Hong Kong's hottest hole-in-the-wall ramen shop
Meter Chen and Chandler Tang sell bowls of ramen at their restaurant, Butao. Their 12-seater hole-in-the-wall noodle joint opened in Central about a month ago and on any given day folk stand around patiently waiting for more than an hour for a bowl.
This is Hong Kong's ramen shop du jour. There are two main factors to their success: the product is good and the product is limited.
Chen and Tang only sell 200 bowls of noodles a day. Reservations are not available. After being introduced by popular food critic Michael Lam on a local TV show, Butao's business has boomed through word of mouth. The result is a daily queue outside Butao that snakes the length of grubby Wo On Lane.
The queue is as attractive as the ramen itself, such is Hong Kongers' penchant for lining up for things.
Without doubt, the ramen is delicious. Made by award-winning ramen master Ikuta Satoshi who was brought over by Japanophile Meter Chen especially for this shop.
A Japanese resident for 15 years, Chen tasted over 800 ramen restaurants in Japan before he declared Ikuta's noodles his favorite and convinced the chef to move to Hong Kong.
Ikuta uses his own recipe and imported Japanese flour to make the ramen noodle at a Hong Kong factory. The noodles are the thin kind, about 1.3 mm in diameter, which is good for carrying soup. Customers are encouraged to slurp up the noodles loudly because this allows each mouthful to be full of soup.
The soup is the essence. The stock at Butao requires 35 kg of pork head bones as well as pork ribs to be added each day.
"Suppliers say for 35 kg of pork head bone, we probably use up all of the available pork heads in Causeway Bay daily," says Chen.
The result is a full-bodied soup, almost creamy, perfectly matching the chewy noodles. Definitely justifies the wait.
Open daily at 11 a.m. until the last bowl is sold. Flat C, Wo On Building, 11-12 Wo On Lane, Central, tel +852 25300600