Japanese

All posts in the Japanese category

Suparakki Ramen

Published December 20, 2019 by piggie

I’ve got to confess I don’t usually visit local ramen restaurant before I visit Suparakki Ramen, but my first visit there really got me awed. Yes, although the name sounded Japanese (which means Super Lucky), it is really the joint effort of three local passionate chaps who undergone rigourous training in Japan prior to setting up restaurants here. Knowing that they probably cannot challenge the legacy of major ramen chains here, their strategy is to keep their price modest while delivering quality noodles. To sustain that, you can see the decor are basic, tables are optimised, leaving barely much room for manoeuvre, and even diners have to fetch their own noodles when their numbers are flashed, in other words, self-service. In trade-off, of course, there will be no service charge. Diners basically order and pay upon entering, and will be given an electronic buzzer before getting into the restaurant to choose their seats.

Tonkotsu Black Garlic Ramen, $9.90+

Suparakki Ramen use typical Hakata-styled noodles, and hard boiled Tonkotsu broth for 6 hours without adding MSG. I had this Tonkotsu Black Garlic Ramen, which is the most expensive ramen on their menu, and comes with two thin slices of Charshu, half a runny egg, scallions, black fungus, and seaweed. Even though without using MSG, I did not notice any unpleasant pork scent in their broth, which was overpowered by the nice aroma of black garlic anyway. In addition, I was also asked upon ordering whether I’d like their normal or spicy version, which I selected the latter, without incurring any extra charges. It can hardly go wrong with the thin Hakata-styled Hosomen used, which was cooked to a perfect firmness too. Frankly speaking, for such quality and configuration, one usually pay double the price from an established Japanese ramen chain in sunny island Singapore. As a matter of fact, I just patronise one the day before, seriously, double the price 😛

Tonkotsu Gyokai Ramen, $8.90+

My dining partner ordered their Tonkotsu Gyokai Ramen, which is the integration of pork and fish broth, while the ingredients inside are the same as mine. Again, no unpleasant pork smell, came with a hint of bonito, but I ain’t suggesting that they merely using Bonito flakes. It’s saltier, and Suparakki claim that their broth is akin to Tsukemen, where the broth is usually thicker, but not in this case certainly, or else it would be too excessive.

Set A, Ebi Fry ($5.50+)

For an additional $5.50+, I got 3 Ebi tempura plus a drink of my choice, which I selected Heaven & Earth Ayataka Green Tea. They do serve hot green tea too, as well as Coke, and if i remember correctly, mineral water. I have to say their choice of beverages are quite limited, but who cares when there are so many beverages option available in the malls they are located at. The tempura prawns are crisp, freshly fried upon ordering by the way. Besides Ebi Fry*, other option include Karaage and Gyoza, these, along with Chashu and Ajitama are also available as stand-alone add-ons. All in all, we were very satisfied with our meals, and I will surely return.

*Ebi Fry is not available at their Citylink Mall branch.

Subsequent Visit

My 4th visit came within a week from my first, you read that right, forth visit. I guess that’s sufficient statement to say how much I love their ramen, which is also reasonably cheap. My multiple visit only involve one new flavour, so I’ll just touch on their Dry Truffle Ramen here.

Dry Truffle Ramen, $6.90+

Suparakki Ramen’s Dry Truffle Ramen is using ingredients such as black fungus, half a runny egg, shredded seaweed, scallions, and braised pork cube, and of course, truffle oil. The chewy Hakata-styled Hosomen noodle is more springy than those in their broth ramen, and I feel in using braised pork cube instead of conventional chashu here is a masterstroke, the saltier pork raised the flavour of the noodle up a few notches, and the aroma of truffle oil is absolutely scintillating. The result is what made me go back repeatedly for more, this has got to be one of the best ramen I’ve ever tried, in my opinion, better than many I patronised in Japan. Having said that, I have to confess my dining partners have very contrasting opinion though, one of them like this because she dislike pork broth, another dislike this because she doesn’t like truffle scent. I can do with both! 😀

Suparakki Ramen currently have outlets in North Point, Westgate, and Citylink Mall.

