Tonkotsu was launched in 2012 by co-founders Ken Yamada and Emma Reynolds. Slightly over 6 years after opening its first restaurant in Soho, the highly-rated ramen provider Tonkotsu chose Ealing to open it’s tenth restaurant. Exciting times for Ealing and exciting for me to get an invitation to bring my family along to review it! One of the big advantages of bringing up children is the range of different cuisines it is so easy to expose them to.
Both my children take after me in loving Asian food. My son requested a curry for his third birthday and my daughter has requested Thai for her birthday treats for as long as I can remember but she loves Japanese food and noodle dishes too, so she was excited to try this out. Ealing has always had a handful of Japanese restaurants to choose from, but this is the first specifically ramen restaurant we’ve seen in the area. It’s in a prime location in the heart of Ealing Broadway; a stone’s throw away from the Dicken’s Yard development.
My children both decided to turn vegetarian (my daughter periodically flirting with limited pescatarianism) almost three years ago now when my daughter was seven and my son only five. It was a direction I didn’t anticipate moving in (neither my husband nor I are remotely vegetarian) but I was happy to support them (admiring their resolve and feeling slightly guilty not to follow them). We have found Asian restaurants the easiest options when eating out and struggle when we go somewhere like France that doesn’t offer such a ready supply as London.
Anyway I digress (the road to becoming a mum of vegetarians is probably another blog!) – back to the review ……… On arrival at Tonkotsu, I did think for a fleeting moment that it may not be the most child welcoming restaurant -but they had invited us as a family, so I kept my faith. And rightly so, our charming waiter made a big fuss of the children and showed us to our table. We were seated downstairs, where there’s quite dazzling décor and plenty of space (an area I thought immediately could be a great karaoke venue for private hire too!) The upstairs of the restaurant has a very different atmosphere – downstairs feels more central London and upstairs more of a casual daytime feel.
The children were given their own menu with some activities on the back. We were there on a busy Friday night, but the efficient waiters whizzed around taking orders and serving generous bowls of steaming noodles and mouth watering plates of dumplings and other tempting side dishes such as king prawn katsu and chilli chicken wings.
Oh wow, it was so hard deciding what to try! My husband and I shared the aforementioned ginormous king prawn katsu (and when they say king prawn, really they mean EMPEROR prawn!) and ‘just-the-right-amount-of-spice “eat the bits chill chicken wings.” They were both really decent sized portions and I started to worry I’d be too full not to eat the main course, thus ending my fledgling career as a West London restaurant reviewer before it had even begun! The children shared a plate of Shiitake & bamboo shoot Gyozo and this was a huge hit with both of them!
For the main course, I ordered the seafood ramen (packed full of butterfly prawns, popcorn prawns, crab meat in a chicken-based broth and mopped up by a plentiful supply of absorbent noodles. My husband dithered for a while but then kindly (because I wanted to try it too!) ordered the restaurant’s signature dish, called of course the Tonkotsu Ramen. This is a tasty pork broth, with thinner but still home-made noodles, topped with crispy pork belly with lots of bamboo shoots, spring onions, bean sprouts and seasoned egg. Seasoned eggs are also known as Ramen eggs, basically a semi-soft boiled egg which has been marinated in a sweet and salty soy-based sauce. It is then cut in half and laid (sunny side up as they’d say in America) on its bed of noodles to complement and enrich the flavour of the ramen.
Both dishes were absolutely delicious, couldn’t fault them to be honest. Perhaps a touch more seafood in mine but then I’m greedy and there is never enough prawns for me! It was a generous amount to be fair and I would order either dish again.
Now a bit about how the restaurant was for the children. I was sent a copy of the menu before my review visit but I must admit I cannot for the life of me find it on their website. It has driven me a bit nuts looking as I’m sure it must be there somewhere, but nope, can’t find it. Please let me know if you do find it. If not, the image below shows the menu as of August 2019 and I’m going to feed it back to the restaurant that families often research the children’s menu before deciding to visit a new restaurant, particularly if they have a fussy eater or two in their midst – or like us a vegetarian and a sort-of pescatarian who only eats prawns and (dolphin-friendly) tuna.
In any case, the Tonkotsu children’s menu as it went down a storm with both my children. They loved learning the Japanese words explained on there; ‘Oishi’ for ‘yummy’ and ‘hashi’ for chopsticks stuck in their mind. The Bento box format is ideal for kids too – lots of little snacks and an array of colour and choices to keep their interest. There was only one vegetarian choice, but that’s fine, they are used to that and in fact often there isn’t even a vegetarian children’s choice so this was amazing! The children’s menu at a very reasonable £6.45 includes a choice of drinks – diet coke, Yuzu lemonade, ginger soda or cherry blossom cola. Mine both went for the latter and loved it.
The children’s Bento boxes consisted of a nutrition packed mix of edamame beans, sweetcorn, tomato, cucumber, pumpkin seeds and egg – the noodles were with roasted pumpkin and served with a tonbu and shiitake broth with a soy milk base.
The meal was devoured by the children and they managed to share a dessert – the Malted milk, chocolate and magic crumb ice cream sandwich. It got the thumbs up, but they only just managed to finish it. There isn’t a specific children’s dessert on the children’s menu but they’d probably accommodate if you only had one child with you and wanted a smaller portion. I was too full to have my own dessert, but did try a spoonful of my husband’s salted caramel, miso, chocolate and Guinness cake ice cream sandwich because, well it intrigued me. It was an unusual flavour, but tasty. I’m not really one for desserts in Japanese restaurants to be honest (and don’t usually order desserts anyway, more of a starter/ main type person), but if my sweet tooth was calling, I’d consider ordering this for sure.
This restaurant works equally well for a family meal (depending on your children’s tastes, there are no English meals for kids alternatives), or a night out with friends/ your partner. The service was superb and the atmosphere was great. Felt like I was eating out in a trendy part of Soho instead of in cosmopolitan but suburban Ealing. The food is mid-range priced and excellent quality. They provide a really comprehensive allergen list on their website too. There’s enough choice on the menu to keep your interest even for regular visits and we will certainly be visiting Tonkotsu again soon. A fantastic addition to Ealing Broadway’s Asian dining collection.
Visit their website for more info (apart from children’s menu which they will hopefully be put up there soon!
https://tonkotsu.co.uk/menu They are also on Facebook and Instagram.