Now open: Ramen master Meter Chen introduces Himokawa udon at Kintaro Lab
03 Mar 2020
Nestled in the the mostly residential pocket of Tai Kok Tsui, the all-black façade of Kintaro Lab almost looks jarringly out of place within the grid of construction sites, auto repair shops and older residential buildings and shopfronts that surround it.
In many ways, though, it’s a hint of what lies within. The recently opened ramen bar is a confident offer, no surprise given its pedigree – Kintaro Lab is the latest project of Meter Chen, one of Hong Kong’s foremost ramen experts. Hyperbole this is not, Chen having made a name for himself in his native Hong Kong a decade ago as a co-founder of Butao King, one of the city’s first exponents of Hakata ramen, before pioneering the tsukemen trend at Kakurega Ramen Factory in Sham Shui Po, which quickly became a cult favourite among the city’s food set. Chen’s fascination with ramen came about thanks to his 15 years spent living in Japan, where he familiarised himself with the many different styles the dish takes. He returns regularly to stay on top of trends, too.
At Kintaro Lab, Chen once again pushes the boundaries (at least by Hong Kong standards) with a menu showcasing the thin, flat and wide Himokawa udon, a speciality noodle of the mountainous and wheat-producing Gunma prefecture. The udon is prepared à la minute, boiled and immediately placed in an ice bath, and presented three different ways: a tsukemen-style set up in which it pairs with your choice of a rich bonito and soy-based broth or a signature curry broth, each featuring an assortment of fresh veggies and your choice of protein (the duck breast is an excellent match); a one-bowl proposition in which the udon is presented in the broth; and alongside a medley of tempura.
Vibe wise, the all-black theme continues on the inside, where the main seating area is a generously spaced 12-seat bar; there are also a couple of booths that can fit up to six.
It’s too soon to tell if we’ll see an influx of Himokawa udon joints in Hong Kong. But with Kintaro Lab, Chen has reestablished his position as one step ahead of the rest.
Kintaro Lab is now open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday.
Kintaro Lab, 52 Li Tak Street, Tai Kok Tsui, +852 3689 8807.