Website: https://suparakki.com.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Suparakkiramen

&Joy Dining Hall

Published December 8, 2019 by piggie

Yeah, the name &Joy Dining Hall does sound strange. It only recently opens at Jurong Point Basement along Japanese Food Street, and mainly comprises 6 main dining elements, namely Ramen Kiou, Sushi-GO, Roman.Tei, Pittarino, Wadori, and My Gohan. Some of these can be considered as stand alone restaurants, while others are sharing a common dining area. Besides that, there is also another sub-element, &Joy Eats•&Joy Drinks, somewhat like the drink stall inside a food court.

Realistically, I ain’t able to cover every element in my first visit, let’s begin with Pittarino, a stand alone pizza restaurant. I can understand, pizza is not really a Japanese thing, so why is it here?

Well, the Japanese are well known for their take on foreign cuisines, for example, ramen wasn’t really Japanese to begin with, but their evolution from their Chinese predecessors are so massive that these days, people tends to think the Chinese stole it from the Japanese because in general, ramen tastes so much better than many of their China counterparts. I said that not just because I love Japanese cuisines, but I had visited many cities in both China and Japan, and the probability of finding horrible noodles in China far exceed that in Japan. Coming back to pizza, I have to reiterate, I have been to Italy too, but ironically, I found the best pizza in Japan, seriously, inside a humble Kanazawa eatery, far away from the country’s culinary capitols (ie. Tokyo, Osaka).

Half – Half: Smoked Salmon & Prosciutto, $16++

This is only available during Pittarino’s opening promotion, offering half a slice each of their Smoked Salmon pizza and Prosciutto pizza, giving patrons a taste of both pizza for one price, both usually going for $17.90++ each (12″ whole pizza). One look at the pizza crust, you can tell it’s not pre-baked, it’s only baked upon order, because they can never anticipate what type of combination a customer wants. Amazingly, they can do it in 90 seconds! It’s not really a matter of speed, but by doing so in 90 seconds, they can maintain the juicy texture of the toppings, this is really how a good pizza ought to be done, and I can safely assure, you will find it very different from your usual pizza franchise.

Let me first touch on their Smoked Salmon pizza. It’s a cream based pizza with rocket, caper, tomatoes, lemon, and of course, smoked salmon. This is my favourite, and a chef recommendation. If the ingredient list ain’t sound convincing enough, the taste was fantastic, an excellent fusion of savoury, sourness, blend coherently with the cream to create a very appetising take, if anything, I thought the caper brought out the essence of the pizza!

As for the Prosciutto & Rocket pizza, despite having a more appealing appearance, would have to settle for second best. Prosciutto is Italian dried-cured ham, and naturally it’s slightly on the salty side, but the added tomato sauce, rocket, and Grana Padano cheese generate a good balance, and eventually, the juiciness truly made this pizza remarkable.

Tomato Cheese Ramen, $14.90

And this would be the ramen after it was stirred

Hailed from Osaka, Ramen Kiou’s signature ramen gotta be this Tomato Cheese Ramen. I believe the broth must be a pork based soup, but there is little hint of it as any Tonkotsu flavour is overpowered by the rich tomato broth. In the bowl, apart from the cheese, there ain’t any charshu, but only pork slices, veggie, and thin noodle. The taste is very much akin to tomato spaghetti but in a soup version. I’d say it’s very appetising!

Ebi Chahan, $8.90

We also ordered Ramen Kiou’s Ebi Chahan, and added a piece of Chashu. As can be seen from the picture, they use prawns and dried shrimps in their Ebi Chahan, but something just ain’t quite right. Perhaps it’s due to the dried shrimps, I smell strong aroma from that of mouldy food, quite akin to those you gather from Yam or Dried Mushroom fried rice. I don’t like it, I’d say, wasted the ingredients in this fried rice. I lose appetite straightaway. That said, I paid $2 extra for the chashu, which is great to be honest.

