Happy New Year, readers and friends! I hope 2014 brings us all much food and happiness, and maybe quite a few more HK numb posts… I am thoroughly excited about what this year holds, namely finally being settled in HK in Summer and all that that entails – mostly food and certain boy.
For those of you who were hungover on that chilly New Year’s Day, I’m sure you’d agree not much beats a warm bowl of ramen from Butao. Lucky for the ‘dark siders’ of Hong Kong (I know, I hate that term too), Butao and Din Tai Fung have recently opened branches in Sha Tin New Town Plaza. I dont know about you, but my hungover afternoons will never be the same; xiao long bao and tonkotsu right next to eachother, and close to home?! Aww yeah, watch my belly grow ho ho ho.
I have to admit: I was a Butao virgin before they opened in Sha Tin, so I’m not sure how this compares to the original shop in Lanks. As it was my first time, I was – as I’m sure you can imagine – innocent and naive about what was in store. Waiting for my ticket to be called gave me a little anticipatory anxiety, especially after hearing everyone else talking about it these last few years. Before this, sometimes I’d think, “Why don’t you just do it already? Just get it over with, everyone else has.” but I don’t know, I guess the romantic in me just wanted it to be special, that I should wait til I was ready… or til they opened a branch closer to home.
I guess you could say for my first-time I kept it vanilla – I went for the classic Butao ($83) with normal thin noodles. Nothing overdone or elaborate, of course – I’m not that kind of girl – but I did get a couple extra sides here and there. Nothing wrong with a bit of fork play, after all.
So, was it worth the wait? Well, yes. I didn’t need to wait in a mile-long queue, and was never appealed by the thought of going to Central by 10am to be one of the first-served (I feel similarly about the Ichiran hype), so this branch was definitely worth the wait. I loved the original broth, which I think is more flavourful and unctuous than the Ippudo brand. However, I was quite disappointed with the pork belly, which seemed comparatively tasteless and lacking. I also would’ve preferred harder noodles, so I amended this on my next visit.
Andrew ordered the Black King ($93) which I found far too heavy. Perhaps for this and the Green King (which features cheese and olive oil), opting for a lighter strength would’ve made it easier to slurp down. It was a nice alternative, but I’m glad I stuck to the original.
The next time we came though, I wanted it harder and hotter.
I loved the Red King ($93). I guess I’m not much of a purist when it comes to Butao cos I would definitely order this again and again over the original – but only just. I opted for harder noodles (better) and Butao’s special spicy sauce on top of the already spicy broth. The broth wasn’t outlandishly spicy, but its kick was addictive to the point I pretty much emptied the bowl of soup. The Japanese marinated egg’s ($17) runny yolk was the perfect neutraliser though whenever I needed a cool down. Like the other ‘Kings’, it has a little pork mince ball in the center, in addition to your selected meat. Being disappointed with the pork belly on last visit, we tried the pork butt and found it to be much tastier and less fatty.
I do like how Butao lets you customise your ramen, but it is indeed somewhere that you need to go more than once to get your ideal bowl. Which I don’t mind in the slightest.
Happy hangover, Hong Kong! Keep eating, stay sexy.