Found between bustling Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, Panton Yokocho (Yokocho translating to alleyway in Japanese, in case you were wondering) is the latest opening from Japan Centre and the third Yokocho site in the city.
Walking up to the restaurant your attention is immediately drawn to a statement animated bowl of ramen with floating chopsticks - offering passers-by a hint of the kitsch and quirky decor that could await them inside. Entering the restaurant, Panton Yokocho’s decor reflects Japan of the 70s and 80s. Vibrant paper lanterns hang from the ceiling and crates of ingredients are stacked up to give you a true street-food experience.
The menu is a lesson in itself, giving insight into each of its 11 ramen dishes. Read up on each bowl’s place of origin, the year it was created, along with guidance on the base of the broth, noodle types and toppings.
To start we ordered the chicken karaage, a soy marinated crispy chicken - a hefty portion for a starter but perfect Japanese comfort food with plenty of crunch, along with a helping of edamame beans topped with a sweet and spicy chilli sauce.
For mains we opted for two very different ramen dishes. Tori Paitan Ramen offers the traditional take on ramen you would expect, a clear broth with generous helpings of grilled chicken and beansprouts. Be warned, this one packs a serious garlic punch. This was in stark contrast to the vegan Napoli Ramen, a tomato-based broth topped with grilled tomato, mushroom and a scattering of vegan cheese. An enjoyable dish but when surrounded by such an authentic 80’s Tokyo scene, this modern day take on a traditional dish possibly feels a step out of place.
Puddings include traditional mochi balls and mochi ice-cream, along with the vegan salted caramel affogato, which was our dessert of choice. The perfect small but tasty sweet treat to end our experience.
Service was friendly and welcoming, with staff happy to explain details and make their own recommendations. A little pricier than your typical raman bar but still perfectly affordable for a casual bite.
As you exit the restaurant a wall of waving lucky cats are there to bid you farewell, which is an adorable touch to finish off your experience.