I had a delicious bowl of ramen at Tonkotsu a few weeks ago. Rich, unctuous with yellow noodles that resisted my bite to the right degree. Garnished with half an egg: yolk deep orange and soft-boiled and a slice of pork belly. My girlfriend had grilled salmon on a small bed of mango salsa, crispy on the outside and almost rare in the middle.
I’m back the following day. We order the vegetarian wok fried udon and the flat rice noodles. The rice noodles are salty to the point of inedible. My friend is happy to leave it but I think it’s always better to communicate and see if a solution is offered rather than endure a bad meal.
We tell our waiter who calls one of the owners over. A new dish is brought out and it’s infinitely better.
The interior of Tonkotsu is made up of benches that you can share and a few tables of two. Large paper lanterns hang low, contributing to the Asian feel. Next to the kitchen, there is the mural of beautiful woman in a high collared sleeveless áo dài. There is no mistaking this is an Asian restaurant which makes the inclusion of a bulgur salad and another of humus with nachos in the starters totally jarring to me.
I bring this up with one of the owners (Montse) as I am paying.
I start with something positive : “The rice noodle dish was so much nicer the second time round. And I love that the menu is so small.”
And then I bring up the two extraneous listings in the starters. “Why do you have bulgur and then humus with nachos on the menu in an Asian restaurant?”
“Oh. Well, it’s Asian, yes. But we are trying to introduce the idea of Asian food to a local population that is not familiar with it. So it’s European Asian.”
European still doesn’t explain the Middle Eastern ingredients.
She continues “We also like healthy food. We have the salmon dish and bulgur and chickpeas are so healthy.” (If you have a look in the comments, Montse who is one of the owners, has left a comment to clarify the inclusion of the above dishes.)
What it is, I think, is that this is a collaboration between three really enthusiastic locals (Montse, Nuria, Albert) and they are mostly into Asian food but like bulgur and humus so they’ve just gone ahead and stuck it in. As with writing, restaurants are about what you leave out as much as what you put in.
Editing is helpful to clarity (something I need to remind myself often, believe me).
Tonkotsu is a welcome addition to the upper end of Passeo de Gracia. And under the vigilant eye of Montse or one of her colleagues, the kitchen is sending out some genuinely delicious dishes and in the case of the Tonkotsu authentic as well. I’m curious to see what makes the shortlist in the starters the next time the menu is updated.
See this and more addresses on my Foodie in Barcelona Map