I’ve recently been criticised for reviewing too many high-end establishments. Not a conscious decision, but not something I can really argue with either. Lately I’ve been eating so many Michelin stars, my poo probably looks like the kind of thing you’d expect to see down the lens of the Hubble Telescope. So for this review I thought I would go a little down-market.
Soft shell crab £8
Few things I eat are as therapeutic as ramen: Leaning my revolting head over a bowl of hot broth that has mated with the fat and bones of a pig; getting lost in a pair of chopsticks as they oppose the mass of a submerged noodle heap; slurping them up in a mindless trance as man and noodle become one. You forget where you are. It’s escapism in a bowl.
Homemade pickles £3
Ramen is by design an everyday food for everyday people. In Japan it’s the thing the locals eat on their lunch break, slurping away in that effortless, dignified way that Japanese people do. Over there it’s so easy to come by, yet London – a city that thrives on allowing other cultures to infiltrate it – has struggled to get to grips with proper ramen. Sure, there’s plenty of Jack-of-all-trades Japanese restaurants kicking around that like to have a go. But if Sushi Tetsu taught us anything, it’s that Japanese food can be so much more in the hands of a specialist.
Cabbage and miso £2.50
Earlier in the year, Tonkotsu tried to bring us authentic ramen, but failed to make a convincing case. Then more recently, chatter began to circulate of a former head chef of Zuma and Nobu Dallas getting into the ramen game, which got our chopsticks wet. His name, Ross Shonhan – an Australian born chef that has devoted a life to learning the ways of Japanese cuisine. And that at the very least is encouraging, as producing a quality ramen is as esoteric as any other facet of Japanese cooking.
Fried chicken £5
At Bone Daddies you’ll not only find a selection of eight ramen varieties, but a welcome supporting cast of side dishes that include a rather formidable soft shell crab with a pungent, strong green chilli and ginger sauce. There’s salmon and yellowtail sashimi. An assortment of pickles that maybe aren’t the best are still worth the puny asking price. A generous helping of cabbage is next to flavourless, but the leaves really just serve as a vehicle for the tangy miso sauce that comes with them. An answer to the chicken karaage at Tonkotsu comes as a small metal bucket filled with bite-size chicken nuggets, which unlike Tonkotsu’s are not at all greasy.
Tonkotsu ramen £11
Ramens speciate into chicken or pork bone broths; some with chashu pork; some with chicken; some with cock scratchings which seems to get a laugh on Twitter. Unfortunately for vegetarians and vegans, there’s nowhere to go as they can’t just undo 20 hours of slow cooking for you, as in the case of the tonkotsu ramen which I order.
When it comes, I take a sniff and am bizarrely reminded in the faintest way (luckily) of Andoillette – the sausage of nightmares – but I boil that down to the mixture of toppings giving themselves to the broth, which is creamy, porky and tangibly thick. Slices of pork are the fatty kind which works for me. Halves of boiled egg ooze liquidy, tangerine coloured yolks into your mouth. Noodles are pale in complexion and fail to deliver that satisfying chew I associate with proper ramen. The real shortfall is one of temperature. The broth arrives just-hot, so by the time you’re done with the noodles and ready to start spooning, you’re dealing with lukewarm broth. Not a good look.
The inside isn’t remotely reminiscent of a ramen bar in look or feel. It seems to have been thrown together in a hurry with a few long, cheap wooden surfaces lined with basic stools. Some pointless collage of things Japanese covers one of the walls and adds nothing. It lacks atmosphere. Some of the staff are friendlier than others, but the operation seems smooth enough. I read somewhere that Shonhan is hoping to roll out more of these Bone Daddies in the future. Sounds like a plan, just keep those broths warm.
food : 6.5/10
service : 7/10
ambience : 4/10
value : 7.5/10
30-31 Peter St. Soho, London W1F 0AR
020 7287 8581