Food

All posts in the Food category

ENAQ The Prata Shop

Published March 24, 2021 by piggie

I was introduced to this hidden gem of a prata shop in Jurong East by a colleague, or otherwise, I may never have uncovered it. In particular, at least for their Jurong East outlet. It’s located some distance from the main road, that unless you drive inside the residential car park, you won’t spot it from the main road outside. Yet, there was quite a crowd even when we arrived for a weekend lunch, we needed to wait for available table.

We started off with the pratas.

Plain Prata, $1.10 (min 2 pcs)

I ordered Plain Prata for my dining partner, and got myself a Cheese Prata. Let’s begin with their plain prata.

Their plain prata is going for $1.10 each, but there’s a MOQ of 2 pieces (only for plain prata). The owner seems like very petty if customer only order 1 cheapest prata, porbably because it’s tough to justify the rental if customer just order one plain prata and sit for 30 mins? Anyway, the prata is crisp on the outside, yet still retain some chewy texture on the inside. I love it that they are offering two different dip sauce, the conventional curry, as well as sambal chili. But I would say, you will like it here if you like your prata crispy.

Cheese Prata, $2.20

The cheese prata still offer that same crispiness, but I find the cheese taste somewhat lacking. The presence is there, just that it wasn’t as rich as I anticipated. Nonetheless, the saving grace is its crispiness, and the two dip sauce.

Roti John (Chicken), $5.00

I ought to have known better.

I was eager to try Roti John again after not having it for decades. I used to have Roti John in my school for half this portion at just $1. And I actually didn’t notice the price here before ordering, assuming the portion would be similiar. Horrendous mistake. Good thing I meant it to be shared anyway, because the portion here easily double that of my cheese prata, I ended up as if eaten buffet after this meal. Seriously!

Anyway, the meat part and the egg is quite sumptuous, and once again, love the dual dip sauce offering a variance in taste. I would say, this is more than good enough for one meal, very filling. If only I had ordered this first, I am unlikely to follow up with any prata.

Henri Charpentier

Published March 7, 2021 by piggie

Henri Charpentier started way back in 1969, as a café initially, in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture. Hence, despite its name sounds French, Henri Charpentier is in fact a Japanese patisserie. I have been attempting to visit Henri Charpentier on many occasions and lost counts of my attempts, because it’s so difficult to grab a table, notably ever since their Guoco Tower (then Tanjong Pagar Center) outlet closed. And just last weekend, when me and my dining partner were still hungry after finishing our ramen, we wanted to find some Japanese dessert, and there we found Henri Charpentier with empty table!

As we quite encountered it by chance, we didn’t do any homework, so we asked the cashier for recommendation. She suggested we should try their short cake, cheese cake, as well as their Financier, and these were what we ordered.

The Shortcake, $10.20+

Firstly, their Short Cake. Not sure why they truncate away ‘strawberry’, but anyway, this is their signature cake with fresh cream and strawberries between a soft sponge. If you go onto their website, you will find three full strawberries on top, resembling the candle flame in their logo. But don’t ask me why it ‘kiu chwee’ here in Singapore, or at least from that outlet we patronised. Nevertheless, the texture of the cake is soft, with strawberries obviously coated in thin layer of sugar syrup.

The Financier (front), $2.50+; Double Cheese Cake (rear), $8.50+

The cheesecake we ordered is Double Cheese Cake, the one without lemon. They actually have two types of Double Cheese Cakes, but we would like to try the conventional one first. Our Double Cheese Cake are made with 2 layers of Mascarpone and cream cheese, and covered with Sablé crumbs on the outside. I am a massive cheese lover, I find both the sweetness and richness of the cheese cake moderate, not excessively thick, quite to my liking.

Last but not least, The Financier, which means financial professional in French. It was said that the origin of financiers is that a pâtissier who was running a pastry shop by the street near the stock exchange in Paris devised this form of small pastries so people can quickly eat without having to worry about soiling their suits. These Financiers are made using well-blended gourmet almonds such as Marcona and Fritz, along with cultured butter from Hokkaido. The texture is a little crisp, and one bite, the texture and the aroma of the gourmet almonds will be captivating. This is one that I will recommend over and above the two cakes I mentioned earlier.

Well, that summarise my first visit to Henri Charpentier. But I’m certain I will return for more.

Konjiki Hototogisu Singapore 金色不如帰

Published February 27, 2021 by piggie

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.

Shoyu Hamaguri Soup Ramen, $14.90++

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..

Coconut Paitan Ramen, $14.90++

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.

Oyster King Shio Ramen, $15.90++

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.

Oyster King Paitan Ramen, $15.90++

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.

