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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

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.

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 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.

Kanshoku Ramen Bar

Published July 19, 2020 by piggie

Prior to me trying truffle ramen at Suparakki Ramen, I have actually been eyeing Kanshoku Ramen (Bar) for sometime. But them not having any promotion was the reason why I didn’t try them earlier, until today.

For a conventional Tonkotsu or Shoyu ramen that starts at $13.90, it has better demonstrate some extraordinary edges for it to be worthwhile. But really, what propelled Kanshoku Ramen to much fanfare cannot be further from their Truffle Ramen, be it dry or in broth. Kanshoku Ramen is actually a local set up since 2014, so that takes away some authenticity and have to be complemented with creativity. I guess that’s how their Truffle Ramen came about.

So, me and my dining partner went in with only one thing in mind, their truffle ramen, one dry and one broth, so as to try and experience the best of both world in one sitting.

Truffle Broth Ramen, $17.90++

This is their most expensive ramen on the menu, needless to say, it has to be distinctive. Served with shaved Italian truffle, truffle pate, and blended with truffle oil, the broth is simply aromatic, didn’t quite overpower the nature of the Tonkotsu broth, but adding a finest that quite make this the king of all broth. Truffle, after all, isn’t being known as one of world’s three best ingredients without a reason. This is really not a Japanese thing, but the epitome of Europe’s finest delicacy easily overshadow the Japanese signature in this ramen, then again, let’s remember, that Japanese cuisines have a hugh influence from the continental, and they are very efficient in transforming an imported cuisine to make it their own, and better it in many ways.

To be honest, the couple thin slices of truffles are too little to whet my appetite, but then again, to ask for more is synonymous to asking them to increase the price. Other than that, there are two small, thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth charshu, cabbages, sesame, in addition to what I had mentioned in the above paragraph. Their noodle is my favourite Hakata-styled, thin and chewy, if anything, I find its quantity too little comparing to conventional ramen vendors.

Truffle Ramen, $16.90++

For me, this is really special! Slices of shaved Italian truffle, truffle pate, and truffle oil truly spice up the chewy Hakata-styled thin noodle, and because it doesn’t come with broth, I feel the noodle is able to absorb a gigantic portion of truffle flavour, and with the sous vide egg providing a magical touch, the result is absolutely spellbinding! Naturally, I couldn’t help comparing with Suparakki Ramen’s own Truffle Ramen, but this one really brings it up a few notches. It’s less oily, tastier, and the torched charshu possess that added savoury missing from the broth version, complement the noodle magnificently.

In fact, after this, me and my dining partner had our coffee and fries elsewhere, and the remaining truffle aroma still lingering with the fries so well, that we couldn’t help suspecting the fries were sprinkled with truffle oil too!

添好運

Published July 13, 2020 by piggie

在新加坡的美食登入米其林殿堂之前,世界上最便宜的米其林美食當屬香港,就是港式點心餐廳《添好運》。那時,添好運還未曾涉足新加坡。而米其林的游戲規則是,所頒發的獎勵是不能和其他分店共享的,也就是説,香港港鉄站的添好運不能沾深水埔添好運米其林1星的光環。我曾經試過深水埔的添好運,當時只覺得口感中上,價錢倒算得上實惠。那時心想,要是這樣也能摘得米其林1星的話,那我要對米其林的遴選標準質疑了,尤其是我覺得香港稻香超級漁港的點心更爲出色。後來添好運於2013年開始涉足海外,新加坡市場就是其擴張的第一步,剛開幕時掀起的旋風讓饕客甘心排隊3小時捧場,可見其受歡迎程度不止於香港。

我不是2013年的跟風者,第一次在新加坡吃大概還是2018年的事,當時還是朋友邀請的,那時早已經沒有排隊數小時的瘋狂。而這篇食評則是2020年中嘗試的,也不是在其獅城大廈的旗艦店,若不是想帶媽媽試試,或許也不會前來。

酥皮焗叉燒包,$6.80++

第一次來添好運的話,務必嘗試其鎮山之寶–酥皮焗叉燒包。我第一次在香港嘗試時只覺得一般,但是這回感覺有改善,醬汁更爲鮮甜,更能襯托外酥内軟的麵包,也正由於這相得益彰的口感,為添好運贏得不少口碑。還記得其獅城大廈旗艦店剛開業時,店家還限定酥皮焗叉燒包的外賣數量,以確保堂食的顧客有機會嘗試,當時的情況真不知該說是瘋狂還是誇張,也許該歸功於米其林指南剛染指新加坡的效應吧!

