I mentioned the other day that I attempted to go to Tonkotsu in Soho and was defeated by its busyness. I went back for a second bite of the cherry this week.
It's all very on trend: the decor is industrial to the point of sterile, and there's a similarly stripped back approach to the menu.
Tonkotsu is a ramen bar, and there's three ramen dishes punters can choose between: two meaty, one veggie. If you ask for it without the boiled egg, the veggie option - shimeji mushroom and miso ramen - is vegan too. Tonkotsu has a similarly sparse selection of sides with a spinach salad, gyoza, or tofu dish, all of which can be made both veggie and vegan.
We decided to pass on the sides and cut straight to the mains: a bowl of the veggie ramen each.
Ramen is noodle soup and according to its website, Tonkotsu serves its in the style "typical in Kyushu, but found all over Japan". How authentic it is, I couldn't tell you, but the restaurant was full of Japanese diners - some happy with their meals, others not.
The site also mentions that Japanese noodles "can be served 'katame', or slightly hard – al dente." Again, I have no experience of eating noodles in Japan, but the bowl that arrived in front of me seemed somewhere to the north of all dente into hard and rubbery.
The noodles came topped with spring onions, the eponymous shimeji mushrooms and spinach leaves, and swimming in a white miso broth.
The more I ate, the more I was reminded of a recent review of a film in The Guardian, in which the reviewer described the experience as totally 'whelming'.
"It whelms you. Its effect is whelming. The film delivers precisely the satisfaction a sympathetic audience could expect from its director, not one degree above or below. The audience is whelmed. It's a whelmer," the review says.
And that's exactly what Tonkotsu's ramen did - it whelmed. The broth was fine, but lacked enough depth or interest to spark a more positive reaction. The vegetables got lost in the soup and even my mushroom hating companion found the fungus so failing to make a taste contribution to the dish, he had nothing to complain about.
And those noodles? The novelty of seeing them being handmade downstairs was tempered by their initial clagginess which in turn was tempered as they continued to cook down in the hot stock.
Turns out it's surprisingly hard to review a meal that had nothing brilliant nor terrible to say about it.
I left, whelmed.
63 Dean Street
0207 437 0071