Kyushu Pancake Cafe

Published January 4, 2021 by piggie

This is the pancake cafe I have always wanted to try, long before I visited Belle-Ville Pancake Cafe, and even during my trip to Kyushu almost 1 year ago. I am sold by their idea of using genuine Kyushu ingredients, and I tend to have the belief that, going by such selling point, it seldom fails. Well, having written that, I need to elaborate a little more at the end of this post in order not to take the spotlight off the pancakes.

It was quite crowded on a Saturday mid noon, and even though we came in a party of two, we could only find seats at the far corner, which is less desirable, because even the waiters struggle to serve us without asking the next table diners to move. I guess that spells their popularity here, although if otherwise, it may spell trouble for any businesses during such peak hours if patrons are far and few.

Kyushu Pancake Cafe claims that they are using wheat from Oita, millet from Unzen (Nagasaki), pressed barley from Saga, purple rice and red glutinuous rice from Kumamoto and Fukuoka, non-glutinuous rice from Kagoshima, raw brown sugar from Kagoshima and Okinawa, last but not least, Aigoma-farmed (合鴨農法) sprouted rice from Aya (綾町)(Miyazaki), basically all Kyushu prefectures are involved, hence their name. Actually, Kyushu Pancake Cafe originates from Miyazaki, a Kyushu prefecture least known to Singaporeans, and also the most difficult to reach (unless you transfer a domestic flight there), it takes at least 4 hours from Hakata via a combination of Shinkansen and local express train. But in my opinion, it’s also the most attractive, and serves some of the best cuisines in Kyushu.

Let me touch on a little about Aigoma farming technique.

Most farmers these days use pesticide and chemical fertiliser in their farm, this is by far the most productive and economical method. Aigoma farming is about as organic as it can get, by raising wheats along with ducks. These ducks prey on insects for food, while their waste act as fertiliser for the wheats. Hence, you can imagine prices in Kyushu Pancake Cafe won’t come cheap, not with Japanese import ingredients anyway, but it remains reasonable if you consider all these factors.

Matcha Tiramisu, $16.00++

I ordered their Matcha Tiramisu pancakes, which was served with matcha powder, Mascarpone cheese, Hoji-cha sauce, and a scoop of ice cream. It’s worth noting that the pancake texture itself was a little sticky and savoury to my liking, but the Mascarpone cheese and matcha powder are excellent complement to the pancakes. In addition, the vanilla ice cream is top notch, as rich as the milk from Japan. Those who love Japanese milk will know what I meant, it fully justifies its price in supermarket, though I can find it a lot cheaper in Japan. That little cup of syrup is what I believe to be Hoji-cha sauce, I was instructed to pour it over the pancakes before consuming, but my suggestion is to try the pancakes on its own first before doing so, then you can compare the diversification in taste.

BLT Burger, $11.90++

BLT Burger is a savoury type pancakes, with crisp fried hash brown, thick slice honey baked ham, lettuce, and tomato. I actually find their pancake goes better with such savoury ingredients though and my dining partner even claims this is the best pancakes she had ever tried.

High Ball Coffee Bomber, $8++

Well, you certainly expect a cafe to serve nice coffee, and this is particularly interesting, High Ball Coffee Bomber. What it actually is, concentrated coffee is frozen into ice ball, then gradually melts under room temperature, while milk is pour over it to experience a different concentration level of coffee. Kyushu Pancake Cafe is using Costa Rica beans from an altitude of 1,200m for this, which have undergone a certain Tarrazu honey process, and resulted with a sweet fruity note, good acidity with velvety body, as well as a smooth finish.

Kyushu Pancake Cafe have recently launched 3 types of premium artisan coffee, at time of my visit, they are having a promotion. And although I have just mentioned Costa Rica coffee beans been used in their High Ball Coffee Bomber, it is also served as drip coffee here, along with two other types of coffee, with the left most being the most concentrated, and Costa Rica the least.

El Salvador Drip Coffee, $9++

Ignore the High Ball Coffee Bomb in the backdrop, my El Salvador coffee was served without sugar nor milk. It came with a tin pot of hot water, plus a glass of coffee powder, which the waiter helped pour them into the dripper sitting on top of a cup. I think in this region, we regularly heard about Costa Rica and Ethiopia coffee, not so much on El Salvador coffee though, and I wonder how many have heard about this tiny Central American country? Anyway, this coffee is said to be having a deep, intricate note, with hints of plum, chocolate, hazelnuts, and a smooth finish. I’ve got to confess I’m not a coffee person, more of a tea fan actually. I do find its acidity moderate, with a rich body, certainly can make a good grade of coffee. Even the waiter jokingly mentioned, this coffee thoroughly complement the sweet pancake that I ordered!

