There was an audible collective groan that went up from folks in Milwaukee when the news broke that Tochi, the ramen restaurant in Shorewood, was moving to West Bend.
"West Bend??!!" people exclaimed, both shocked and horrified that the increasingly popular spot was moving to a city many consider well beyond their usual miles-to-dinner limit.
However, a recent trip to Tochi’s new location at 705 Village Green Way validated my suspicions that – even though West Bend isn’t as conveniently located as Shorewood – the fare at Chef Gregg Des Rosier’s new spot is well worth the 30 minute drive for heart-warming bowls of pure ramen love.
It's also a great addition to the growing West Bend dining scene, which is built on the foundations laid by spots like Cafe Souerette.
The West Bend version of Tochi is largely similar to its Shorewood location; although, in terms of decor, Godzilla has been replaced by a combination of punk rock-esque and Asian art, along with the music to match.
As for the menu, it includes familiar appetizers like the brat stickers ($6.95) filled with bratwurst sausage, kraut, cabbage and onion and served with mustard sauce.
There’s also edamame with chili oil, yuzu and smoked salt ($6.95), cucumber salad with yuzu ginger dressing ($3.95), Japanese salad with cabbage, carrots, wasabi peas and red peppers ($5.95) and pork steam buns with pork belly and ancho chili hoisin ($5.95).
Of course, you could opt, as we did, for the blistered shishito peppers which are glazed with a deliciously addictive sauce comprised of pork fat, fish sauce, soy and sesame ($6.95). We literally scraped the remains out of the bowl and ate it outright.
Of course, the bulk of the menu is filled with ramen, including miso, shoyu, shio kimchi and tonkotsu broths including add-ins like grassfed beef, pork belly, shrimp, chicken and tofu. Favorites include the Wisconsin ramen with miso mustard broth, bratwurst, onions and dehydrated kraut ($9.95) and the Tochi ramen with miso broth, pork (belly and crispy), green onion and spicy miso deviled egg ($11.95).
The pork bone broth of the tonkotsu ($13.95) is served up with pork belly, crispy pork, surimi, green onion, kimchi, bamboo shoots and tamago egg. You could do as we did and add even more egg by requesting a fried egg with a runny yolk on top, an addition that only adds to the richness of the broth.
Meanwhile, grass-fed beef mazeman sports a bowl filled with grilled flank steak, (delicious) pickled shiitakes, green onion, a fried egg and smoked bone marrow butter. A dining companion noted that he could "eat the pickled shiitakes all day."
Not in the mood for ramen? There are options for you.
If you’re missing the bacon, apple and goat cheese mazeman ramen, you’ll be delighted to note that it has a worthy replacement: chicken chorizo udon ($10.95) which features thick toothy udon noodles along with shoyu chicken and spicy miso broth, chorizo, cilantro lime paste, green onions and goat cheese.
Other items include beef udon, a variation on the grass-fed mazeman ($9.95), chicken congee ($9.95), cilantro lime vietnam catfish served with sticky rice ($9.95) and sweet chili tofu ($8.95).
Tochi’s hours are Monday through Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.