul food sides, including karaage, buns, gyoza, shio kosho chicken wings and creamy chilled tofu topped with kimchi, and chicken katsu and pumpkin croquette curry will also be available.
To drink, there’s a range of highballs, ice-cold Japanese draft beers and Japanese Shochu cocktails with sour mix, fresh strawberries and flights of sake giving diners a chance to discover their favourite. For a real taste of nostalgia, the melon cream soda is a must-try: a vibrant green melon soda float topped with vanilla ice cream and a maraschino cherry.
The editorial unit
Photos: Courtesy of Panton Yokocho
Panton Yokocho is at 35a Panton Street London SW1Y 4EA. For further information or to book a table visit here.