Currently, there are only 3 ramen restaurants attaining Michelin star in the world. All three of them are based in Tokyo though, but two of them have franchises in Singapore.
Tsuta is the first ramen restaurant in the world to have been awarded Michelin star for their restaurant in Sugamo, and the first Michelin star ramen restaurant that came to Singapore back in 2016. When they just started off at Pacific Plaza, the queue can easily stretched for hours, that reveals how much Singaporeans value Michelin recommendation, perhaps somewhat obsessed, if I may put it that way.
I didn’t join in the fanfare to rush for Michelin treat… too much hassle, I can never apprehend such commotion. Basically I am not one willing to queue for hours, be it on cuisine or the latest Apple gadgets. But when Tsuta came out a somewhat irresistible promotion, and my dining partner pestered me to try, I’m game.
Tsuta hails from Tokyo, where Shoyu ramen is the main genre, and it’s also Tsuta’s forte, naturally I would love to try that in my primitive visit. However, my dining partner was having that same idea, hence I settled for their Shio ramen instead, thinking that we could try out their different broth. By the way, for some reason, Tsuta call their ramen “soba”, but the texture just ain’t conventional soba for certain. That said, actually, it’s not uncommon in Japan that some ramen restaurants in Japan call their ramen “soba”, but usually if I didn’t do any research, I would avoid such restaurants because soba is really not my cup of tea.
Let me begin with their Shio ramen, and by the way, abnormal to most ramen restaurants I patronised, the differences between Tsuta’s Shoyu and Shio ramen are not just the broth. Tsuta created a sublime distinction that truly brings out the characteristics of both flavour, and I ain’t showing off my writing flair here, far from it, I feel my vocabulary can hardly justify such distinction. But I’ll try!
This is unlike any Shio ramen I had tried in the past. Most ramen restaurants probably focus on the mild salty broth, but Tsuta emphasise on aroma, and they did it with brilliant success. Firstly, there is leek and green olive puree in truffle oil, mint leaves, onion, bamboo shoot, and of course, charshu, with thin Kyushu-styled noodles. Going by the first few ingredients, I guess we can have some idea that the broth must have an intense aroma, oozing a complex elegance not found elsewhere. While I can’t tell if the noodle texture has anything special, I have to confess I thoroughly enjoyed the aroma as I ate, be it the truffle or minty smell, eventually finishing every drop of the broth.
I’m not sure if I can uncover too much on their Shoyu ramen (or Shoyu soba, whatever they call it), after all I had only tried half a spoonful of the broth. The noodles came with bamboo shoot, leek and black truffle pureed in truffle oil, onion, and charshu. The aroma is sophisticated, probably due to the complexity of their soy sauce, which I understand from Straits Times, was made from Wakayama soy sauce and Chef Yuki ONISHI’s own Shoyu. The broth is also made up of dashi with beef, vegetables, clams and other ingredients. Hence, I can only say it comes with complexity and a remarkable flavour.
On another day, in another outlet, I tried out their Teriyaki Tori Paitan Soba. Again, Tsuta call their ramen soba, but it’s ramen noodle, not the soba noodle we commonly know. In this case, the broth is rich chicken broth, with thin noodle, baby leaves, sweet corn, mushrooms, and yellow onions. As expected, there is no pork charshu though, merely 2 slices of thick chicken meat, and at least the texture of the chicken in my bowl came somewhat tender and chewy. Personally, I applause Tsuta’s effort to implement teriyaki chicken in a soup noodle, but it’s a tall order. I feel sorry that such combination fails to bring out the full extent of Teriyaki flavour, diluting its flavour in the broth in the process. I would find more satisfaction having Teriyaki chicken first, follow by a conventional bowl of ramen. I must confess I have a bigger love for Tonkotsu broth, and I do find the broth of this ramen satisfying, however, this is not the standard I anticipated from a Michelin chef. At best, it’s only moderate. But to be honest, my dining partner likes this over their award-winning Shoyu soba (or ramen, whatever), in part perhaps due to her dislike over truffle aroma. But get me wrong, this isn’t a poor ramen, just decent in my humble opinion, somewhat reflected in its price.