OK, so much for the food & beverages.

Perhaps due to shortage of manpower (or whatever the reason), order and payment is made in advance at the cashier counter, while food are later served to the table. Good thing the service of the waiters was pleasant, and I didn’t have to dispute the service charge I paid upfront.

In addition, I remember this isn’t their first venture here in Singapore. Their previous premise is at Novena Regency, that exact same unit now occupying by Menya Kanae, which I patronise 2 months earlier. I remember mentioning something like ‘unless you have something truly exceptional, else you won’t succeed there’ in that review. That statement, although mentioned in somewhat similar aura, ironically holds truth for Kyushu Pancake Cafe. And I must confess, before my visit today, I didn’t know Kyushu Pancake Cafe was its previous tenant. What I am trying to stress is, unless you are offering something genuinely exceptional, the location of your outlet is predominant to your success.

Oh, and for those who are thinking of visiting their franchise while traveling in Kyushu, they currently have 3 outlets in Miyazaki, and 1 inside Takeo Library, Saga. None of them is easily accessible, nor are they within popular tourist spots. They do have oversea franchise in Taiwan though.

Kyushu Pancake Cafe
25 Lorong Liput
(Behind Holland Road Shopping Centre)
Singapore 277735
Tel: +65 63526265
Website: http://www.kyushu-pancake.sg/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kyushupancake.sg/

Opening Hours:
Tue – Sun: 11:00 – 21:00
Close on Mon

Afuri Ramen

Published January 2, 2021 by piggie

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to try a unique cup noodle, and was awed by its flavour. But subsequently, I was either unable to find it in local supermarkets, or simply found it overpriced ($4.90 for a cup noodle anyone?? OK, it’s Japan made). I remember the lid of the cup noodle spells ‘Afuri Ramen’, thought of getting it during one of my Japan holidays, but believe it or not, I couldn’t even find it in any supermarkets I patronise in Japan.

So what’s so special about it? It has an aromatic Yuzu flavour that makes it stand out from the rest. I am a big fan of Japanese Yuzu, hence that really entices me. I was delighted when I learned that Afuri Ramen is opening a new branch in Singapore, at Funan Mall to be exact. Though I didn’t patronise them until they open another outlet in VivoCity.

Yuzu goes well with Shio (salt), and I actually always attempt to purchase Yuzu salt whenever I visit Japan, trust me, it’s not easy to find. So naturally, I had wanted to try Afuri’s Yuzu Shio ramen, but since my dining partner opted that too, I settled for their Yuzu Shoyu ramen instead, as always, wanted to try their different broth.

Yuzu Shoyu Ramen, $15.90++

When the noodles were served, I caught a tint of Yuzu fragrance, immediately I knew this was the aroma I crave for!
As expected, my Shoyo ramen broth turns out a little more salty than the Shio broth that my dining partner had. I believe they are both chicken broth with dry fish, konbu seaweed, along with some vegetables such as dashi. My bowl of ramen had a thicker Shoyu than I would have likened, and came with one slice of charshu, seaweed, bamboo shoot, and half a runny egg, likewise for the Shio version. I have to confess there is practically nothing much to brag about the ingredients, they are decent, though I like their charshu still retains the chewiness upon serving.

Yuzu Shio Ramen, $15.90

Yuzu Shio Ramen are having practically the same ingredients as their Shoyu counterpart, with the exception of course, being the broth. And in my opinion, this is by far the better broth than Shoyu, because I like its lightness which thoroughly complement the Yuzu flavour. I had tried Yuzu ramen from a restaurant in Beppu (Oita prefecture), Kyushu, but the end result was massively pathetic. This despite Oita being famous for their Yuzu, second perhaps to Kochi. And Afuri Ramen actually originated from Kanagawa, certainly not a prefecture famous for their farming products. This elaborates how much Afuri Ramen had done their homework resulting in a golden proportion on the seasoning in order to come out this balance. And they need to use chicken broth instead of tonkotsu so that the stronger flavour of the latter does not overpower the presence of Yuzu. Overall, this is brilliant, worth the extra dollars over something similar but without the Yuzu aroma elsewhere.

Yuzu Ratan Ramen, $15.90++

Just when I thought I had tried one of the best ramen ever at Afuri Ramen, I need to relegate their Yuzu Shio Ramen. Don’t get me wrong, not that it ain’t good enough, but I have just found something superior!

