I’ve written that I’m not a big fan of ramen. I did try Ukokkei, Ippudo and Mitsuyado Sei-Men and enjoyed my meals there but still wasn’t convinced. I think I’ve found the ramen that has made me a convert.
I’ve read about Butao Ramen from numerous blogs and online magazines and I’ve always wanted to try it. When my blog’s reader, Erin, who was based in Hong Kong invited me to lunch I suggested Butao and she agreed since she hasn’t tried it either. We were supposed to meet in the Causeway Bay branch until I discovered their newest branch in Tsim Sha Tsui which happened to be 3 minutes walk from where I live. I never knew a jewel existed right in my backyard.
They were only 4 kinds of ramen to choose from- Butao King (original tonkotsu pork broth), Black King (black squid ink), Red King (spicy) and Green King (basil, olive oil & Parmesan cheese).
While sitting on the stools outside the restaurant waiting for it to open they gave us order sheets to check what we want to eat and the ability to customize the flavor and toppings to our taste. If you check the box labeled ‘chef recommendation‘ you leave everything to the chef’s whim. All you need is to check the thickness and doneness of your noodles.
omotenashi sheet / menu order form
For that day the Limited King, which they only serve 20 bowls a day, was made with tonkotsu pork broth with special kind of chili peppers. I was tempted to try this but wasn’t sure how spicy it was.
The container on the left contained spicy preserved vegetables and kimchi beansprouts on the right. I tried both with my noodles and found them very spicy and it didn’t really go well with my Black King. I enjoyed eating my ramen without the need for any additional extras.
I was trying to decide between the Black or Green King and finally decided on the Black since I love squid ink flavor. I was disappointed that the pork belly wasn’t available that day. I ordered my noodles thick and super hard and it wasn’t as firm as I liked it but that it wasn’t soft either. I suggest ordering your noodles super hard.
my order sheet
When my bowl of Black King ramen was nearing the table Erin and I turned our heads and breathed in deeply. The wonderful heady aroma was the first thing that catches your attention.
It turned out to be finely chopped uber tender squid with a high concentration of flavor from a healthy dose of squid ink. It’s the magic of this bowl of crazy good ramen. Each bite of noodles or spoonful of soup came with tiny bits of squid adding depth of texture and flavor to the dish. Since I ordered 1Chili there was a slight heat to my soup which just added to the overall goodness of the ramen. Salty, tangy, garlicky, spicy, touch of sweet – all these flavors just spell umami.
There were two large and lean slices of pork shoulder included. I was glad I didn’t order additional Japanese egg, extra pork or tree mushroom since there was more than enough meat and squid in my bowl for the perfect noodle to meat to soup ratio. I felt the noodles were just secondary to my enjoyment of the broth and all the stuff in the bowl.
A few minutes after we sat down the restaurant was instantly full. I asked one of the staff how many bowls do they really sell since I’ve read conflicting numbers which range from 200-300 bowls a day. She said on really busy days they can sell up to 500 bowls of ramen a day.
By the time we left there was a queue outside. I went back to another restaurant in the same street that night and people were patiently lining up in the super chilly weather. Eating a bowl of good, hot ramen is the perfect balm to cold weather. I get their patience.
I’m now a ramen convert thanks to Butao Ramen. I can’t wait to try the Green King and who knows maybe even the Red King.
Minden Avenue is parallel to Mody Road and is near K11 mall. It’s a dead end and surprisingly there are many restaurants in that street.
G/F, Kam Wing Commercial Building, 28 Minden Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui
G/F, Wo On Building, 8-13 On Lane Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
G/F, 40 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay