Tonchin Ramen: Tokyo tonkotsu style in Ikebukuro
Tonchin (屯ちん) serves classic pork bone—or tonkotsu—style ramen in the heart of Tokyo's Ikebukuro district. This first store opened in 1992, founded on the notion of putting greater emphasis on fresh ingredients and handmade noodles, that was simply lacking in the burgeoning ramen scene of the time.
Their tonkotsu base, with its concentrated dark soy sauce-based kaeshi, combines in a soup combining pork, chicken and veg ingredients. Tonchin's curly homemade medium-thickness noodles are handmade using an original wheat blend. All of this comes together to produce a bowl that they like to brand 'Tokyo Tonkotsu', which is essentially tonkotsu shoyu – with its soy sauce influences.
The menu is built into the ticket machine outside the shop front and, interestingly, prices for medium (中) or large (大) servings of noodles are identical. The standard bowl here is Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen (¥680), which combines the aforementioned pork bone broth and egg noodles with a giant cut of fatty char siu pork, bamboo shoots, green onions, soft-boiled egg and crisp seaweed. They also offer a more seafood-based Gyokotsu Ramen (¥710), Miso Ramen (¥780) and all come in tsukemen dipping noodle versions too. Numerous sides fill out the menu, including handmade gyoza dumplings, as well as full range of additional toppings – most regular items but some interesting ones too (butter for ¥50?).
Tonchin is a 1-minute walk Ikebukuro's exit 20 (the North exit area). The Ikebukuro branch is the original—the honten—and sees a loyal crowd most times of the day.
My first visit here was a couple of years back in the early hours after missing the last train home – it was packed to the rafters and is understandably seen as the de rigueur destination for the slightly inebriated person without a fast way home. There are 8 outlets in the chain, with a couple as far out as Kanagawa, Saitama and Fukushima.