On the first Saturday of the month we, along with half of London, decided that our salaries had been in our account long enough, and went shopping at Westfield Stratford City. This vibing, thriving maze of shops and restaurants never fails to allure, even when it’s swarming. We tolerate the crowds because of the chance to descend on Pinkberry for some delightful frozen yoghurt, but more on that later.
We arrived, and, naturally, immediately felt hungry. We debated visiting Pinkberry for lunch, but luckily, we started thinking lucidly again. The European had a great idea to go to Figo, a smashing little Italian pizza and pasta place just outside the mall. As with so many of her ideas, it was befouled with bad luck. Figo was closed, a blackout plunging the whole restaurant and the apartment block above it into eerie darkness. We looked around. Wahaca, always a solid (if lately, a little unpredictable) plan ‘B’, was heaving, guests-to-be queuing of the door. Busaba, a Thai place near to where we were, is very ‘meh’. The less said about Westfield’s food court, the better. There was a restaurant right in front of us, across the road from Figo. I tried to ignore it, but, like the massive TK Maxx nearby, it was going to be inevitable that the European would see it.
“What about Tonkotsu?”.
I stared the day with a promise of pizza, and it would be destined to end with ramen. These brimming bowls of noodle, broth and accompaniments, are heavenly to her, but just not my thing. I’ve tried. There’s a place called Bonedaddies. I might have been, she’s adamant that I had, and that I loved it. All very dubious, and I reckon that if I found a ramen I loved, I would remember it. Let’s get back on track. I’ll happily leave ramen to The European, but seeing as she’s already taken my hand and dragging me towards Tonkotsu’s door, where could I escape to? Did she deliberately cause Figo’s power cut with some sort of electromagnetic pulse device hidden in her bag?
To be fair, we’ve eaten at Tonkotsu before. It’s fine. The European would say it does the job but offers a distinctly average ramen. We’re greeted and get a seat in the window. The European is leant with her back against the glass; a child on the table next door gives her a pillow. We order two pints of Mikan Shimoda Pale Ale (a partnership with Thornbridge Brewery). Perfectly sour, citrusy, crisp, and fresh, it’s one of the better pale ales I’ve recently had.
We order shiitake and bamboo shoot gyoza and edamame to start. The gyoza were palatable for her, I said she could keep them. The edamames were fine, but who can stuff these up? For mains she had the Geki Kara, a ramen with Dingly Dell pork belly, and Scotch Bonnet Mash. And I, well I was a happy as a peach because Tonkotsu offer a chicken katsu curry.
As it turned out, the European was less impressed with her ramen than I was with the curry. I tried it; the broth was bland, the only flavour coming from spice which for me is a cardinal sin, for her, plain disappointing. Nevertheless, the pork was tender, and the noodles were well cooked (Tonkotsu mandates a thirty-two second cooking time, so they still have bite). We both agreed my katsu curry shone. The spiced curry sauce was loaded with vegetables and the crispy chicken crackled on my tongue, carrying the curry perfectly. Proper rice too (the words of The European, not me; I don’t know what she means by this). I mopped up every last drop, grain and morsel, getting dark looks of food envy from across the table. In all the excitement of heaped bowls of noodles and rice, we had neglected the edamame. We finished them for pre-dessert, settling the very reasonable bill and head back into the heaving masses of shoppers.
I said “pre-dessert” just now. For actual dessert we visited – yes, you guessed it – Pinkberry, the frozen yoghurt chain originating from Los Angeles. The European had a large natural frozen yoghurt with fruit and a little dark chocolate. I had a large Lotus Biscoff-flavoured monstrosity with every type of fudge- and chocolate-based topping they would serve me. Pinkberry is, to us, an established institution that is not just perfectly in every way, it’s perfect every time. This evening, it finished us off. It wasn’t the dessert we needed, but was the one we wanted. By contrast, Tonkotsu gave us a good-but-not-great lunch, stepping up in our moment of power cut-induced need, filling our bellies, and offering excellent value for money. Verdict? Unmarkable but re-drop-inable, as long as you go to Pinkberry afterwards.
Visited on 4th February 2023.
Starters, mains, and a couple of beers came to around £fifty-five, including service.