Yuzu Ratan Ramen, or otherwise their Yuzu spicy ramen, is very much like a spicy version of their Yuzu Shio ramen, still retaining that mild saltiness of a Shio broth, as well as a light Yuzu flavour. It is said that the chicken broth is made using fresh chili, not chili powder, hence I do feel the spiciness, but not the choking feeling of spices. Overall, this is a very appetising and flavourful bowl of ramen, absolutely fulfilling!

Crispy Gyoza, $5.90++

At time of my visit, Afuri Ramen was having 50% off selected sides with every order of a ramen. I added this one, Crispy Gyoza.

I like the crispiness of their gyoza, I feel Japanese gyoza should be done this way. The good thing is, other than just mayonnaise, Afuri Ramen also provides chili along with it.

 

Menya Kanae Hokkaido Singapore 麺や かなゑ

Published November 14, 2020 by piggie

Menya Kanae has recently opened a new restaurant at Novena Regency (where??), and with some exclusive ramen.
Since they were offering 1-for-1 on selected ramen during their opening weekend, me and my dining partner were tempted to try their signature Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen ($19.80++), which is by default spicy, and include ingredients such as flame-seared tiger prawns, charshu, half ajitama (runny egg), bamboo shoot, seaweed, and sakura ebi tempura flakes.

Due to the promotion, we waited slightly more than an hour before we managed to grab a pair of seats, but in my opinion, this is unlikely to be repeated after the dust are settled. Still, this was significantly shorter than the 150m queue outside Ippudo Westgate I encountered the evening before, which I literally gave up, unwilling to wait for what I felt could take 1-2 hours.

First and foremost, I need to comment on Menya Kanae’s location (currently there are 2, I am referring to their Novena Regency here). If you aren’t driving, then chances are, many may not want to walk across from Novena MRT station to Novena Regency just to try their ramen. In fact, their outlet at Orchard Central Hokkaido Marche is more walkable if not for some exclusive menu here.

Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen, $19.80++

As I mentioned, their signature ramen is Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen. On their menu, it is listed as spicy, although non-spicy option is also available. I can take such spiciness level, but I strongly recommend avoiding the spicy version. Reason being, if you want to pay premium for prawn broth, then at least you wanna smell and taste the aroma right? And not compromising on just another broth overpowered by excessive chili powder which almost numb your taste bud. Japanese hardly receive to such spiciness, so it must be an attempt to customise according to local flavour no less. Unfortunately, the broth of this ramen gave me such an impression. Eventually, whether prawn shell was used in the broth or not simply became inconsequential, because the aroma was just not there, neither was the taste. Noodle wise, they are using Hokkaido-styled conventional thick, round noodle, which I feel is reasonably firm. Charshu was what I found pathetic, just 2 tiny strips of charshu, makes me wonder whether they deliberately sliced it in half to make up for the number. Though, to be honest, I find it nice probably because they are using pork belly, and actually, since they flame-seared the prawns anyway, might as well do it for the pork belly too. Tiger prawns are reasonably large, tasty and flavourful, possibly the best ingredients in the bowl. All in all, I find this spicy version just mediocre, which is more so the reason why it’s hard to tempt me driving here, or take a long walk from Novena MRT station. If anything, I’ll probably visit more of their Orchard Central branch, more convenience for me in any way. That said, if Menya Kanae is relying on their spicy ramen, or prawn broth ramen, to boost up popularity in their Novena Regency outlet, I personally feel they ought to do more.

Belle-ville Pancake Cafe

Published October 18, 2020 by piggie

Strawberry and Mixed Berry Pancake, $14.40++

This must be my discovery of the year!

My dining partner and I were looking for something lite after a heavy lunch followed by a coffee break, so that we could effectively conclude dinner. Actually, we were more of like searching for their competitor (ie Kyushu Pancake Cafe, whom I had actually attempted to visit their outlet in Takeo Onsen when I was touring Kyushu early this year), when we discovered Belle-ville, which I had passed by dozen times, but never ever notice it under my poking eyes. In fact, it passed off as an American establishment to me, and I was like, well, I had tried one of the best American pancakes in New York (Clinton St Baking Co), how good can this be? Especially that particular New York restaurant famous for their pancakes has now opened up their first oversea branch in Singapore after I visited The Big Apple in 2013.

But this time round, we had wanted something lite, and we found one of Belle-ville’s local franchise located in the vicinity, and I must reiterate we went over without much expectation.

Belle-ville serves meringue Millefeuille Pancake (Millefeuille means thousand-layer in French), with toppings such as fresh cream, Azuki red beans, butter, and ice-cream depending on what you order, or you can also add on to customise your pancakes. As can see from the picture above, my order is Strawberry and Mixed Berry Pancake, and you get to choose whether you want toppings on top only, or have them sandwiched between different pancakes layers as well, the latter of course, will command a higher price. Mine is the latter with 4 pieces pancakes, I feel the volume was just enough for our sharing.

