Before I begin sharing my Ramen Nagi experience here, I’m sure many fellow local Singaporeans aren’t sure how to pronounce their name correctly in Mandarin. The word “凪” does not share the same pronunciation as “风”, instead the actual mandarin pronunciation should be the same as “止”. It is more of a Japanese Kanji which has the meaning of the wind stops.
Ramen Nagi set foot on Singapore shore in Oct 2017 with much fanfare and long queue. I have been patiently awaiting for the commotion to die down and for their subsequent promotion, but the latter was never to come. After all, why should a popular ramen eatery resort to such promotion when their business is blooming?
Chef IKUTA Satoshi was not crowned the champion of Tokyo Ramen of the Year 2012 without a reason amidst Tokyo’s extremely vibrant ramen industry, and oh, he did it for 3 consecutive years too! On record, he was the first chef who served a different ramen everyday for 365 days (eh? including major Japanese holiday too? orz…), kudos to his creativity and as such, one can expect stepping into one of his ramen franchise and anticipating to be fascinated. It is, I believe, such creativity that evolved Japanese ramen from their Chinese origin in the first place, and I’m certainly excited getting bewildered on what kind of ramen I can get without prior reading review from other patrons.
Ramen Nagi also allow patrons to choose their preference of the broth, noodle, garlic, vegetables, pork etc. Yes, you can choose not to include charshu, or change it to pork belly. In my case, I’m wondering how would the chef recommendation turn out to be, so I selected omakase.
My ramen comprised of pork belly, green onion, black fungus, and thin noodle. Come to think of it, I wonder whether the chef truly select based on his recommendation or depending on what is more readily available? And will there be a chance whether I could have ended up with no charshu nor pork belly at all?
Nevertheless, my broth also came with a condiment ball of minced pork, black sesame, and special Nagi spices, which truly takes the black garlic and squid ink broth up a few notches. I have tried black garlic broth ramen at another famous establishment locally before, I have to say, that was a pretty disappointing experience, with the flavour and excitement gone half way through the meal, and it ended up rather bland and soulless. Good thing Ramen Nagi didn’t disappoint, the aroma of the condiment serves the noodle and broth well. As for the pork belly, I have to confess, I find it a little too fatty to my liking, but my dining partner loves that anyway. I would probably have preferred the charshu instead. As for the noodle, it is as usually chewy.
No prize guessing, red means hot. To be honest, I was quite puzzled why my dining partner chosen this when I am the one obviously having a better tolerance towards spiciness. Well, I know she’s perhaps a little reluctant to try the black garlic flavour because she has a distaste for it, but out of the 4 main ramen on Ramen Nagi’s menu, she could also have chosen the basic Original Butao King ($13.90++), or the olive-inspired Green King ($15.90++) instead (At time of visit, Ramen Nagi’s more fanciful Veggie King series ramen were not available).
The Red King came with a ball of miso-infused minced pork in special Nagi spices, as if the broth itself ain’t hot enough, these really brought out the fire in the broth! And, as she also selected chef’s recommendation, she got pork belly as well as spring onion (or the option of charshu and cabbage), black fungus, and Kyushu-styled thin noodle too. My dining partner put aside some of the miso ball, never mind the minced pork inside, for otherwise the noodle might be too hot for her to handle. I have heard of ramen which plays to the tune of spicy challenge, but really, when the hotness reaches a certain level, it’s no longer about enjoying the taste anymore, it becomes a test for your endurance level. Bottom line, I feel Red King is about hotness, even for someone who loves spicy food, I feel the broth, made up of garlic, chilli oil, and cayenne pepper, may be excessively overpowering and thus masking some of the food taste.