Thursday, 1 March 2012

Tonkotsu Ramen @ Nagomi

For a city that has loads of Japanese eateries, it is surprisingly difficult to find tonkotsu ramen in London. Yes, Tsuru occasionally serve it at their Saturday ramen pop-ups, and yes, Toku sometimes has it on as a special. But few places regularly serve this dish; the only place in London I've found tonkotsu ramen is on the lunch menu at Nagomi in the heart of Mayfair.

I ordered the tonkotsu ramen set (£10.90), which includes four deep-fried gyoza dumplings and some free edamame in addition to the noodle soup. (By the way, although tonkotsu features on the menu in the window, the same dish is described as pork & chicken soup on the menu card inside the restaurant.)

When the tonkotsu ramen arrived, it certainly looked like the real deal. The broth was just as it should be: milky white in colour with an oily sheen. On the side of the bowl was the regulation sheet of nori (dried seaweed), and the soup was topped with spring onions and sesame seeds. And for that ultra-authentic touch, globules of black sesame oil called mayu (マー油) were added to the soup. Taste-wise, it had a rich porky taste although purists may yearn for an even richer, thicker broth with that primeval whiff of collagen.

The observant among you will have noticed that the ramen in the photo is thinner than normal; this apparently is the done thing when it comes to tonkotsu given the thicker consistency of the broth. Ironically, though, I think I would've preferred the more common thicker ramen because, as I alluded to earlier, the broth wasn't as rich and thick as it might be. Having said that, the noodles were top quality and had enough 'bite'. (By the way, you're given the choice between thin and thick ramen at Nagomi.)

The downside? My bowl of noodles was a little bit spartan. There was no boiled egg, no menma (fermented bamboo shoots) and the three bits of pork were a little tired. It's just as well there were some tasty gyoza dumplings on the side to ward off the hunger pangs! Having said that, I prefer to dwell on the positives in that I've found somewhere in London serving real tonkotsu ramen.

Nagomi is definitely somewhere I'd like to return to. Looking around the intimate dining room, punters were enjoying not just ramen but also sushi, sashimi, tempura in addition to other good-looking dishes. The service was excellent and considering I was eating Japanese food in Mayfair, I thought my lunch was a steal at around £15 including a drink and 10% service. Recommended.

Nagomi on Urbanspoon

Nagomi, 4 Blenheim St, London, W1S 1LB (Tel: 020-7165-9506)
Nearest stations: Bond St, Oxford Circus


  1. Oooh sounds great! I'm going to try and check it out.

  2. Lovely post! I read that tonkotsu does contain chicken broth. The ratio of pork to chicken broth (add separately at the end) is around 8:2. I also prefer to have more toppings!

  3. Somewhere that does decent quality ramen!? Excellent - a rare thing in London indeed. I think id be willing to forgive a few lapses if the overall experience is as good as you say.

  4. Frank - let me know what you think.

    Tang - yes, I believe that the pure tonkotsu is adulterated with chicken broth (and sometimes fish broth) to take the edge off it a little. After all, pure tonkotsu is probably a really tough date!

    Gworm - absolutely, let's celebrate the fact there's somewhere that does tonkotsu ramen in London. And I'm also hoping that the few lapses will be eradicated as and when more ramen joints open.

  5. You are right - there is a complete ramen shaped hole in the London dining scene. Good to see that in Melbourne there are lots of new ramen places opening up. Always such a hearty and delicious dish.

  6. Tonkotsu ramen does seem to be this years hot ramen dish. Let's hope that some young chefs fresh from their ramen apprenticeships in Japan are heading to our shores to give us what we need. More ramen shops......
    Thanks for the tip on this place.....

  7. London is probably like Melbourne in Aust.

    People think they are getting a good ramen, but there is always another higher level to be reached! I think one of the reasons I really left Australia was because no one really understands Japanese food there - you can get it in Asia or New York, but practically nowhere else. It is a difference between day and night.

    For example one of the best Ramen in Australia is probably Ajisen-Ramen (heaps better than Wagamama there already). But in HK it is considered rubbish quality already. And then the specialty ramen shops in HK/Singapore are still not upto Japan quality. Even Michelin 1 Star MIST Rahmen in HK is not as perfect as it could be. I am not going back to Aust for a reason :D

  8. GChick - in common with many Asian cuisines, Japanese joints in London tend to be all-rounders rather than specialists. So here's hoping to some proper ramen places opening up in London, too.

    Mzungu - can't agree with you more!

    HK Epicurus - it's not the best, but Ajisen-Ramen would clean up in blighty. It would smash Wagamama out of the water.

  9. So we went here yesterday.

    The noodles were good and the chunks of pork - delicious.We had the thicker noodles as well as the thin ones - thick ones definitely won the day! The broth was a little lacking - I was expecting deep flavour and it was, in the end, just like a stock really.

    Sadly there were only 2 very small pieces of pork. A couple of sheets of nori and some spring onion completed the topping - and as Mr. N said - it was a bit spartan.

    The deep fried gyoza were really good though.

    We enjoyed it - but I might try something else next time I go.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Frank. I think the fact it was sold as tonkotsu may have heightened expectations. Perhaps if there was more competition then standards might rise.

  10. Hi! Long time reader, first time poster. For a great tonkotsu have you tried Cocoro? About 5 mins from Nagomi on Marylebone Lane. Recommend!

    1. I walk past there every day! Didn't know they did Tonkotsu

    2. Anthony - welcome! Thanks for the tip, but bloody hell, you could've told me sooner! I will add to my list and check out in due course. Turns out W1 has pockets of tonkotsu after all.