豉汁蒸肉排芋頭,$5.50++

其實,這名稱簡稱排骨就夠了。但是你知道的,一道菜色若是有個意氣風發的名堂,定然能爲其生色不少。言下之意,就是説除了排骨之外,其他也沒什麽值得贊揚的。這道菜是媽媽點的,雖然媽媽厨藝出色,但不知爲何她點菜的眼光總是那麽教人大失所望。有一回在杭州,她找的一家餐館,讓我吃了畢生最難忘、最難吃的一餐後,之後很長一段時間我都自己點餐了。

言歸正傳,媽媽很拿手蒸排骨,她蒸的排骨色香味俱全,相比之下,就覺得添好運的排骨平平無奇。首先,我很納悶這道菜爲什麽要加芋頭?芋頭原本無味,而不知是不是爲了響應吃得健康,添好運的豉油偏淡,總覺得芋頭和排骨根本格格不入。除了肉質還算有些鮮甜,實質上在新加坡隨便找一家點心店,其口感大概都勝過添好運的排骨。

鮮蝦水餃湯,$6.80++

港式水餃是出了名的,所以我也點了這道水餃湯讓媽媽嘗試。添好運的水餃餡料除了鮮蝦之外,還有竹筍、黑木耳等,口感爽口扎實,非常受用!但是若要挑剔的話,我嫌那湯頭平淡。不過這不僅是添好運的因素,基本上大多數港澳的面家都如此。新馬一帶的水餃沒那麽出色,倒是湯頭略勝一籌。

鮮蝦燒賣皇,$5.00++

港式點心一般上少不了水餃和燒賣,而添好運的燒賣除了賣相佳,口感也著實不錯,内餡混合了豬肉和蝦肉,非常彈牙美味,再加上枸紀子點綴,賣相更上一層樓!

美味燜鮮竹卷,$6.00++

單看圖片,很容易認爲這和一般的炸竹卷類似,其實口感南轅北轍,其重點在於“燜”字,因此口感絲毫不會酥脆。我知道其他點心餐館絕大部分都是將鮮竹卷拿來炸,强調其酥脆口感,但是沒想到添好運炸後再用燜的方式居然還能帶出另一種風情,再加上内餡鮮嫩的豬肉和蝦肉,在獨特醬汁的帶味下,益發帶出其色彩。

鮮菇蒸腸粉,$5.50++

這又是另一道媽媽叫的失敗之作。如果是我叫的話,我大概會選擇叉燒或鮮蝦内餡。不知道媽媽是爲了替我省錢還是不想吃那麽多肉,總之這道腸粉很可惜,完全不入味,即便沾了很多豉油,口感還是非常平淡,不禁讓我再次懷疑,是不是因爲健康因素而使用了少鹽豉油?有一點媽媽和我都認同的,就是換做使用冬菇口感絕對會更好。

香辣蝦仁炒蘿蔔糕,$8.80++

添好運的蘿蔔糕我在香港吃過,口感只是一般。但這道香辣蝦仁炒蘿蔔糕卻很特別,加入了芹菜、豆芽、青葱、和炒蛋,整個口感就起了翻天覆地的變化,真的色香味俱全,是我所吃過的最好吃的白蘿蔔糕之一。可惜這道菜色僅在今年6月中旬推出2個月,之後還有沒有機會嘗試就看緣分了。

 

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai

Published March 1, 2020 by piggie

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai, formerly at Liang Court, have now shifted to Great World City (oh wait, I have just learned that Great World City has amended its name to ‘Great World’ as I am penning this review).

Many thanks to JPassport on the food tasting invitation for this opportunity to re-visit Nirai-Kanai at their new site, and even though I have personally visited them twice at their former premise, this time I brought along a dining partner new to Okinawan cuisines. I thought since I have reviewed them previously, let’s also hear what someone new to Okinawa cuisines has to say, along with my personal take on items that I have not tried previously.

The name Nirai-Kanai actually means the god’s world in the distance of the sea, that’s got to be a reminiscence to the location of Okinawa, which is situated in the middle of East China Sea. Despite being a part of Japan, Okinawa is very unique, even in the eyes of Japanese, not just in terms of climate, but culture and culinary too! In fact, when my friend took a look at their menu, her first comment was, “I thought this looks like a Chinese cuisine menu!”

