Ramen Champion

Published March 25, 2013 by piggie

I have heard about Ramen Champion for a while, but didn’t quite have the opportunity to try until now. And when I stepped in the restaurant, I was initially at a lost, spoiled for choices at the vast ramen options available from Chiba, Toyama, Tokyo, Narita, Sapporo, & Hakata. It’s like bringing a mini version of Yokohama’s Ramen Museum to Singapore!

I walked one round before settling in front of Gantetsu, which has two “No 1” sticker on its placard. I scrutinise their menu, and found this Sapporo franchise offered more ingredients and probably a thicker broth in their ramen (naturally, the price is a bit higher too), hence I thought, might as well start with this.

Miso King Cha Shu Men ($15)

Gantetsu – Miso King Cha Shu Men ($15+)

I was initially pondering between a Miso based or Tonkotsu  based broth, but settled for the former once I remembered Gantetsu originated from Sapporo, where Miso ramen are vastly popular.

Gantetsu’s noodle was those thin round type, the Miso King Cha Shu Men was served with two halves of a moist egg, three large but thinly sliced cha shu, spring onion, bamboo shoot, sweet corns and seaweed. I thought in their menu, they also mentioned black fungus, I certainly didn’t recall seeing any. The springy noodle also came with a generous supply of bean sprouts, somehow made me wondered that must be how Sapporo natives had their ramen apart from the Miso broth. The cha shu was not as soft as what I had tried elsewhere, it retained the chewy texture that of a ham soaked within soup, I guess that’s just their signature. Now, come to the main characteristic, the broth. I confess I probably favour Tonkotsu broth, that I find Gantetsu’s a bit on the salty end, perhaps due to the amount of miso paste. The broth was otherwise thick, I couldn’t help relating it to a rich supply of collagen, but if I re-visit them, I probably will not try their Miso ramen again.

I’m almost certain I’d return for more (here, I refer to Ramen Champion as a whole, not just Gantetsu), not that their ramen was excellent, well, in fact not bad, just that I’m curious how good are the other outlets comparing to the one I tried. As for now, I shall let this post remains open, I am likely to add on my review on their other ramen (^.^)

2nd Visit

Ikkousha God Fire ($15+)

Ikkousha – God Fire ($15+)

I began to like Ramen Champion! Having just crowned Ultimate Ramen Champion 2011 last year, Ikkousha was the other outlet that put me in a dilemma with Gantetsu during my first visit. So here, on my 2nd visit, Ikkousha was my obvious choice.

Initially, I wanted to try their basic tonkotsu ramen, but I was really attracted by this flamboyant spicy ramen, God Fire! I suppose I can vaguely guess how the name was derived. Apart from its spicy characteristic, Ikkousha is actually based in Hakata, in close proximity to Beppu, where it is famous for the eight hells. It is always assume that the onsen there was the result of God’s fire. Alright, I’m not sure whether that was how owner Kosuke Yoshimura came out the inspiration, but spicy ramen is less common in Japan, that’s for sure. God Fire came with ingredients such as black fungus, two half slices of moist eggs, seaweed, leek slices, and two thin slices of cha shu. The broth was hot, I mean spicy, for a Japanese perhaps, but it’s still way to go comparing to our local laksa. The hotness somewhat masked away certain sweetness of the tonkotsu broth, and I suspect they simply added chili paste to the soup, so the $15 price tag was a little high in my opinion. The noodle they used was the fine round Hosomen, these type of noodle doesn’t absorb the broth thoroughly, but the good thing is, it also doesn’t get bloated easily. In fact, it was quite springy, much to my liking. The cha shu was tender, rich of ham taste, quite nicely done. Seriously, ingredients wise, I though it pale alongside Gantetsu, but I love tonkotsu broth more. Comparing this to my recent visit to Menya Musashi @ Star Vista, Ikkousha’s broth was probably lighter, but everything else were far better.

