I managed to get one of the last reservations for a Saturday night — a blessing. Tucked away in the heart of Hollywood on Melrose Boulevard, Tonchin borders a quaint neighborhood off of Vine Street, feet away from Paramount Studios. This space comfortably houses a small number of people, with no more than 25 tables of 2-4. The ambient lighting and minimalist interior were sleek and sexy, perfectly matching their menu.
Regarding the side dishes the two restaurants provide, Tonchin conquers Silverlake — easily. With a more extensive selection of plates, various flavors, and meats, I had trouble choosing which few I should order. Settling on the Tsukune buns, Chashu Tokyo Rice Ball, and a plate of Curry and Cheese Wings, I couldn’t get enough. Silverlake provides similar dishes, yet not as diverse. There’s fried gyoza, a few buns, chicken karaage, a few vegetable dishes, and a variety of sushi to choose from. I loved every one of the appetizers I had, especially the chashu rice ball. I also have to add that the Tsukune buns have a more well-balanced flavor than Silverlake’s buns, so I recommend them if you’re familiar with the latter.
Getting straight to the point, the most common ramen, Tonkotsu, as displayed through Silverlake’s “The Classic” and Tonchin’s “Classic Tokyo Tonkotsu,” is executed perfectly in both restaurants. While Silverlake’s take provides me with something closer to comfort food, Tonchin’s is full of flavor with stunning presentations. I can taste the freshness of their noodles, which are made daily, and every individual element in the broth itself. While I appreciate Silverlake’s variety of ramen more than Tonchin, even having garlic truffle ramen, I realize that Tonchin’s limited selection highlights what it does best.
What really impressed me at Tonchin were the desserts. I ordered the Tokyo Banana, a caramelized banana over a bed of cream and shortbread in a fabulous cocktail glass. I also got the Matcha Kaki-Gori topped with red beans and honey cream to accompany it. It was similar to shaved ice, but this isn’t something you’d find at amusement parks with the bright syrups only consistent on top. The matcha flavor was persistent in every bite, with no ice exposed without color. Silverlake Ramen doesn’t have flavors like these, let alone a dessert menu, which devastates me.
In the end, both bowls provide me with a sense of love and appreciation of the flavors, but they simultaneously cater to two different sides of me. Silverlake Ramen reminds me more of comfort food with its creamy broth and tofu to add on, and Tonchin is the higher end of ramen — the Rossoblu or Mother Wolf of Japanese cuisine.
Silverlake is something I can get delivered to my home, curl up on the bed with, and watch horror movies while slurping my noodles, broth, and soft tofu with a pork bun and broccolini on the side. Tonchin is something I look forward to occasionally, where I dress up, color my lips, and prepare myself for various flavors and meats to overtake my senses.
To read more about this dining experience, check out the L.A. Times’ coverage of Tonchin LA and other restaurants.
Tonchin is open daily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., located at 5665 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. To make a reservation, see their Resy page.