Borrowing the name of the street it is on – Panton Street, Panton Yokocho is Japanese for Panton Alleyway. In Japan, Yokochos are narrow streets packed with small eateries, dive bars and izakaya. They offer some of the best food and drinks while staying hidden and off the high street. In Japan, you have to be like a local to find it. As for us, Panton Yokocho is right next to Japan Center near Leicester Square.
The Food and Drinks
Yokocho prides itself on offering different ramen bowls from around Japan. This is even highlighted on a blown-up map of Japan that greets you at the entrance to the restaurant.
We ordered one set meal with the Melon Cream Soda Original, Hakata Tonkatsu Ramen and a bowl of Tokyo Shoyu Ramen. We also asked for a glass of tap water.
Melon Cream Soda
The Melon Cream Soda was a gorgeous treat after a strikingly hot, summer afternoon. A tall hi-ball glass, carefully lined with melon syrup, filled with ice cream soda and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and a lone maraschino cherry. Vegan options are available for those who require it.
The taste of melon through the already sweet base of ice cream soda is interesting although rather overpowering when it first hits. Melon as a flavour always feels a bit synthetic. This was not much different although once mixed in with the cream soda was actually quite nice.
The ice cream when it eventually melted in added a creaminess to the overall bubbly sharpish texture of the drink which was nice. The generous amount of ice in the glass was very welcome on a hot day. As it melted it also helped reduce the sweetness of the drink.
The Hakata Tonkatsu was as expected a generous bowl of thin ramen noodles in a flavourful cloudy bowl of pork-based broth. Topped with a sheet of nori, bbq pork, nitamago, menma bamboo shoots and garnished with spring onion and red ginger, it is a warming bowl.
The ramen noodles were nice and bouncy and the toppings complemented the broth well. The nori was crispy and the nitamago was almost perfect with its shoyu-dipped exterior and nice soft, runny yolk.
Tokyo Shoyu Ramen
Where the broth of the Tonkatsu was rich and cloudy, Tokyo Shoyu Ramen was a clear, tasty base of chicken-pork broth. While rich, it was also rather oily. The pork belly was tasty veering on the edge of being to dry. Dipped in the soupy broth, it was ok.
The shoyu noodles were slightly thicker than those of the tonkatsu. They had a slightly harder bite, and were almost slightly undercooked. It was all right after a while of being left in the very hot stock. Similarly, here too, the nitamago was perfectly done, even though it was left until the very end. All other garnishings of menma bamboo shoots and spring onions worked well to complement the ramen and broth.
Mango and Dark Chocolate Mochi
Our dessert choice from the set menu was one each of the mango and the dark chocolate mochi. This was surprisingly very good. The mochi skin was very fresh, smooth and soft. The dark chocolate mochi was beautifully rich without being overpowering, while the mango had a smooth almost rich custard texture. Both made a nice rounded end to the savoury bowls of ramen.
Perhaps because it was relatively quiet, or maybe it was because we were seated near a payment station we had good attentive service throughout our experience at Panton Yokocho.
Like other reviewers have mentioned, we could only see three members of the serving staff. Although for us, that worked well. They came round to check up on us frequently.
We appreciate that it is a difficult balance to get right. We were really snailing our way through the meal. We took our time and were in fact interrupted a couple of times to ask if bowls could be removed even though, we had not quite yet finished.
The Vibrant Interior
Apart from the Yokocho in London, two more outlets, also in London. One in Westfield White City called Ichiba Yokocho and the other is on Heddon Street called Heddon Yokocho. Here is what it looks like inside Panton Yokocho.
If you’re a big fan of melon and anything melon flavoured, the Melon Cream Soda Original is a must try. Otherwise, there are a range of interesting sounding cocktails to choose from.
Many online reviews suggest that the ramen at Panton Yokocho is a poor cousin compared to the many ramen offerings in London. While it certainly is not mind-blowing nor outstanding, it was okay.
The colourful and interesting atmosphere did make up for the fairly normal bowl of noodles.
More Lights, Lanterns and Signs
We couldn’t get enough of the lights, lanterns and signs, so here are more photos taken at Panton Yokocho.
Address: Square, 35a Panton Street Leicester, London SW1Y 4EA
- Sunday 11:30 am–10 pm
- Monday 12–10:30 pm
- Tuesday 12–10:30 pm
- Wednesday 12–10:30 pm
- Thursday 12–10:30 pm
- Friday 12–11 pm
- Saturday 11:30 am–11 pm