You know Butao King ramen is good because Time Out and HK Magazine love it. You know it is great as you have to wait for a TV crew to finish off their interview with the owners before you can be seated. You know it is fantabulous as the queues are legendary and at a minimum you have to wait at least an hour.
Unfortunately, when you actually get to the front, after having queued next to a trash can for over an hour, you get to the food, not the perception, and it is lacking.
Butao King ramen has done something brilliant with their opening in Hong Kong. They have judged the local market perfectly and with a genius piece of marketing have limited their offerings to 200 hundred bowls a day. In a city obsessed with limited edition it is the equivalent of offering a free Louis Vuitton bag with every meal. And the queues speak to the success of this tactic. To ensure that we would get one of those 200 bowls our merry group of #ramendorks began queuing at 10am on a Saturday morning!
The ramen chef, Ikuta Satoshi, is so confident in his skills that instead of just sticking to traditional Kyūshū style ramen he has gone crazy and fusiony on things. He offers four styles:
- Butao King (tonkotsu pork bone broth);
- Black King (tonkotsu pork broth dyed dark with squid ink);
- Red King (spicy miso); and
- Green King (Italianesque pesto soup with olive oil and basil).
Expectant on the back of the good reviews I went #ramendork crazy and tried the Green King. Bad move. It came out smelling like an overwrought Italian pesto pasta. It tasted like one. Pesto heavy for spoon after spoon which meant that the ramen itself, which was well judged, was irrelevant. I did something I rarely do whilst eating and actually made a suggestion in situ to the waiters. The suggestion was that in a small portion, as a taster, the Green King could be interesting. But as a whole bowl; overwhelming.
The others at the table, even with traditional style tonkotsu broth bowls of ramen, weren’t fairing much better and were similarly dominated by over cluttered bowls of ramen. The advantage of this was that I got to try half of Jen’s Butao King - a tonkotsu broth – of which I was hopeful that it would be worthy of all the queuing. Disappointingly, whilst enjoyable for a couple of slurps it was once again simply too heavy.
So, not the meal I wanted or has been reviewed by others. Still, I started queuing at 10:00am on a Saturday morning next to trash cans and left with a smile which speaks to the quality of the company of the other Hong Kong foodies who turned up to be #ramendorks – E_ting, Marsha H, DimSumDiva and Jen.
- Price – HK$100 a head or £9
- 11-12 Wo On Ln, Central, Hong Kong
PS you might want to read another Hong Kong foodie’s review here who went separately – Jason BonVivant.