Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Butao Ramen

Last week I finally tried out Butao Ramen, where it had moved from its previously truly dubious hole-in-the-wall location in Lan Kwai Fong (on Wo On Lane) to Wellington Street. 

While I had not eaten at the old location, I am guessing the new location is slightly cleaner.  Well, at least inside everything looks new and pretty clean.
Ropes and bare bulbs adorn and match the rough hewn wood plank walls and tables
Little tchotchkes and rope wrapped hangers add an extra touch

 I opted to sit at the bar where I could see the ramen chefs at work.

Directly in front of me were instructions with very precise pictures.
 I went for the traditional Tonkatsu broth.  Interestingly, here they give you an option of scallions or cabbage.  I do not really like scallions so I opted for the cabbage.  It was very fresh and tender and soaked up the fatty, rich pork broth beautifully.   At Butao, they ask you to select the saltiness and heaviness of your broth, as well as noodle width and firmness (from very firm to al dente to soft).  I opted for a lighter, less salty broth, wide noodles and al dente or what they term "regular" firmness.

The noodles were still skinnier than I expected, and I thought it was still a little bit too much on the "hard" side of al dente.  I would have liked my noodles cooked maybe a minute longer.

They gave me an egg (on the side in a bowl) which turned out to be an accident. In typical Hong Kong fashion, they then took it away without saying a word. I hope they did not just serve it to someone else, because I could have licked it for all they knew, but I bet they plopped it right down in front of some poor unsuspecting patron. 

For HK$85, I thought this meal was way too expensive.  It only covered a (relatively small) bowl of noodles in broth, three very thin slices of pork, a handful of wood ear mushrooms (sliced), and some cabbage.   Anything else, like seaweed, egg, corn or bamboo shoots, as well as extra soup or extra noodles, cost more.  I can see why extra soup, and certainly why extra noodles, should cost more, but I am used to seeing a piece of seaweed or an egg as part of the ramen basic package.  I do not think it should be charged extra.

I know at the old location wait times could exceed two hours (what?!).  I do not know if it is still such a long wait at the new location, but I really do not think it is worth it.  When I went there was no line and I still left a bit unsatisfied.   Frankly, I am a bit mystified as to why people like this restaurant so much.

Lately, however, Hong Kong has been dreary and wet and cold, so I could see how this would be a very satisfying antidote.

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