Review: Tonchin “Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen” (New York City)

Michelin-honored West 36th Street ramen spot hits most of the right notes, adding comfortable seating and nice vibe.

As you can imagine, there are many ramen offerings in Manhattan. Having previously tasted Ippudo, Momofuku, Ivan Ramen and Kame (all very good!), I was hoping for another hit. I found it at Tonchin, a Japan-sourced restaurant which describes its offerings as “Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen.” It’s street appearance is nondescript, but walk inside and you’re greeted by a friendly hostess and three Michelin plaques (Michelin Bib Gourmand). 

Tonchin on West 36th Street. Industrial chic exterior.

Tonchin has three prior Michelin Bib Gourmand designations.

The interior is sparse, elegant and well-appointed. With no reservation at a weekday lunchtime, I sat at the bar. I immediately notice the padding on the barstool and the comfy seating at tables and booths – always a plus.

Comfortable, cozy interior.

I decided against their classic tonkotsu and ordered the smoked dashi ramen, with a base tonkotsu broth plus clams, menma, egg, smoked fish oil (with garlic), radish sprouts, tobiko and seaweed. 

I also ordered the Tsukune bun as appetizer. It had a ground chicken and pork patty, sesame seeds, karashi coleslaw, romaine and teriyaki sauce.

Outstanding Tsukune bun!

Wow! This was the best single course of a meal I had in my entire week in New York. The meat was flavorful and rich. The coleslaw had minimal dressing that complemented the meat in both taste and texture. The sauce was also restrained – delightful, and not overpowering. Perfectly constructed and delicious, it was an elegant appetizer.

This really set me up for the ramen, which arrived shortly. The appearance of the bowl was fine, and I was impressed by the tobiko. Never had fish eggs in my ramen before. The fish oil was prominent amidst the tonkotsu broth. I wondered if it might be too much, but I found the flavor of the broth-oil combo to work well together. At first, each element was a distinct flavor, but as my meal progressed and the two flavors blended, that’s when the umami synergy became apparent. 

Smoked dash ramen with clams, tobiko and fish oil

The clams were plentiful, making the accompanying discard bowl mandatory. The tobiko added a nice visual and a small crunch on a few of the spoonfuls, but not much else. The in-house noodles were fine, perfectly al dente; but given the excellence of the other elements, I wished they had a more distinct flavor (Ivan Ramen’s rye-blend noodles came to mind). The egg was well executed. Menma, crunchy. All in all, a very satisfying ramen bowl.

Tonchin’s menu also included tsukemen and a few other appetizers that piqued my interest. Their menu also includes many cocktails, sake selections, salads and a few non-ramen entrees. I initially wondered if they were trying to accomplish too much at the expense of the ramen, but this is clearly not the case. To survive in the competitive and crowded midtown NYC food scene one must suit the market’s needs and I think Tonchin does an admirable job.

Tonchin also has restaurants in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, as well as Japan. I will definitely revisit Tonchin on my next New York trip. Highly recommended.

Ramen Club 5-Star Rating:

Food:                                  4.0 stars 

Service:                              4.25 stars 

Atmosphere/Comfort:        4.25 stars

*RATINGS LEGEND*

1 star:    weak

2 stars:  just ok 

3 stars:  good      

4 stars:  very good      

5 stars:  superb or special