3rd Visit

Muso Special Cha Cha Ramen ($13+)

Muso – Special Ajitama Cha Cha Ramen ($13+)

On 04 Jul 2013, Ramen Champion welcome new ramen stalls into their Singapore franchise, among them Muso (Hong Kong’s champion… but are they serious??), Yamagishi Kazuo, and Buta God. To commemorate the occasion, they had a misleading promotion of 50% off ramen.

This is my 3rd visit to Ramen Champion, but first time to their Bugis+ outlet (my previous visit were at Changi Airport T3). And so, I would love to try something else uniquely at Bugis+ and I have to say, I was let down by Ramen Champion’s gimmick. True, they gave first 100 patrons of the day free ramen, but the whole day 50% off ramen was tarnished by their decision to offer only ONE basic ramen from every stall, and almost each of them were offering the elementary Ajitama ramen (of course with distinguish broth) at 50% off, and nothing else. Then why don’t they put “on selected ramen” in their press advertisement, and only done so at their outlet? I don’t know how many in the long queue felt cheated, but it certainly gave a hugh discount over their insincerity. Nevertheless, my review for this Muso ramen which I ordered will still be independent of that incident.

Muso came with the reputation of being the most popular ramen stall in Ramen Champion’s Hong Kong franchise, naturally, I would love to see how are our Hong Kong friends’ taste bud in contrast to our local favourite. I ordered their promotional ramen, Muso Special Ajitama Cha Cha Ramen at $6.50+ (usual price $13+). There wasn’t any queue in front of the stall, but actually most people simply ordered and walked away with the electronic beeping token, still, it paled in comparison with Ikkousha, our local favourite Kyushu tonkotsu stall.

If my picture above looks pretty mediocre, the taste reflected rightfully so. Partly, I struggled to take a decent picture due to the dim environment, and my reluctance to shift my bowl of ramen to another table with better lighting. But the hard truth is, there was nothing much to brag about really.

The only thing worth mentioning was their broth. On first try (and truly only the first sip), it was exceptionally sweet and fatty. Yes, it contained ‘sinful’ but delicious pork lard, which somewhat spiced up the broth, but really, on that aspect, it still fell behind many other ramen outlets I patronised. The ingredients included the usual suspects, that is, leek, ONE large piece of soft cha shu, bean sprouts, and one whole egg (wasn’t sliced), which I found to be half moist upon slicing. Alright, I haven’t try their other ramen, but seriously, if this is that kind of broth our Hong Kong friends love, I am very skeptical of their taste. Granted, maybe over cooler seasons they found it wonderful, and perhaps some may argue I have a weird taste. But let’s try google and you will see other local diners already found it over-rated on Muso’s first week of business, looks like I’m not alone in giving it a mediocre review. Driven by curiousity, I did a search in Mandarin, guess what I found? Majority of Hong Kong diners found it too salty, lacking character, and mediocre. So how on earth did they earn the most popular stall in Hong Kong’s Ramen Champion? I don’t know, ask Koji Tachiro, that Japanese guy who posed with Eric Tsang in their posters, he’s the gentleman who was responsible for bringing Ramen Champion here. And guess what I later found in contrast? In Hong Kong, Muso sliced their eggs, and their ramen came with 3 slices of cha shu for HK$88, approximately $13.50, which prompted me to wonder, what happened to my 2 missing pieces of cha shu? Besides, HK don’t call it Cha Cha Ramen, just Muso Special Ramen, however, looking at the picture, it’s the same ramen but came with 3 pieces of cha shu. The name Cha Cha ramen brought back my memories on Menya Koji in Paragon, by now, I have no doubt it must be another work of Koji Tachiro. He’s probably trying to create a new ramen name, but seriously, what is cha cha ramen huh? To be honest, Tachiro-san’s version tasted so much better, not that I specifically missed it anyway.

Oh, let’s get back on track to Muso Special Ajitama Cha Cha Ramen (whatever they wished to call, it’s their business afterall), apart from what I already mentioned, they used the medium thick curly noodle, which remained springy throughout my meal, but the big negative point was, after the meal, I had to gulp a 500ml bottle of mineral water + a can of Anchor beer (330ml), and I still felt the thirst! I wonder how much MSG they put inside their broth. Clearly, Muso’s broth was catering for those who love MSG overdose.

As a matter of fact, my dining partner, who sometimes loves to contradict my taste bud, couldn’t agree more with me on this. She said, “I miss Santouka” Enough said.

Still, I look forward to try other stalls from Ramen Champion, just don’t disappoint me again.

4th Visit

It has been some time since I last visited Ramen Champion, not that long if I include Daikokuya as part of their franchise, which actually makes sense as they are all under the same management after all.

But when Ramen Champion opens their 4th outlet at Clarke Quay Central (previously Central) and offers 1-for-1 ramen from their Tonkotsu Ikkyu Ramen range, it tempts me to return.

Ramen Champion at Clarke Quay Central is an entirely different concept from their norm, a back to full service like any other restaurant. The so-called competition may be still there, but diners no longer needed to purchase ramen from respective stalls, it’s now all consolidated under one menu, and waiters will be taking orders and serve ramen to your table. Truth be told, I actually prefer their original concept of self service, then I can see the queue and judge for myself which is the more popular stall, fascinating myself watching the cooking process at the same time. But today I’m back for Tonkotsu Ikkyu’s promotion, so there aren’t really much hesitation for that matter.

It’s not the first time I tried Tonkotsu Ikkyu ramen, previously tried them at Daikokuya at Funan Digital Mall before they gave way to the mall’s massive renovation a year ago. I don’t want to spend time repeating the story here, but those interested can refer to my previous post.

Special Tonkotsu Pink, $15.80++

I ordered their Special Tonkotsu Pink. My first take was that it was mere Tonkotsu, but actually, the slightly pink colour broth is the result of added beetroot and blueberries. The broth is sweet and delightful, but to be honest, I can’t really tell the prominence, the sweetness of their tonkotsu broth far overpower that of beetroot and blueberries, it will probably take more of those to tell a significant presence, unless, of course, I can taste their conventional tonkotsu side by side. But my dining partner ordered their Special Tonkotsu Black, and I actually had never tried their conventional Tonkotsu before, not to mention the first and only time was one year ago. Anyway, the broth is complementing the slightly al dente Kyushu styled Hosomen well, along with Tonkotsu Ikkyu’s signature thin sous-vide chashu, which really retains the tenderness, moisture and sweetness of the pork well even after boiling.

Special Tonkotsu Black, $15.80++

My dining partner had their Special Tonkotsu Black, which I presume using black garlic oil as before.

5th Visit

God Ramen, $15+

Well, maybe I should have tried this long ago when Buta God was first crowned champion in Ramen Champion’s so-called competition, somehow, there were always other promotion elsewhere that stole my attention. Anyway, previously helmed by the talented and unconventional KANAYA Memoru, who actually looks more like a Bosozuku to me than a ramen chef (no offence, chef :P), and created this special ramen, it really makes me feel like it’s specially created for Singaporeans.

Red Hell, $14+

Firstly, there’s no sight of the usual charshu from conventional ramen, in its place are marinated pork belly slices. And rather than serving the usual suspect of a runny tamago, patrons are given poached egg instead, when pierced open, the egg yolk adds a tint of sweetness to the meat and the thin Kyushu-style Hosomen all over. Most significantly, their broth is spicy. Well, I did order their spicy version Red Hell too, I thought they might have mixed up mine and my dining partner’s order, but no, the Red Hell tasted identical with the additional chilli paste still relatively unstirred, so that gives a general idea of how spicy the Red Hell can go. The Red Hell is available at $1 cheaper than God Ramen, but I seriously cannot identify the difference apart from the chilli paste. The noodle was also complemented with the usual bamboo shoot and spring onions. All in all, their ramen is tasty and appetising!

Over the years, Chef Kanaya has developed a few interesting concepts for his ramen, such as Dinosaur Ramen, God Bomb etc, but I guess those are strictly seasonal, and ever since he switched to Menya Takeichi at Eat at Seven in Suntec City, I have not heard of Buta God coming out something new.

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