I’ve had a pretty interesting school day today. I’m currently doing a course on myofascial release (seen as the “scientific” answer and the missing link to massage and bodywork) and some crazyass shit happened. See, there’s this school of thought that all our cells have memories and therefore we can hold on to physical and emotional trauma (like breaking your leg or being dumped) in the body itself (as well as within the brain). During myofascial release work, one could “unwind” and the body finally processes some of these repressed memory/physical patterns. So I spent the day gurning and swinging my head like I was an extra on some PBS after-school special against party drug use and literally rolling on the floor in hysterics (hey other students were crying like there was no tomorrow, I think I could safely say I prefer the laughter). Anyways, by 5pm I was done. Ready for bed and a rest up before boozy brunch. What could be better than a ramen soft opening to start my weekend then? Did I mention I love noodles? No? Ok. I have a slight noodle problem. Generally soupy noodles take me to my happy place. So 50% off soupy noodles should technically take me to my super happy place right?
Sadly, all I could think about throughout the meal was that ‘I wished I was at Bone Daddies/ Ippudo/ Seto/just about anywhere else’ and ‘ok, this is why I’ve never been back to a Tonkotsu since BD opened’. I mean, the food wasn’t bad but it definitely wasn’t good enough for me to go back (even though it’s closer to home than BD Kensington).
I could see why I liked it before BD (B.B.D.)- in those sad, sad, backward days of the late noughties, it was really hard to find ramen in London and Tonkotsu was one of the first to burst on the scene. However, life after BD (A.B.D.)- I could finally see what Grant was banging on about when he says he doesn’t like tonkotsu broth- here at Tonkotsu, the broth was indeed rich yet tasteless. It was a bit like drinking lard. So much so that initially I thought there wasn’t enough broth in my bowl (I like lots of soup), yet surprisingly I didn’t even finish the soup. The ramen generally felt like it was unevenly seasoned- the soup itself was undersalted (well underwhelmingly flavoured), the noodles and pork properly flavoured and the egg incredibly salty. So my dash of soy sauce (in an effort to lift the soup) made the soup a bit more palatable but then made the egg wayyy to salty. Also, while I understand that straight, thin white noodles is a perfectly acceptable and traditional noodle choice, I simply prefer the curly wurly yellow stuff. It was fantastically al dente though. The pork itself was great though and I did like the menma and a bit of the beansprout/onion topping-sadly, I would call this a pretty generic bowl of noodles (in quality and choice of topping).
Originally I asked to have crab korokke as a side (since I LOVE korokke) but though it was on the soft opening menu, they were 86’ed already at 5:45pm. I settled for some chicken karaage- the chicken was AMAZINGLY soft (they won’t tell me how they did it- magic apparently, but I suspect it must have to do with their brining solution), lovely and crisp. Sadly a little too much karaage mix in places- parts of it was over battered and the general undersalted/overgingered state of being meant that these karaage had great potential but failed to quite hit the mark.
I arrived home feeling a little flat from the noodles and I quite wish that my moods are not so affected by the quality of food I eat. I think it is a testament of their quality control that their noodles tasted pretty much the same as it did 3-4 years ago; sadly there are just some noodle houses out there that is much much better than Tonkotsu for it to be a real contender in our Ramen Wars.
Soup: Meh. I didn’t finish the soup and I see that as the litmus test of all soupy noodle eating: not finishing the soup is just SO not a positive thing.
Noodles: Yay! I am not a fan of thin white noodles but they were nice and firm.
Toppings: The pork was lovely and melted in the mouth. My princessy habits meant that I thought that there was a tad too much beansprouts and spring onion. There were several slices of menma. I just found the whole thing a bit boring though.
Egg: 1/2 egg, it was a bit salty and I could do a much better yolk using David Chang’s 5:10 method.
General Happiness: It was a cloud hanging over my batshit cray cray, yet awesome day.
Noodles: ★★★★☆ Soup: ★★☆☆☆ Toppings: ★★★☆☆ Egg: ★★☆☆☆ Happiness: ★★☆☆☆
[I know we should be kind to soft openings, but part of my rationale is that Tonkotsu Notting Hill is the 6th iteration of the mini chain, so the food should be bang on from day one, even if the service was a bit… lackadaisical (and seriously, I dread to think what it would be like at 8pm on Friday night if they had such a laissez-faire attitude at 5:45pm)]
Tonkotsu, Notting Hill
7 Blenheim Crescent