As I mentioned recently, 2012 has seen London restaurant openings conspire to create a grand Soho ramen crawl.
Bone Daddies, the first solo venture from chef proprietor Ross Shonhan, is a bit different from the rest. Definitely rock and roll – as the sound track in the restaurant testifies.
Formerly head chef at Nobu in Dallas and Zuma in Knightsbridge, and trained by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa himself, Shonhan is no stranger to both traditional and modern Japanese cuisine, though he was born in Australia and grew up on a cattle farm! He’s clearly invested huge amounts of time learning about the many variations of ramen across Japan, about recipes and techniques, about ramen history and traditions and has finally practised and tweaked to develop his own unique take on this simple noodle soup.
In a great interview with Sous Chef, he explains that the restaurant name is his “tongue-in-cheek reference to the wizardry that happens with a handful of bones” and indeed, the Tonkotsu Ramen on his menu benefits from a deeply savoury pork bone broth.
Like his former mentor, Shonhan isn’t afraid to combine East and West ingredients and influences. Unlike ramen joints in Japan, Bone Daddies offers a variety of different broths and a decent selection of snacks or sides.
My friend and I dropped into Bone Daddies on a bitterly cold December night. The wind whipped through the streets so sharply that, even when the restaurant filled up, not long after our arrival, no-one wanted to take the stools nearest the front door.
Like many Japanese ramen specialists, the space is informal. Instead of individual tables, all guests are seated at counters or large sharing tables. This works well if you’re visiting alone or with one friend, but makes it unsuitable for 3 or more, if you hope to hold a group conversation. In any case, the stools are packed in close, so it’s clear that you’re not intended to linger. And that’s OK; it is what it is and is much like its Japanese counterparts.
There’s not much to say about the salt-sprinkled Edamame (£3.50). They were perfectly enjoyable but I prefer the more interesting options at Feng Sushi (who offer chilli- and miso-dressed versions) and Shoryu (who serve theirs with a distinctive yuzu salt).
The Fried Chicken (£5), on the other hand, was utterly amazing! Superbly moist and flavoursome, this chicken karaage was as good as any I’ve come across and I’d recommend popping in to Bone Daddies just for this dish alone.
Then again, since my Tonkotsu Ramen (£10) was also very good, I recommend you visit for that too. The pork bone broth was described as 20 hours in the making, and was suitably rich in flavour. That said, it was actually a little too thick and fat-heavy for my tastes and there wasn’t enough of it for the size of bowl and portion of noodles. I’d rather it were thinned down a touch and more were served. And there was so much fat already in it that I can’t see the point of the menu add-on of a pipette of chicken fat for 50 pence, and this is coming from someone who adores fat for all the flavour it brings. The other elements of the dish were simple – pork belly, spring onions, bamboo and boiled egg. Both the pork and egg were far better in texture and flavour than those I tasted at Shoryu a few weeks previously, and added enormously to the overall enjoyment of the dish.
My friend’s T22 Ramen (£9) came with a chicken bone soy broth and had chicken and “cock scratchings”, crunchy little flavour bombs scattered over the top. She loved it!
The atmosphere was buzzing, and no sooner was a seat emptied than the counter was cleared and another customer shown in. Bone Daddies isn’t a place to linger, and given that I find tall stools less comfortable than regular chairs, that’s probably just as well.
But it’s a perfect option for an very reasonably priced and tasty lunch or dinner.
Next time, I want to try the soft shell crab and sashimi starters, and explore the Japanese drinks menu which includes beer, sake, shochu and whisky. Of course, I’ll squeeze in the fried chicken and ramen too!