For Ramen Kiou, as it is basically a kiosk order, self-service concept, there is no additional service charges.

&Joy Dining Hall
1 Jurong West Central 2, #B1-49
Jurong Point
Singapore 648886
Website: http://njoydininghall.com.sg

Opening Hours~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Flaming Don

Published October 25, 2019 by piggie

I actually discover Flaming Don by chance, allow me to reiterate that if you are looking for authentic Japanese fix, then this is probably not your cup of tea. Flaming Don claims to offer modern take on Japanese rice bowl, meaning expect a little twist to your conventional Japanese donburi, and after eating, I have to confess, the chemistry is damn good!

Their eatery at Bugis + (not sure about their other outlet at Bukit Panjang Plaza though) is pretty much a self-service concept. You order from the automated kiosk, collect your order chit, then wait for your number to be flashed before collecting your order.

Salmon Don, $12.90

Their Salmon Don features grilled Norwegian salmon with runny fried egg underneath, along with broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Quite usually, certain ingredients in a dish will be inferior to another, however, I can’t fault any here at all. The vegetables are fresh, the salmon grilled to perfection with a crisp exterior but not overdone so that a chewy texture remains, even the egg still retain both attributes of a runny egg and a fried egg, the end product is absolutely flavourful!

Salmon Aburi Don, $12.90

It’s easy to be deceived by the somewhat lacklustre appearance of this Salmon Aburi Don in juxtaposition with their Salmon Don above. Blame it on my camera phone perhaps, but underneath the generous spicy mayonnaise, the salmon are cooked differently from their Salmon Don. I found the salmon interior still retain a semi-raw texture, and the cohesion with the spicy mayonnaise actually taste surprisingly good!

In both cases, I wasn’t sure whether Japanese rice are used (Japonica no doubt), but the end composition are more than satisfying, in fact, I was so impressed that I took another group of friends here for another round a week later. In addition, after I penned this review, I found out some very negative feedback about Flaming Don, I need to highlight that my visit was not sponsored, and I noted the items I ate are different from other reviewers. Seems to me their quality fluctuates like share market! LOL!

Flaming Don currently has two outlets, their flagship store is this one at Bugis +

Flaming Don
201 Victoria Street
Bugis + #05-02/03
Singapore 188067
Tel: +65 68357019
Website: http://flamingdon.com.sg/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:30 hr – 21:30 hr

Shirakaba Sansou 白樺山荘

Published October 25, 2019 by piggie

Miso Char-siu Men, $16

I have big sentiment towards Shirakaba Sansou dating back to 2007. It was the first of my 15 trips to Japan, having my first ramen in Sapporo from ESTA’s Ramen Republic. I walked around the premise and selected Shirakaba Sansou without prior research. Though I have little recollection on its taste, I remember it was a satisfying bowl of Miso ramen, with butter and corn among beansprouts and bamboo shoot. After a filling dinner, I returned to my hotel, grabbed my luggage, and took the overnight train leaving Hokkaido for Aomori. That time, I thought it would be my one and only visit to Japan, I never expected returning for a whopping 14 times more.

So when Hokkaido Marche brought Shirakaba Sansou over, I was naturally delighted. It was a big opportunity for me to relish a forgotten taste, despite the fact that since my first visit, I had re-visited Sapporo twice but not Shirakaba Sansou there.

Having said that, this bowl of Miso Char-siu Men is very different from what I ordered some 12 years ago in Sapporo, the ingredients are very different, notably the absence of butter and sweet corn. Pardon me, I wasn’t even sure the name of the ramen I ordered then, but I remember jotting down the name in a notepad and shown it to the staff, as the smartphone era had not really taken flight yet, and I couldn’t understand Japanese. Back to this Miso Char-siu Men… for $16, it came with 3 pieces of charshu, along with bamboo shoot, leek, black fungus, and seaweed etc. The noodle used was medium thick curly noodles, which was excellent in retaining the broth upon eating. Overall, it’s still a satisfying bowl of ramen but if I would have to grade it, I would say above average. One thing I like about Shirakaba Sansou is that, boiled eggs are available freely to patrons, which is not a common sight in Japan.