Well, she ain’t wrong, because in history, Okinawa, or rather the former Ryukyu kingdom, had Chinese heritage. And since the WWII, even American culture has integrated into their lives. Thus, making Okinawa looks like a foreign land even to the Japanese. As such, don’t expect Okinawa cuisine to possess that meticulous presentation usually associated with Japanese cuisines, they taste significantly different too!

Alright, let’s get into the food! 🙂

Umibudo, $14++

Soon as we were seated, we were immediately served Umibudo, which literally translates into sea grapes. Sea grapes, otherwise also known as Green Caviar for its look and taste, is in fact a unique kind of seaweed with a soft and succulent texture. It is served raw and has a mild savoury taste on its own, every bite seems to release the favour of the sea! It is not unique to Okinawa though, but having it raw means that you will appreciate it coming from cleaner water, and Okinawa is known to have pristine sea. As such, Okinawa’s sea grapes are overwhelmingly regarded as the premium grade. Those who desire a more intense flavour can also dip them in the accompanied Ponzu sauce. In addition, having these here also offers us a perfect opportunity to sharpen our pathetic chopstick skills! LOL!

Okinawa Soki Soba / Soup Noodle with Simmered Pork Rib (S), $7.60++

Disregard the name ‘soba’ here, this is Okinawan-styled ramen! Japan occasionally use the term soba even for ramen, and Nirai-Kanai uses thick, flat, egg-noodle here, in fact the unevenness of the noodle suggests it’s probably handmade, and Nirai-Kanai imports them directly from Okinawa! Their noodle has a firm but chewy texture, and because of its unevenness, it makes the noodle easier to retain the light broth. As you can see, in contrast to conventional Japanese ramen, in place of the charshu is their simmered pork rib, and this is a very different flavour from conventional ramen, if I may say, it’s resembling more towards Chinese noodle with a humbling but hearty taste.

Rafute / Simmered Pork Belly (S), $9.80++

I’m sure my dining partner must be kidding when she asked, “Where’s the Kong-Bak Pau?”

While general Japanese would probably preferred having pork belly grilled, Okinawan had them simmered. And unlike our Kong-Bak Pau, the light soy sauce is less sinful and complicated than our local’s black sauce version. But let’s not be disillusioned by its presentation, the pork belly are said to have been slow-cooked in three Okinawan seasonings, namely Awamori (Okinawa distilled liquor), Okinawan brown sugar, and soy sauce, the end result is a very sophisticated flavour that massively brings out the taste of the pork belly. It is said that this was also a royal cuisine from the former Ryukyu kingdom, a must try for anyone new to Okinawan cuisine!

Chinbin with Whipped Cream / Okinawan Brown Sugar Pancakes with Whipped Cream, $9.80++

The last item in our tasting menu is my overwhelming favourite, Okinawan Brown Sugar Pancakes. Brown sugar from Okinawa is very famous for its deep, rich flavour, made from sugar canes grown in fields blessed with rich minerals. It has a wide range of health benefits, and presents widely in Okinawan cuisines, possibly one reason why Okinawan tend to live a long life expectancy.

The Brown Sugar Pancakes here comes with whipped cream, but it’s sweet enough on its own, and serves as a delightful dessert after meals.

That’s all for the tasting menu, but we have also ordered Okinawan Pancake with Leek and Red Ginger, as we don’t feel like walking away without paying anything.

Okinawan Pancake (Leek and Red Ginger), $9++

This is another of my favourites which I was eager to introduce to my dining partner. I love bonito, and thought she likes it too. But I forgot she dislikes leek, which ended up, she only took a few slices here. Nonetheless, I love to see the bonito flakes ‘dancing’ when it was served, and it goes well with or without the supplied sauce. Taste wise, it’s completely different from the Brown Sugar Pancake, the latter is sweet, while this is savoury. To me, it’s like flavour of the sea in a pancake!

Alright, I have come to the end of this review. Once again, I would like to express my thanks to J Passport and Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai for the invitation. You know what, after trying Okinawan cuisines at Nirai-Kanai, if you are lucky enough, you may get to try them in Okinawa too! In collaboration with Okinawa Prefectural Government Singapore office, Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai is having a “Dine and GO Okinanawa” campaign, offering a chance to visit Okinawa for free, with return direct flights, along with 20kg baggage pax to every diner visiting between 15 Feb – 15 Mar 2020.

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai
1 Kim Seng Promenade #01-107/108
Great World (City)
Singapore 237994
Tel: +65 63394811
Website: http://niraikanai-sg.hungry.jp/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/niraikanai.sg/

Opening Hours: 11:30 – 15:00, 18:00 – 22:00