The traditional Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen ($9.50) is insanely porky, with tender bits of slow-cooked pork fat floating just below the surface of the thick, opaque broth. Tender braised pork belly is mildly sweet, and the thin noodles—made fresh—are cooked until just tender (I ordered mine medium).
The nondescript entryway opens to a narrow stairwell that whisks you upstairs into the well-appointed space. Tables are kept semi-private with wooden screens.
Pork Toro ($5)
This might be the best $5 dish I've ever had. Pork neck is fatty like pork belly, but with the stronger, porky flavor of shoulder. Marinated in a mildly sweet soy-based sauce, cooked until meltingly tender, thin-sliced, then flamed with a torch, it's smoky, sweet, and supremely savory. Wow.
Pork Buns ($6)
The same tender pork neck, in a steamed Chinese bun. With a bit of crisp lettuce and a slather of sweet Japanese Mayo, it's reminiscent of a McChicken sandwich—a porky and delicious McChicken, that is.
Chicken Wing ($4.5)
Big and juicy, the wings make up for a lack of crispness with subtle smoke flavor, and a well-balanced sweetness (I hate it when soy-based glazes are overly sweet).
Mentaiko Rice ($4.50)
I love this dish of spicy cured pollock roe. It's a classic that relies on perfectly cooked rice (it was), and high-quality mentaiko (it also was). I do prefer mine a little spicier and saltier.
Onsen Tamago Salad ($5.50)
It's a fantastic idea: gently poached egg and deep fried baby sardines on a mixed green salad, but the undressed greens were begging for some kind of dressing. We ended up eating the egg and sardines off the top and leaving the rest.
They look like little fried rice noodles, but look closely and you can spot the eyes on the tasty little crispies.
Mini Pork Gyoza Dumpling ($5)
The filling was tender and flavorful, but the skins were a little mushy and the crisp layer was too thin. Spicy green yuzu-kosho is one of my favorite condiments, and goes well with dumplings.
Hakata Kuro Ramen ($9.75)
The standard tonkotsu ramen with a swirl of pureed charred garlic oil which adds a smoky sweet complexity to the broth. This was the best soup of the night.
Hakata Spicy Ramen ($10)
The standard broth with a slick of red chile oil on the surface. The heat is much more mild than its fiery color would have you believe, and a bit one dimensional.
The Rich Broth
You can order your broth light, normal, or rich. All are intensely porky, but the rich comes with bits of tender braised fat dotting the surface. A great thing for some, perhaps a turn-off for others. I'm glad they give you the option.
Mega Ton ($15)
Extra-wide fresh noodles, the tonkotsu broth, a mountain of braised cabbage and mung bean sprouts, great big slabs of sweet braised pork shoulder (not as good as the thinner sliced pork in the other soups, but still tasty), and a pile of chopped pork fat on top. It's enough to feed at least two people, so you'd better come with a partner (Hide-chan doesn't do doggie bags).
Annin Tofu ($4)
This dessert is generally almond flavored, but in this case, it's a simpler, cream and vanilla flavored affair. It's essentially a panna cotta. Well-flavored and subtle, but it could have been lighter.