Shirakaba Sansou is actually housed together with Ajisai under Hokkaido Marche, but I chose to review them separately in case some of these eatery decided to brand out from Hokkaido Marche eventually.

Shirakaba Sansou @ Hokkaido Marche
181 Orchard Road,
Orchard Central
#B2 Unit 11 – 29, 44 to 48
Singapore 238896
Website: https://www.hokkaidomarche.com.sg/shirakabasansou

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Ajisai 味彩

Published October 24, 2019 by piggie

Hakodate Shio Ramen, $12

This actually wasn’t my first visit to Hokkaido Marche’s Ajisai. The first time I had their spicy ramen, but this time round, I wanna try their signature, the Hakodate Shio Ramen. Hailing from the southern Hokkaido city, Ajisai came from the region famous for Shio ramen with a rich history of 80 years. They claimed their broth was made using pork, chicken, and natural rock salt on a base of kelp produced in southern Hokkaido.

I can’t deny their presentation looking kind of appealing, in fact, the above picture was stirred so that I can show the charshu hidden underneath, otherwise, the presented ramen looks like this:

Nice looking eh?

OK, now the harsh truth…

I had mentioned before, that there are 3 distinct species ramen in Hokkaido, namely Miso (Sapporo), Shoyu (Asahikawa), and Shio (Hakodate). Hakodate’s Shio ramen are generally boiled with some kind of seafood, such as sardines, kelp, etc, along with pork or chicken broth, or both, to give out a clear broth in light flavour. And personally, I feel Shio ramen is the most difficult to impress among these, because if too light, there may be little difference in comparison with just using salt, then the broth very well ends up worse off than instant noodles’. Unfortunately, that was the impression I had for this ramen. I need to reiterate, that I had tried Shio ramen before, both locally and in Hakodate, and this broth here is by far the blandest, apart from the presence of salt. To be honest, I can think of a few means to improve the flavour without taking away the fact that it being a Shio ramen, and that I feel a Shio ramen broth shouldn’t just taste like salt water, the chef needs to bring out the taste of other ingredients, otherwise why bother adding them in the first place? And without those, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t be looking at eating ramen at such price. The saving grace is that, at least the medium thickness noodle is chewy, and that the egg is sweet, with charshu flavourful.

Kara Miso Ramen, $14

I mentioned earlier that this wasn’t my first time patronising Ajisai. In fact, my first time was much more satisfactory with their Kara Miso Ramen, which I presume, aren’t their forte in the first place. I actually ordered that because I was craving for something spicy, and for a moment, I had forgotten that they are from Hakodate. The reason why I didn’t blog about this earlier was the lack of time. To be honest, I think their Kara Miso ramen contains more ingredients in comparison (cost more too), but those are literally fungus, and some other vegetables that I don’t think alter much flavour, just that their broth tastes so much desirable. Others such as egg, medium thick noodles, and charshu remain consistently good. OK, credit has to go to the Miso paste they used perhaps. At least I can say, this is that sort of ramen that I will return for, but I can’t say the same for their Shio ramen.

Ajisai @ Hokkaido Marche
181 Orchard Road,
Orchard Central
#B2 Unit 11 – 29, 44 to 48
Singapore 238896
Website: https://www.hokkaidomarche.com.sg/ajisai

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Ramen Sora

Published February 14, 2019 by piggie

Miso Ramen Corn Butter, $12.80++

What happened to all those positive reviews on Ramen Sora when it first came to Singapore?

Me and my dining partner were rather enthused to visit Ramen Sora ever since they first set foot in Singapore’s culinary scene 2 years ago. As their origin is in Sapporo, which is famous for Miso Ramen, I had a Miso Ramen Corn Butter while my dining partner ordered their Spicy Miso Ramen.

