100 Favorite Houston Dishes 2015, No. 48: Tonkotsu Ramen at Tiger Den

The silken tonkotsu broth and dense, fatty pork roll make for an addictive ramen at Tiger Den.
The silken tonkotsu broth and dense, fatty pork roll make for an addictive ramen at Tiger Den.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.

The entrance to Tiger Den is so subtle that it takes a minute to find it in the sprawling Dun Huang strip center off Bellaire. The sign is in simple white letters, a stark contrast to the big, flashy neon signs that are the rule rather than the exception in this part of Chinatown.

It's easier to locate if you're looking for the crowds of people outside waiting for a seat. There's a good reason for the wait: The ramen is worth it. (Be sure to put your name on the sign-up sheet posted outside the door. It's unlikely anyone is going to point it out to you, and then you won't get seated for a while.) 

Inside, the atmosphere is a bit reminiscent of a gritty nighttime scene from Blade Runner. Benches are crowded with diners clasping their ramen bowls. A touch of smoke fills the air, the result of pork belly, gizzards and chicken skin being grilled to crisp perfection in the kitchen. The porky tonkotsu broth is a sea of seductive flavors and textures: creamy, sultry and salty with an undertow of garlic. There are spry slivers of green onion, a handful of bamboo shoots and chewy tree ear mushrooms. The garlic black bean ramen is another must-try variation. 

Tiger Den is too fun and deliberately casual for a printed sake or beer list, but there are always a well-chosen handful of good ones available to go alongside the ramen, and the fried chicken skin is a terrific starter. 

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

No. 49, Charcuterie at Kris Bistro
No. 50, Cauliflower Steak at Backstreet Cafe
No. 51, Telur Balado at Rice Bowl II
No. 52, Green Curry at Asia Market Restaurant48
No. 53, Foie Gras Breakfast at Triniti
No. 54, Korean Fried Chicken at ToreOre at Super H Mart
No. 55, Bulgogi Bibimbap at BiBiJo Express at Super H Mart
No. 56, Vegetable Plate at Hugo's
No. 57, The Cured Plate at Revival Market
No. 58, Simply Grilled Fish at Ibiza
No. 59, Tonkotsu Black Ramen at JINYA Houston
No. 60, The Rancor Burger at The Petrol Station
No. 61, Heritage Sampler Platter at Rudi Lechner's
No. 62, Oxtails at Le' Pam's House Of Creole
No. 63, The 420 Slice at Pi Pizza Truck
No. 64, Frenchy's Fried Chicken On Scott Street
No. 65, 3 Pig Mac & Cheese at Urban Eats
No. 66, Pucchia Pugliese Foggia at Sud Italia
No. 67, Triple-Smoked Pastrami On Rye At Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co. 
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex 
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed 
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies

Use Current Location

Related Location

miles
Tiger Den

Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >