For the first time, I struggle to determine the name of an ramen outlet, which itself, I found, was probably more fascinating than the quality of the ramen they served. I came to know this offer through Ramen Champion brochure, the name of the restaurant was specified as Daikokuya Ramen Dining. So on a Sunday afternoon, I was at Paragon and eagered to give it a try! I was surprise to learn on the spot that what I expected to be Daikokuya Ramen Dining turned out to be Menya Koji Ramen Dining instead! The address was identical, they even had a similar printed brochure on this promotion but bearing the name of Menya Koji Ramen Dining. However, inside the restaurant, everything printed, including serviette, receipt, menu were all bearing the Daikokuya trademark.
Anyway, let’s get back on track with the food! There wasn’t much detail on this ramen, it’s not even on their menu, so I can only vaguely describe base on my taste bud and shallow knowledge. I believe the ramen was served with miso chicken broth, it was towards the salty side, minus the usual sweetness of a tonkotsu. The noodle used was the medium curly Chuboso Chijiremen, with generous ingredients of bean sprouts, leeks, a slice of seaweed, 3 thick pieces of cha shu, and two halves of moist egg. The noodle was well-cooked, not soaky throughout my meal, and remained reasonably springy, with the cha shu slightly firm and chewy, but surely not the melt-in-your-mouth type. It retained the distinguished taste of typical ham, or at least it somehow absorbed the broth well. Overall, I found the quality moderate, decent but not spectacular. At $8.85 (included all taxes), it’s probably worth a try, but certainly not worth its usual price of $15++ If not for the promotion, I probably prefer Baikohken across the road, which still remains one of the better, unsophisticated ramen I can find in Singapore.
Guess what happened when I saw the receipt? My order was printed as Muso Special Cha Shu Ramen! Wow, they really good at playing with names huh? LOL! I suppose that’s a mis-spell “miso”, and that more or less justified my earlier suspicion that what they called Cha Cha Ramen should rightfully be Cha Shu Ramen. I’m not laughing at Japanese’ English standard, but I half expected whoever coordinating their presence here should have spotted all these discrepancies, let’s not wait until a wrong order is served then try explaining ya!
2nd visit (13 Jun 2016)
After 3 long years, I eventually return to dine at Daikokuya, this time at their Funan branch, which was previously Bishamon Ramen. I don’t really mean to say Daikokuya took over the outlet, I may be wrong, but seems to me they are basically under the same owner here, yes, Koji Tashiro san (田代浩二). It’s more likely a name change, and of course, along with it a different range of ramen. Their Funan outlet is having a promotion every Monday in June for their Ikkyu series of ramen, a closing down offer as Funan Digitalife Mall undergoing a major face lift soon.
To be honest, these Ikkyu ramens ain’t Daikokuya’s signature. Rather, it’s Chef Tashiro’s creation on the request of Hong Kong comedian Eric Tsang, and he eventually started a new brand under the name Tonkotsu Ikkyu. However, like his previous practice, after the ramen making a name for itself, his Daikokuya franchises also started selling them.
As you can see, my bowl has 4 pieces of medium size charshu (contrary to the large pieces illustrated in their poster, but I’m not complaining given the offer price I paid), one whole runny egg, black fungus, and leek. The broth retain the sweetness of a typical tonkotsu broth, and I found the black garlic oil a perfect complement to the broth, offering a small diversion to the usual tonkotsu flavour but not taking the entire limelight off it, not to mention black garlic contains a high level of anti-oxidants as compare to conventional garlic. Significantly, the creamy broth doesn’t have strong pork smell that some may find less pleasant (my mum’s gonna love this!). Personally, I favour the tinier round straight Hosomen noodle used here, which is common among Hakata ramen (typically tonkotsu), it tends to be less soggy. However, the spotlight is on the charshu, which was made using pork collar and cooked in the western sous vide style, by sealing them in airtight plastic bags and submerging them in a temperature-controlled water bath. My charshu were very thin, and didn’t come with strong pork taste.
The Special Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen here is a little less appealing in my opinion, nothing much differ from other ramen chain, apart from the charshu, that is. Granted, the tonkotsu broth is sweet, but like any spicy ramen, the chili tends to take away some limelight from the sweet broth. Though overall, I would still say it’s above average. Now this is the quality I expect of Chef Tashiro, a notable disciple of ramen god Kazuo Yamagishi of Higashi-Ikebukuro’s Taishoken, who is also the inventor of Tsukemen.
3rd visit (19 Jan 2017)
I was, again, enticed by Daikokuya’s ramen promotion with J Passport at their Robertson Quay franchise. For $5, it’s probably among the cheapest ramen you can find in Singapore (Santouka offers the cheapest ramen at $3.10 in March every year). But to be honest, I have some reservation on their headline, ‘Hokkaido Authentic Tonkotsu Ramen’. I dare not claim to be a ramen expert, but being a ramen enthusiast, I do understand Hokkaido ramen are broadly classified into 3 main categories, namely Shoyu (Asahikawa), Miso (Sapporo), and Shio (Hakodate). Tonkotsu is typically Kyushu, which is on the extreme end of Japan mainland from Hokkaido. Even the noodles used in these two regions are vastly different.
OK, so much for the introduction.
We went on a Thursday afternoon, and was rather surprise we had to wait for seats at Robertson Quay! Probably few other restaurants there are open yet, I suppose. Granted, we didn’t have to wait for long anyway.
Both me and my dining partner were there for their promotion, their Tonkotsu Ramen (original price $12.80++). We just ordered the ramen, nothing else.
If you find the ramen looks bland, I can honestly say, it is. The ingredients are the usual suspects, leek, naruto, bamboo shoot, chashu, and Kyushu-style Hosomen (thin noodle), there is absolutely nothing here which suggested anything close to Hokkaido. While Hosomen (by the way, Hokkaido noodles are generally medium curly) can rarely go wrong, the broth was mediocre, revealing a thick pork scent. I can safely say, I have tried ramen in many Japanese cities, most of them are not even famous names, but none tasted as mediocre as this. It’s rich and creamy nevertheless, but definitely lack character. Kudos to Daikokuya for not using MSG here, but that doesn’t mean they can compromise in taste. The saving grace is the chashu, thick and roasted with a chewy texture, this is one of the better one I have ever tried. I guess for $5++, I cannot complain. But I certainly won’t be returning for this.