When my noodle was served, I was a little taken aback by its appearance. The usual ingredients of a Sapporo ramen are all there save perhaps for the Miso, and the colour of the broth looks suspicious, looking more like a Shoyu broth. One try, and I failed to discover any Miso’s presence, with the broth tasting more like a rather bland Tonkotsu soup, which made me wonder, did they really boiled the soup for nearly a day as they claimed? Look, I ain’t a ramen novice, and I have been to Sapporo 3 times, a Miso broth shouldn’t taste this bland, and it wasn’t good enough to consider it a Tonkotsu or Shoyu broth either. It wasn’t really terrible, but mediocre. Even the charshu texture was a little stiff, overall, the result was more like something coming out from an apprentice. To put it simply, it lacks character.

Good thing my dining partner ordered something different, albeit still a Miso based broth nonetheless. But all she said was it’s more of a spicy soup, NO Miso. To add further insult, it tastes worse than what I can get from a food court for 30% lesser in price.

Seriously, are they hailed from Sapporo? I shake my head. I later found out, some recent reviewers in Tripadvisor shared similar opinions, but they are more vocal than me. Ramen Sora’s Singapore website is gone, their Facebook not updated for more than half a year. Looking at the pictures from other reviewers a year or two ago, their pictures on Miso broth are more vivid. It may be my guess, but it seems likely the original owner has sold the franchise but left only the name behind.

Unlike Arnie, I definitely won’t be calling ‘I’ll be back”.

Oh, by the way, contradicting to what some other blogger stated, Ramen Sora do charges GST and service charge.

Ramen Sora
277 Orchard Road, #B2-4A & 5
Orchard Gateway
Singapore 238858
Tel: +65 69090605
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ramensoraSG/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 21:00 hr

Ramen Sora has ceased operation.

Ootoya 大户屋

Published January 21, 2019 by piggie

Before I begin, allow me to highlight that this is a sponsored food tasting session initiated by J Passport.

This is the 2nd time I visited their outlet in Singapore, both visit at their Orchard Central branch. The first time was a few years ago and I didn’t bother to blog. But I was immensely impressed after visiting their branch in Sendai (Japan) last Summer, hence when J Passport offered me this opportunity for a food tasting here, I decided to re-visit.

The motto of Ootoya is to serve traditional Japanese home-cooked food with healthy and hearty ingredients that a mum would normally prepare for the family. As such, don’t expect flamboyant setting despite the slightly higher pricing as compare to their franchises in Japan, after all, somebody gotta top up the premiums for air freight, and naturally, it’s the customers.

I was offered the selection of a set menu, an à-la-carte, a Serio Soba, and a dessert. But as I don’t feel easy simply walking away without paying anything, therewith I also ordered a side plus beverages.

Serio Soba

It took quite a while, and the Serio Soba was first served.

There were apparently some communication breakdown here. Upon invitation, I indicated that I would be bringing a dining companion along, so I was assuming, as per my previous food tasting session, that each of us would have 1 set each. Perhaps I should have clarified, but when I learned (and it wasn’t from the staff) that there would be only one set for us to share, my dining partner had already finished up a big portion of it! LOL! By then, the Soba noodle wasn’t even cold anymore. So, what can I say about the taste? To be absolutely honest, whatever I have to comment would certainly be heavily discounted, but to quote what my dining partner mentioned, it was nice. And that the Soba noodle was at least chewy.

All I can add is what I researched from their menu, that they are using buckwheat flour imported from Hokkaido, and handmade in-house. In addition, I really like the way Ootoya indicates the ingredients on their menu, informing patrons of any potential allergic upfront, that’s pretty thoughtful!

Seriously, I won’t mind paying additional for my dining partner (then I won’t bother ordering the side), but if the food is meant to be shared, then at least provide another cup of Soba sauce (for hygiene reason) and perhaps additional plate, then there won’t be unnecessary ambiguity. Of course, I could have simply come out my own money for a fresh order, but it’s quite a big portion, besides I would rather try their other dishes in that case.

