In the last 10years Londoners have embraced Japanese food culture, first it was sushi, and now we are all about ramen. A classic inexpensive fast dining Japanese noodle soup. Bone Daddies has just opened an Old Street branch to compete against my go to East London ramen haunt Tonkotsu in Haggerston (there is also one on Mare Street). The competition hots up, and there needed to be some comparing and contrasting. This being said, I haven’t been to Japan so it wouldn’t be fair if it were just my personal taste, I needed a professional (my friend who has lived in Japan) to come along as a secondary judge.
I have been to TONKOTSU a few times since, Grace Dent mentioned it in the Evening Standard as her favourite ramen joint, so we begin here.
Anyone of a curious nature will be automatically distracted rifling through the table condiments, including their award winning ‘eat the bits’ chilli oil and fresh garlic with a crusher.
We started off with some calamari, light, crispy and fresh tasting a perfect starter before the heavier soup to follow. We both opt for the classic ‘Tonkotsu ramen’
Pork bone broth with thin noodles topped with slices of pork belly, half a seasoned soft-boiled egg, menma, bean sprouts and spring onions. In no time at all we are happily slurping away and dipping in our chopsticks eating everything we could from the rich fatty broth. Finally you tell yourself, it is time, and bite into the wobbly soft egg quickly followed by another slurp of broth. No it isn’t a pretty sight, but damn it is good. The noodles in particular are fine and silky yet still have a firmness, Tonkotsu have their own traditional Japanese noodle machine to make them, along with filtered alkaline water, commitment to traditional ramen noodles.
BONE DADDIES Old Street up next, we head over for further ramen testing. We settle in and overall the casual group dining style is similar. The table condiments this time include hairbands and plastic aprons so you can really get into your ramen 😉 The menu has a few more ramen variations on offer, along with a selection of ‘kushikatsu’ deep fried skewers and starters.
Water poured from a traditional water kettle, and I force my friend into to sharing the Korean chicken wings with me.
These wings were, I kid you not, spectacular. My mouth is watering remembering them, crispy moist chicken, yet it is completely smothered in sticky hot sauce with sesame seeds.
We also shared the scallop, sweet potato and shiso skewers, lovely fresh flavours but after the bold chicken wing sauce it fell a little flat.
We were in the mood to indulge and both picked ramen with a few more ingredients and opted for additional clarence court eggs.
Kani Tonkotsu: Pork bone broth, chashu pork, softshell crab, chilli, kale, black sesame
Curry Ramen: fried chicken, padron peppers, cabbage
Again we are two happy women slurping away and rummaging though the condiments for extra bits and bobs to add on. The whole soft-shell crab melting into the pork broth is delicious, and so are the fried chicken pieces in the spicier curry soup. Yet the noodles are a little soft and the pork broth was not as notable as Tonkotsu’s, although the egg is even more sumptuous if that is possible!
So the big question, Tonkotsu or Bone Daddies, please bare in mind you will not be disappointed with either, it really depends on what you are looking for:
Tonkotsu: For a traditional ramen, firmer smooth noodles, creamier richer stock.
Bone Daddies: More interesting variations on the classic along with a wider selection of small plates to sit alongside.
For me overall winner BONE DADDIES (I blame the chicken wings..)