After the success of my first restaurant review (yes, I call 6 likes a success since no one seems to read/view what I post on social media sites like Tumblr and Polyvore), I’ve been inspired to do another review, but this time on a restaurant featuring amazing Japanese cuisine.
Butao Ramen first opened its doors in Hong Kng not so long ago, probably around last September/October. It has expanded quickly, (I’m not sure if they do franchises, if so, thats a bit disappointing because food quality always tends to go down with franchises), and now has four branches in total: in Tsim Sha Tsui (on Minden Avenue), Sha Tin (in New Town Plaza), Causeway Bay (Tang Lung Street) and Central (Wellington Street, just off Lan Kwai Fong).
I’ve been to the Butao in Sha Tin 4 times in the past 3 months. My first culinary experience at Butao was mind blowingly revolutionary. I am not exaggerating. I’ve always been more of an udon girl. I preferred the slightly chewy texture of the noodles and their round thickness to the blandness and stringy texture of ramen. To me, ramen was second best. Now, I can’t decide which one I like better. Never had I ever tasted such perfect ramen. The thing with Butao (and I’m sure this is the answer to the million dollar question, the single reason behind their vast success), is that they hand out little slips of paper that resemble questionnaires, allowing customers to specify exactly what type of noodle, soup, texture, flavour, spiciness, meat, additional sides (like a half-boiled egg, extra chives, extra noodles, extra meat). Because of this great marketing (and culinary) technique, each customer gets exactly what they want, and the number of complaints are minimised, if not non-existent.
Main/noodles: I ordered the Tonkatsu (pork bone) soup ramen. I specified that my noodles were to be extra hard, because I love when noodles are chewy and firm. As a Hong Kong girl (most of you might not know this, but Hong Kong food, despite it being Chinese, is really not spicy at all), I can only handle extremely mild spice in my food. So, I had my noodles seasoned with a mild spiciness, which enhanced the flavouring and taste of the noodles, but also didn’t set my mouth on fire at the same time. Finally, the meat was extremely soft and boiled to perfection. Because of this, I didn’t even mind that the pork was fatty, as I’m sure that the majority of fats and lipids were strained away in the boiling process (at least that’s what my Mom tells me when we boil meat for extended periods of time in Chinese dishes). I find that Pork Belly is more enjoyable than the pork meat found at a pig’s shoulder. The longer strips of pork belly add to my relishing of such a succulent meal.
My boyfriend’s uber spicy ramen:
Add-ons: The only add-on I ordered was my half boiled egg (HKD15), also known as hot spring eggs. When I was younger (and hopefully more gullible that I am now), one of my friends jokingly told me that hot spring eggs had attained that name because Japanese people used to let their eggs slowly boil in hot springs, which is how they recieved their watery, half-solidified texture.) I have since found out that that is indeed untrue. It’s too bad, it would have been a pretty awesome way to cook eggs. Anyways, the hot spring egg at Butao had the perfect balance of runny-ness and hardness. By submersing the egg in the soup, I could slurp the soup straight from the egg and take small, delicious bites.
Setting: Butao has a largely wooden theme, reflecting that distinct Japanese style. People are seated around large tables on long benches, which can be a disadvantage because there is less of an intimate vibe but more of a group setting. The benches are gleamingly polished long logs of wood, which match with the spacious rectangular wooden tables. Butao’s lights are cute and quirky: large, bright lightbulbs hang from knotted pieces of rope, creating shiny spotlights on the tables. The noise levels at Butao vary greatly depending on the amount of customers. Obviously, at peak lunch hours it can be hard to hear a friend from across the table, but during less crowded visits, noise levels are normal.
Location: Nothing to be said here. Butao has 4 locations, all within the most frequented and popular shopping districts in Hong Kong. I don’t think it gets any better than that.
Price: The Tonkotsu ramen cost around HKD83. This would be considered slightly expensive (considering that the meal consists of a bowl of noodles) in Hong Kong, particularly for teenagers like me. However, I think the rich aromas and full, flavourful taste of the Tonkotsu broth (which takes over 40 pounds of bones and meat and 200 hours of collective brewing), is well worth the price.
There are a number of other ramen shops I’ve had in the past few months, I might write some comparison reviews with Butao in the future, so keep updated!