I hope that’s a fair statement.

Charcoal Grilled Atka Mackerel Hokke Fish Set

The accompanied rice, Miso soup, and condiments

I didn’t find any opportunity to ask the staff, but it is believe that the Atka Mackerel Hokke fish was harvested from Okhotsk Sea, wind dried, and then grilled prior to serving. It still retains a chewy texture with a mild umami. I must say, at $22.80++ for the set meal (or $17.80++ alone), the price is reasonable for half a grilled Hokke fish. Though to be honest, I thought the condiments were a little mediocre, perhaps the idea was not to take excessive limelight from the Hokke fish. Anyway, the motto was to serve a Japanese home styled meal, like I said, nothing flamboyant, but decent heartiness. For paying patrons, I think it’s possible to ask for free rice refill and a switch to more healthier rice such as Gokoku Rice, Tororo Gohan, Jyako Gohan, or Yasai Gohan, but once again, I didn’t have an opportunity to clarify.

Grilled Yongenton Silky Pork Belly Marinated with Shio-Kouji

Now, THIS IS HEAVENLY!

The marinated pork belly ($19.50++) was grilled to distinction with an excellent crisp and succulence that it’s so good to eat on its own, the sweetness is absolutely remarkable! And sprinkled with a zest of lemon gives it an extra dimension, not to mention the enclosed wasabi!

Yongenton is a crossed breed of 4 different pig species, or more commonly known as Silky Pork. Surprisingly, it originated from USA. These are what I researched, and the taste is probably better than some Kurobuta I have tried. As for Shio-Kouji (塩麹, 塩糀), it’s a natural seasoning made of salt, water, and rice kouji (Kouji is the key ingredients in making miso), and Ootoya’s menu mentioned that they are adhering to a recipe passed down from Sendai 300 years ago.

You would usually associate salad with French dressing, Thousand Island dressing etc, but that’s not what Ootoya did here. They use soy sauce, and the outcome was rather interesting! But to be honest, the pork is so good which rendered the accompanying salad as mere decorations.

Yakko, $4++

Oh, I also ordered their Yakko (a.k.a. Tofu). As I mentioned, I don’t feel right walking out after meal without paying, so I ordered this Japanese Tofu (as well as green tea). I have done my research before heading down for the food tasting, Ootoya claimed that their tofu is house made, and in their menu, this is suppose to come with freshly grated dried Bonito flakes, but the Bonito flakes never came (I only remember that when I’m reviewing my pictures for this post). I ended up pouring some soy sauce to ‘enjoy’ it with the tofu, along with the supplied ginger, which otherwise tasted bland. Sorry, but this failed, especially without Bonito flakes, the chief ingredient that lifts its flavour.

Maccha Parfait

I had the Maccha Parfait ($8++) as dessert, and it can be noted Ootoya is sparing no effort to mark off a hearty dining with this. In the picture, you will find Maccha ice cream, red beans, and the cube stuffs behind are the Warabi mochi dipped in Maccha powder. What you can’t see underneath are Castella (sponge cake) cubes, Maccha Jelly, Maccha Pudding. Take my words, it’s a very fulfilling dessert for someone who loves Maccha!

I have come to the end of this post, and as a pre-requisite for the food tasting, I am obliged to include a link for Ootoya’s offer tie-in with J Passport. J Passport members get to enjoy free Limited Seasonal Pumpkin Parfait with every meal ordered. Kindly refer to the following link for details:

http://bit.ly/ootoya_parfait

The above offer is valid until 31 Jan 2019, but you can always refer to their page in J Passport for more ongoing promotion. If you ain’t a member yet, you can join J Passport for free to enjoy these benefits. Ootoya currently has 3 outlets in Singapore, kindly refer to their website for information and promotions. Lastly, many thanks to Ootoya and J Passport for hosting us!