At time of writing, Konjiki Hototogisu is the only ramen outlet in Singapore with Michelin star accolade, though only for their restaurant in Shinjuku. Their poetic kanji name, once heard, will be unforgettable. And that golden logo, absolutely outstanding! I knew about them before they came to Singapore, and have been patiently waited 2 years for any promotion but to no avail, before finally making my first visit to their Chijmes franchise in 2020.
Back in 2006, founder Chef YAMAMOTO Atsushi started his franchise from a humble ramen shop along a rather deserted street in Shibuya. He didn’t want to be conventional, so he began serving ramen in Hamaguri clam broth then, and initially only managed to sell 5 bowls of ramen daily. He watched in despair as he had to discard the massive leftover soup and ingredients everyday. He eventually needed 3 years to turn his business around, and another 2 more years before queue began forming outside his restaurant during the weekends. But he did not want to rest on his laurels, relentlessly creating new recipes to bring his ramen variance to new levels.
This is their signature, the award-winning Shoyu Hamaguri Soup Ramen, which attracted thousands of ramen fanatics queueing for it in Shinjuku. The broth is a light, yet complicated triple soup made using Hamaguri clams, pork bone, Japanese broth, and garnished with housemade Tartufata (black truffle paste), porcini oil, porcini flakes. The ramen comprises Kyushu-styled thin Hosomen, along with 2 slices of low temperature sous vide cha shu, spring onions, and white leek. Tonkotsu broth is usually rich, and often comes with a strong pork smell, but kudos to Chef Yamamoto, his creation not only has a noticeable absence of that unpleasantness, yet retaining a mild sweetness with the delightful aroma of truffle! You can smell class from a stone throw away. Moreover, a poster outside their Chijmes outlet boldly declared they are Singapore’s first MSG-free ramen shop. Ouch!.. (OK, moderate MSG is still fine, just not overdose) LOL! So to speak, you won’t feel excessively thirsty after consuming their ramen, unless of course, maybe if you are ordering the immediate ramen below..
Laksa? Yeah, definitely taste like it!
Seriously, I can’t help suspecting Chef Yamamoto must have drawn inspiration from our local traditional delicacy. Anyway, his replication of Singapore’s Laksa comprises low temperature cha shu, prawn, potatoes, otak, and coriander leaves. The outcome is a bowl of noodles with mild spiciness in a broth made with coconut milk and spicy prawn-flavoured chili oil. It will be something refreshing for the Japanese perhaps, but as far as Singaporeans are concern, I guess this can be considered average given its price. Yes, for that price, I was expecting something more exceptional, or otherwise I can regard this as above average. That said, I suspect this ramen is merely available for a limited period in conjunction with Singapore’s National Day, and may not be a regular feature on their menu.
Alright, so much for my first visit.
My 2nd visit was at their Great World outlet. Great World is not close to any MRT station, but they do provide scheduled shuttle buses to Queenstown, Chinatown, and Newton MRT. I wanted to try their oyster broth ramen, and this is Great World outlet’s specialty.
I ordered this Oyster King Shio Ramen, and I was able to smell that dainty oyster aroma while it was served. Their menu describes it as a pleasantly cleared and smooth oyster consommé achieved by hours of slow cooking at a lower temperature, and the ingredients include roasted paprika, garlic lemon butter, parsley, red onions, and their house-made oyster paste and oyster oil.
Do read their menu carefully when ordering. Because they recommended 4 ways to appreciate this bowl of ramen, so let’s not rush to stir it when it is served. Firstly, appreciate it in its pure oyster consommé. Next, try their original oyster oil with some soup for a second taste. Then, mix a little oyster paste with some soup for a third taste. Last but not least, try it with the garlic lemon butter. OK, if you want, you can stir it now.
Hence, it is difficult to briefly describe its taste, I would say the oyster aroma is not overpowering, and that the ramen is overall rather flavourful. But that really is an understatement. Its complexity is overwhelming.
My dining partner had Oyster King Paitan Ramen. This is very much a Miso version of their oyster broth ramen, using Miso produced in Nagano, along with house-made oyster paste, dried tomato, and baked lemon slice.
Likewise as the Oyster King Shio Ramen, there are also 4 ways to appreciate this ramen. Firstly, just enjoy their Miso + oyster consommé. Next, try it with their spicy black pepper and sweet onions. Then, try their oyster oil infused consommé. Last but not least, try it with the oyster paste. I merely tried the first way and found it light and slightly appetising comparing to the Shio version.
Overall, I found in both ramen, the respective paprika and dried tomato merely add some colour to the appearance, and didn’t quite improve the flavour significantly. Nonetheless, kudos to Chef Yamamoto for his efforts in improving the outlook of the noodles.