When Chabuton came to Singapore, there were so much fanfare about it being the first Michelin-starred ramen in the world (better known as MIST in Hong Kong), that ramen enthusiasts in Singapore were all tempted to try, yours truly inclusive. I finally tried it at their Millenia Walk outlet on a weekday afternoon.
Chabuton’s Yoruton ramen is a spicy challenge, with a level ranging from 1 to 5. My friend and I ordered a level 3 and 4 respectively, but somehow, when the order were served, we were given level 2 and 3 instead. No issue, we didn’t want to make a fuss about it. But perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that the mistake was made, as I found level 3 already too much for my liking. Actually upon ordering, I expressed my concern to the waitress that it was my maiden visit, and I don’t know my spicy level. She was kind enough to instruct the kitchen to serve the chili paste on a separate plate, so we can add it ourselves until the level we can take. I added mine to a level of around 2.75, I could have attempted level 3, no problem, but I ain’t desperate to test my endurance level. It was ramen I want, not chili. That somewhat reminds me of the Japanese drama “Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san” (ラーメン大好き小泉さん), the high school girl who attempted level 5 from ramen shop 蒙古タンメン中本(Episode 2), where she ordered a level 5! Anyway, it’s different ramen restaurant, but I didn’t intend to emulate her. LOL! OK, back to the ramen here. It’s my habit to try the broth first before adding all sort of spices. Chabuton’s Yoruton base tonkotsu broth is sweet and filled with sesame, there’s plenty of leek as well as one large piece of charshu. The broth is exceptionally sweet! I have tried many tonkotsu broth before, even in Japan, but I hardly find one this tasty. Surely there must be some secret recipe? Sesame? Search me! As for the charshu, it was tender and chewy, I could hardly fault the ramen at all.
Anyway, I got a 1 for 1 offer on Chabuton Yoruton ramen from Simply Her magazine (right, valid until 30 Jun 2016, soft or hard copy will do) and decided to try them out. Frankly speaking, Singapore’s ramen prices is vastly bloated and many charges almost double that from Japan, at a time when ¥ was 100 against S$1.15 (2015 rates), some ramen outlets claimed they imported their ingredients from Japan, OK, fine. But for those who aren’t, I don’t think their quality, man hour, rental etc, match those from Japan, yet they jumped into the bandwagon of price range that genuine Japanese restaurants are charging, that probably explain the blooming of ramen scene in Singapore… profits! I can’t tell which of them are genuine or not, as such, I regularly wait for ramen offer before patronising (but there are exception of course).
Chabuton claimed they imported their ingredients from Japan, OR “sourced/produced by specially appointed companies by the Japanese headquarter team.” Smart words.
But hold on a second, there is something strange here, as I understand that Chef Yasuji Morizumi earned the Michelin star via his Hong Kong outlet, not his origin Japan. This is unusual because Japan is particularly on top of world gourmet scene, probably already surpassing France where Michelin guide originated from. And normally, a franchise or branch is unlikely to be better than the origin restaurant, more so for Chabuton because they are really ‘new kid on the block’ with a history of merely 11 years, an infant in the eyes of many notable ramen giants there, so what makes it outstanding from the rest? Now, let me briefly elaborate what the three stars in Michelin guide means:
1 Michelin star: “A very good restaurant in its category” (Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie)
2 Michelin stars: “Excellent cooking, worth a detour” (Table excellent, mérite un détour)
3 Michelin stars: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” (Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage).
Chabuton started in Chiba, close to, but not in traditional ramen battle zone Tokyo. I don’t believe that none of the ramen power house in Japan doesn’t deserve at least a single Michelin star. Hence the logical explanation is, there was different standard between the Japan and Hong Kong Michelin teams. That’s a side talk, anyway, my primitive experience with Chabuton is good!
In Aug 2018, 313@Somerset initiated a series of dining offer, where Chabuton was offering 1-for-1 for their Charsiew Ramen, and diners get to select one of Tonkotsu, Shoyu, Shio, and Miso broth.
I tried this Charsiew Ramen with Tonkotsu broth for a start. At S$16.50++, the price cannot be considered cheap, obviously Chabuton has to justify with the ingredients. Right here, the star is the char siew, and 3 large pieces of them chewy and tender pork. Chabuton’s Tonkotsu broth is a little on the light side, and the added sesame, bamboo shoot and Japanese leek somewhat bring up the flavour. Overall, I find it a good balance.
As expected of any Shoyu ramen, I feel that the slight saltiness in their Shoyu somehow neutralise the sweetness of the broth, and the ingredients are slightly different from that of Tonkotsu, with bean sprouts and spring onion supplementing the char siew, which is, I believe, their unmistakable spotlight.
This ramen has identical ingredients as their Tonkotsu version, with Miso broth offering a stronger flavour for those who prefer a stronger broth. Chabuton uses thin straight noodles in their ramen, very typically Kyushu. I guess it can hardly go wrong with such selection, as such noodle tends to retain firmness better than their thicker counterparts.
I revisited Chabuton again for their new promotion, this time a 2 (small ramen) for $15.90++ promotion, and I ordered their Tonkotsu Shio Ramen. Again, ingredients wise, it’s similar to their Tonkotsu and Shio ramen, except that there’s only 1 slice of char siew. I couldn’t gauge the quantity of the noodle, but I was surprisingly full after having this. So much so that I actually also ordered their Char Siew Don but struggling to finish it. Anyway, I discovered that Chabuton’s Shio Tonkotsu broth is probably my favourite among the 4, having a good blend of their Shio and Tonkotsu broth, not excessively sweet nor salty.
This is the Char Siew Don that I mentioned earlier on. After having very positive impression of Char Siew Don that I had tried elsewhere, I had hoped to find the same satisfaction in Chabuton’s version. Sadly, it’s a slight let down. I ain’t sure whether those I tried previously were simply too good or what, but I just feel that the taste of Chabuton’s Char Siew Don just doesn’t blend well. Perhaps it’s the lack of sauce, but I find Chabuton’s Char Siew Don rather distinctive, make no mistake, the grilled char siew is flavourful, just pity the flavour doesn’t goes through the rice. Chabuton had added shredded char siew and onions to bring up the flavour, but it just wasn’t good enough, at least not for me.