On Thursday, July 13, Williamsburg will see the opening of a new ramen bar, and not just any ramen bar.
It’s the new outpost of Tokyo import, Tonchin. Only this time, the restaurant will still serve its signature tonkotsu ramen as well as a robust lineup of natural wines and housemade sodas, plus dishes you can’t find at Tonchin’s Midtown location. Ramen and wine aren’t the most conventional of pairings, but then again, Tonchin isn’t your conventional ramen bar, either.
Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know before you go:
1. This is the second outpost of Tonchin in New York.
The Sugeno family opened the very first Tonchin in Tokyo in 1992 and quickly gained notoriety for their rich tonkotsu ramen. Today, there are approximately 20 Tonchin locations worldwide, including in Tokyo, Shanghai, Taiwan, and Bangkok, and all locations are still operated by the Sugeno family. In 2017, Anan Sugeno opened the first New York location of Tonchin in Midtown. Both New York locations of Tonchin, however, are “very unique,” says Tonchin Brooklyn general manager Dylan Capello.
“We really approach everything as a team point of view,” Capello says. “We all come from different places and walks of life, and what makes us so interesting is that we don’t have any one chef or owner making all the decisions. It all comes from everyone on the team, and it’s really unique and special to what we do.”
2. The expansion to Brooklyn was prompted by the pandemic.
With office crowds dwindling in 2020, Tonchin in Midtown saw a steep decline in business so they hosted a pop-up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, thinking it would only last for about nine days. Instead, it lasted for 12 weeks in 2020.
“It became very apparent very quickly that a lot of people who care about Tonchin are based in Brooklyn,” says Capello. Soon after, they decided to search for a second space in Brooklyn, eventually settling in Williamsburg two years later.
3. Tonchin has never been quite like other ramen bars to begin with.
Unlike other ramen bars where the dining experience is optimized for speed and efficiency, dining at Tonchin has always been a bit slower, notes Capello. With this newest location, they’re dialing the speed back even further, hoping that every diner gets a chance to savor their meal, and also try several new dishes that aren’t ramen.
4. Tonkotsu ramen is still the draw, but so are the new, exclusive dishes.
Tonchin is best known as a ramen specialist but with this new location, they hope to entice diners with much more than just their signature tonkotsu ramen, noted for its rich, complex broth and thick, wavy noodles.
In fact, about 80% of the menu at the Tonchin in Brooklyn is exclusive to this location, and highlights include everything from the raw bar, like oysters topped with umami clam jelly, grapefruit, and a kabosu mignonette, or a white tartar, composed of Madai Japanese red snapper, chayote, lime, rakkyo pickles, white dressing, and topped with caviar. This Tonchin will also have some yakitori options, including a grilled tsukune chicken meatball skewer and another made with American wagyu.
Chef Hide Watanabe was brought on as Tonchin Brooklyn’s executive chef, and he collaborated with Kiyo Shinoki, who worked at Bohemian and Long Island City’s Takumen, to develop the menu.
And there’s also an exclusive dessert: a collaboration with Greenpoint’s Kettl featuring sobanomi-roasted buckwheat for a soba pana cotta. “It’s really thin, and almost rolls up onto your spoon,” explains Capello. “It’s got this olive oil mint drizzle and features local Williamsburg honey. It’s a perfect palate cleanser that satisfies your sweet tooth.”
5. The natural wine list runs deep.
Wine director Raquel Vo has assembled a comprehensive natural wine list of about 80 bottles, with something for everyone, ranging from wines that lean more toward a traditional pinot noir or sauvignon blanc to skin-contact oranges. One that Capello really enjoys is a French Champagne called 5 Sens.
His recommended pairing for Tonchin’s signature tonkotsu ramen is a Spanish cri cri wine that’s “full flavored but not in an invasive way.” He adds, “Wine and ramen are really hard to pair because they are so specific in their flavors, but this has so much body it can hold up to the warmth of the fatty broth, but doesn’t have an intense finish that overwhelms it.”
6. A lot of thought went into the design.
The overall look and feel of the 60-seat space was intended to be “perfectly imperfect” says Capello. The restaurant was designed by Carpenter + Mason, the same firm behind Talea, Rezdora, and Brooklyn Kura. Whereas Tonchin’s Midtown location is very bold and modern, the Brooklyn location adopts more natural materials and softer tones.
7. Don’t sleep on the vegan salad, but maybe add some cheese to it.
Tonchin might be revered for its ramen, but Capello says his favorite dish is the vegan salad, made with seasonal greens and dressed in a housemade olive oil dashi vinaigrette. He loves adding the comte cheese for added texture. And he also always saves room for Tonchin’s tebasaki fried chicken wing.
Tonchin Brooklyn opens on July 13 and will be reservation only through July 30. Beginning on August 1, the restaurant will accept walk-ins and reservations. It’s open Wednesdays to Sundays from 5 to 10 p.m.