Our pancakes were served with strawberries and Hokkaido cream on top, along with a piece of mint leaf, and of course, with strawberry and mixed berry filling in-between. While I expected the pancakes to have little distinction from McDonald’s Hot Cakes, I was utterly wrong there. Slicing it was very effortless! It was like soft and fluffy, a bit like melt-in-your-mouth type of texture. Next, freshness of the berries don’t lie, the sweetness is such a great complement, which truly brings the satisfaction up a few levels. I think, to say I have never tried pancake this great is not an exaggeration. Belle-ville’s pancakes are indeed softer and tastier, fully bringing out the sweetness of the eggs used, while Clinton St Baking Co is more on the savoury side, and with more firmness. But if I really have to pick side, I will stick with Belle-ville. In fact, I was so satisfied that I made up my mind to be back, as soon as the next day!

Belle-ville Pancakes is hailed from Osaka, and Singapore is their first oversea venture. I reckon that they have probably been here for 2 years, or maybe more? But nonetheless, my recommendation is to try them. They have more than just strawberry and mixed berry pancakes of course, which in my opinion, will be the real test for any doubters, because unlike more conventional pancakes, this one here is more difficult to maintain the quality due to fruits having their own season and even then, not all fruits taste the same. Let me assure you that this visit was not sponsored and if I can recommend it, it’s definitely worth a try!

Tsuta 蔦

Published October 3, 2020 by piggie

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.

Shio Soba, S$15++

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.

Shoyu Soba, S$15++

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.

Teriyaki Tori Paitan Soba, S$11.80++

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 don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a poor ramen, just decent in my humble opinion, somewhat reflected in its price.

Ramen Hitoyoshi

Published September 9, 2020 by piggie

Hitoyoshi is actually a small town in Kumamoto, Kyushu. Although Kumamoto city has some very famous ramen restaurant, but the same cannot be said on Hitoyoshi. It is, in fact, famous for bento sold by an old uncle on the station platform, and is otherwise known as a transfer station for some of Kyushu’s popular sightseeing trains. That said, I doubt Ramen Hitoyoshi has anything to do with this scenic Kyushu town.

Ramen Hitoyoshi is actually a local ramen chain. I understand their owners had worked for some famous ramen restaurants, notably the popular Keisuke franchise, hence I more or less knew I can expect a decent Tonkotsu ramen over there. Ramen Hitoyoshi somewhat adopted a similar practice of Ichiran Ramen in Japan (Why ain’t the ramen chain in Singapore yet anyway??), letting customers customise their noodles in terms of broth richness, oil level, thick or thin noodles, noodles texture, as well as a range of additional toppings and side dishes. Indifferent to Ichiran Ramen however, they don’t offer partition seating, and they offer free marinated bean sprouts and sweet corns.

Garlic Tonkotsu with Ajitamago, $13.90++

Their menu basically has three main ramen categories, namely the Original, Spicy, and Garlic, all of them tonkotsu based nonetheless. I went for their Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen with Ajitamago ($13.90++). My bowl of ramen came with a large but thin piece of charshu, black fungus, spring onions, and of course, two halves of a runny egg.
I always feel Tonkotsu broth goes well with thin noodle, so it’s a no brainer for that category. And I selected normal hardness, my noodle turned out to be chewy as expected. The garlic aroma is not that overpowering, just nice to my liking, or else my dining partner would be grumbling because she hates that smell.

Spicy Tonkotsu with Ajitamago, $13.90++

My dining partner ordered Spicy Tonkotsu with Ajitamago ($13.90++). At first, I thought they simply added chilli into the noodle. Nope, their chilli paste tasted more complicated, if I’m not wrong, there are minced meat within, possibly dried shrimp, so it’s far more flavourful than just chili. Overall, the broth is more appetising than conventional tonkotsu, but it’s very spicy too.

In general, I’d say the quality is good. But I still have that mindset that local ramen shouldn’t cost as much as a conventional Japanese ramen restaurant unless they have some unique signature, which unfortunately Ramen Hitoyoshi doesn’t possess enough.

At time of writing, J Passport members get to enjoy a free drink on the house for their first visit.

Website: https://hitoyoshigroup.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RamenHitoyoshiSG/

Ramen Nagi

Published July 26, 2020 by piggie

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.

Black King, $15.90++

We were given an order sheet upon seated, and I had settled for their Black King ramen, carefully selecting a different broth from my dining companion just so we can taste the different broth.

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.

Red King, $15.90++

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.