Oh, Tomo. I couldn’t stay away.
I started rooting for Chef Tomo Kubo on my first visit to this East Village newcomer last month. Chef Tomo used to play for my hometown tsukemen team, Tsujita LA, before moving to New York as a free agent. This is a man who spends 60 hours with his broth.
“Surely 55 hours is enough?” his wife says to him, let’s assume, as he arrives home late at night and lipidinously slides into bed.
“Simmer down,” he says. “Come on, let’s spoon.”
“Soup puns, really?” she says, on her way to stay with her sister.
I’m kidding of course, he couldn’t possibly have a wife. I mean, sixty hours. Chef Tomo clearly feels some affection toward this broth. I stopped by the kitchen on my first visit and told Chef Tomo how I enjoyed it, and his smile was so genuine and proud that I could have hugged him.
And how about that broth. The viscosity, the heterogeneity, the little globules that gently solidify around your spoon. There is a secret to this ooze. Taking your first sips, you experience a chain reaction of emotions: curiosity, then joy, and finally fear as you stare down the depths of the bowl. This is a broth you feel in your heart. All four chambers.
This was my second visit to TabeTomo, so I knew the big meal ahead of me and skipped the appetizer course, saving my appetite for hahahaha obviously not, we ordered everything. The pork belly. The gyoza. The gyoza dipping sauce with that ingenious touch of crunchy chili garlic stuff. One chicken karaage, and then another. The only problem with these appetizers was their caloric opportunity cost.
On this visit, rather than dipping back into the tsukemen, I chose the lighter and more conventional tonkotsu jiro ramen. You see, ramen broth is very much the same as the tsukemen, but it is more diluted so you can drink it without an aquarium pump. But if there is one ingredient Chef Tomo skimps on, it is, for some reason, water. My ramen broth was less of a consommé and more of a Ghostbusters 2 river of concentrated psychomagnotheric flavor (only pork-based).
Okay, okay, but what else can they do right? Well. The egg is perfection. The thinly sliced chashu melts in your mouth. (I am not a chashu guy– odd, I know, like a pizza blogger who hates mozzarella– but this is one chashu I love.) The toppings menu is hard to complain about. (I am partial to the kuro-oni “black devil” Japanese chili powder.)
I will confess something to you: I was full. Very, very full. But when I started to see my bowl getting low, my fullness turned to sadness, and my sadness turned to anger, and my anger turned to hunger. And so I ordered kaedama (extra noodles) plus a hot stone, and damned if I didn’t keep going.
TabeTomo was every bit as good the second time around. People are starting to notice. Eater thinks they’re hot.
Reader, if I were you, I’d skip lunch and go tonight for dinner. Do it for the broth. Do it because next year there’ll be a line out the door. But mostly, do it for Tomo.