Butao | $$ | 4

The high midday sun was beating down as we walked around Central looking for Wellington Street. After shedding our bodyweight in sweat (it turns out wearing a tie raises your body temperature at least 5 degrees) we found a long line for a restaurant on a street lined with Maseratis. People tend to only drive two types of car in Hong Kong; taxis and cars worth more than a London flat. We were on the hunt for anything Japanese that wasn’t sushi. And we were in luck – we found Butao.

We didn’t have long for lunch, and the thought of melting in a queue surrounded by lux-airconditioned cars was sub-optimal. Nonetheless, we braved the scorching heat and were soon handed a menu and pencil by one of the staff.

Some of the options were interesting. I didn’t know what “Limited King” was, so instead went for the namesake of the restaurant, “Butao”. I chose “4 Chilli” out of a possible 10 on the advice of the lady who handed me the menu. In hindsight, and if you like chilli, I’d try at least a 6 or 7 on your first visit.

It was less than 10 minutes before we were ushered into the cozy interior of Butao. Our tables were right next to the beating heart of the restaurant – the broth vat.

The restaurant itself was infused with a marrowy scent, earthy and with a hint of onion. The chairs were very close together, but this was something we had become accustomed to.

It did not take long at all for our ramen to arrive. We all had ordered the Butao (mostly out of confusion), and each portion looked tantalising.

Three ingredients leapt out from the dish – chives, pork and cayenne pepper. The broth itself would hint that it was creamy, but this was just a guise for the hearty marrow infusion. The pork belly had absorbed the flavours of the broth and left a lingering nutty taste.

In short, this was decent value and a great unique taste. A must try.

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