March 22, 2013

Butao Ramen (Hong Kong)

If you think that there's been a ramen craze in Toronto, let me assure you that the situation is  even crazier in Hong Kong! Given my limited time in Hong Kong (and limited stomach capacity), I had to go with the best of the best! And I hear from good authority that Butao is just that! They sell a mere 200 bowls a day and 2-hour-plus long lines are not uncommon. I was told that the Causeway Bay location is less busy than the one in Central, so that's the one we visited.
The line is so long that you typically can't line up in front of the store. Instead, they set up a line at the end of the street in an graffitied alleyway. So don't be fooled by the short line in front of the restaurant (which many people were)!
When it's finally almost your turn, the staff will direct you to join a shorter line in front of the restaurant, where you're given an ordering form. This speeds up the ordering process so by the time you actually get seated, your food will come almost immediately. I couldn't help but laugh at the sign on the apartment building next door, which warns patrons of Butao not to block the entrance for its residents.
Luckily, I visited Butao right after the public holidays so the wait was not overly brutal. I also lined up relatively early so we were seated within 30 minutes. On the table, there were some pickled vegetables which I enjoyed before the our orders arrived.
To start, we had a Japanese-style egg ($15 HKD) which had a perfectly runny yolk in the center! It was served on a separate bowl but we finished it even before our ramen arrived
Jeremy had Butao King ($80 HKD), which features their slow-simmered tonkatsu broth. You can customize your ramen in terms of noodle type and texture, amount of seasoning, cut of pork, etc. I think Jeremy went with normal everything with thick noodles and pork shoulder. Tonkatsu broth has always been my favourite and I absolutely loved this one! The soup is cooked 20 hours with pork bone, resulting in a full-bodied soup base, rich in flavor and almost creamy in texture. I really wished I had order this for myself!
I was more adventurous and opted for the Black King ($90 HKD), which includes squid ink in the tonkatsu broth. Normally, I love squid ink, but this was a little too intense for me. The ramen was still very good, but I preferred the plain tonkatsu broth. Also, my teeth and lips naturally turned black from the squid ink and I looked like I'd been poisoned after slurping down my bowl of noodles. All in all, I had a great ramen experience here. If you have the time and effort to brave the line, I'd definitely recommend trying Butao Ramen. But do make sure you come early before they sell out!


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