339 Sussex St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Another day, another bowl of ramen. And up for review today is Tontaro Hoten Ramen, the relatively new venture by Jun Toyoda, whose artery-clogging ramen at O-San has a bit of a cult following.
Though I’ve been told that Tontaro is a step up from the food-court setting of O-San (having never been myself), the set up here is nevertheless very no-frills. The blond wood panels a sparse, canteen-like space, and everything is pretty much self-serve. I do however appreciate the individual seats lining the edge of the restaurant, which makes solo dining a much less awkward situation if you’re bothered by that sort of thing.
The Takoyaki ($6.5, 5pcs) weren’t ground breaking, but they certainly hit the spot. The centre was creamy, and the coating was admirably thin and crisp. I prefer my takoyaki doused in sauce, but those who prefer a slightly drier style will be happy with these.
The Tonkotsu Ramen ($13.5) here is made from marrow-heavy shinbones, with the intent being to create a thinner but more flavoursome soup compared one brewed with trotters and backbones at O-San. Frankly, I thought this was plenty heavy as it is. The viscous broth boasted a heavy coating of fat, the rich stickiness readily picked up by the thin, chewy noodles. At the same time, the flavour was definitely not as nuanced as some I’ve had, though definitely more so than the likes of Gumshara and Yasaka, whose broths are known for being heart-arrestingly thick and fatty.
Like the soup, the toppings were good, but nothing to write home about. The highlight was the charshu, which was fall-apart tender, and infused with a decadent smokiness. The egg was probably the worst of the lot, with a centre that erred on the side of dry and overcooked. The overall effect was definitely a positive one however, and I was left happy with this bowl of noodles.
Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen ($14.5). Unfortunately this was nowhere near as good as it could have been. Instead of being a cohesive adaption of the tonkotsu ramen into a spicy variation, this was no more than the regular tonkotsu ramen with chilli oil and flakes added. Not only did that not enhance the flavour, it actually masked the porky umami of the broth. Having had some excellent spicy tonkotsu ramens in the past, I was quite disappointed with this one. I should’ve just gone ahead and had the shoyu ramen or something, which is supposed to be quite good.
I walked away from Tontaro Honten Ramen feeling lukewarm about the offerings. The tonkotsu ramen was good but not remarkable, and the spicy variation something of a disappointment. However, it would only be fair to note that the ramen scene in Sydney is so good that anything less than excellent often gets relegated to being inadequate, when really, the tonkotsu was perfectly enjoyable. I can’t specifically recommend Tontaro Honten over any of the other A-grade ramen houses in Sydney, but I can say that grabbing a quick bite here would not be a mistake.
Rating: 12.5/20 – reliable ramen.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.