Cold. Friday evening. 6.45pm. Arch 334. 1a Dunston Street. Tonkotsu East.
It nearly became a sad Friday as our much looked forward-to drinks with my Godmother at a fancy-pants London hotel had been cancelled mid-morning because she was ill. Cursing illnesses I got in touch with B in a slight state of panic.
Dinner at Tonkotsu East was to be the replacement. And a good (although very different) replacement it was too.
As much bare-bricks, industrial pipework, and old-school furniture as one would expect from a Hackney restaurant-in-an-arch. I feel there should be a term for this, so oft are they appearing around and about. No street-cred if you're not in an arch. Instant brownie points if you are. We sat down at the 'bar', which isn't really a bar but a line of chairs and tables that look at a wall, not high enough up to see into the kitchen. As cooking obsessed as B and I are, we always love being able to watch the chefs at play, so it was a slight shame not to be able to peek in. However, watching the action in the 'noodle room' at the other end of this space more than made up for it. A Japanese noodle-making machine. In Haggerston. In a glass box. Beats our pasta machine hands down. A chef sits patiently, catching the freshly-produced noodles and taking them into the kitchen. No doubts about how good these noodles were going to be.
Anyway, back to the meal, and less of my oggling of the industrial equipment.
Cocktails (both whiskey based - a new phase - move over pasta, move in whiskey) were ordered. Took slightly too long to arrive (but the waitress was aware and was chasing the clearly very doolally barman without us having to chase her. Worth the wait, they were warming and soothing. With just the right strength to to take the edge of a long week. And potent enough to mark the beginning of the holidays for B (no jealousy here at all, promise).
Edameme covered in crispy sea salt, and then pork gyoza were both perfect. The little dumplings crisped on one side, dipped in a tad of soy sauce, and filled with tiny nibblets of pork. Yum.
Tonkotsu and Tsukemen ramen followed. 'A lesson in broth' in B's words. One rich, meaty, yet still clean; the other miso based, salty and gentle - both perfectly balanced and suitably powerful. The noodles, as expected, were unlike any other noodle. A visit to Wagamama will never again satisfy in the same way. Not a huuuuge pork eater, B ate most of my meat. His faith in pork (sausages and bacon excepted) had been removed by school dinners and college canteens, but here was finally restored to its rightful place. A blossoming relationship which saw a trip to the butchers to buy pork chops for dinner the next day. We slurped away until the bowls were empty. Warmed from the inside, calming ramen swirling in our stomachs, we braced the cold for a quick, blustery walk home - an early, nourishing and restful Friday night.
Highlight: noodles (and their machine)
Lowlight: too long to wait for a cocktail