100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 77, Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

The tonkotsu ramen at Cafe Kubo's has an instantly calming scent: thick, nutty and full of the promise of satisfaction to come at the bottom of the bowl. Dip your spoon into the milky broth and use your chopsticks to retrieve messy tangles of dark, fawn-colored noodles, tender slices of pork and the single half of a hardboiled egg. There's nothing fancy about the ramen here, and that's just the way it should be.

While the noodles aren't handmade, they are cooked to a perfect al dente, swimming cheerfully in a creamy, husky broth that testifies to its piggy origins: Tonkatsu ramen is made by slowly boiling pork fat, pork bones and pork collagen for hours at a time. Think of it as the Japanese version of pho with its deep, rich, resonant taste.

In other cities, ramen is venerated much the same way as Houston treats its pho. While Houston isn't terribly behind the curve -- after all, SF Weekly's Jonathan Kaufmann reported in October 2010 that San Francisco, that melting pot of all things Asian, was just jumping on the ramen bandwagon -- it's still difficult to find a bowl of ramen here, let alone a good bowl of ramen. But at least we have some pretty good stuff at Cafe Kubo's for now.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana

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Katharine Shilcutt