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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!

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

Ginza Anzu

Published February 17, 2020 by piggie

Before I begin, allow me to reiterate that this is a food tasting invitation by JPassport.

Ginza Anzu was formerly located in Wisma Atria, but has recently joined the hype in moving to Great World City, which is fast replacing Liang Court in becoming the next Japanese town. No prize guessing, the name itself probably already suggested where Ginza Anzu is hailing from, in fact, their outlet in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi 11F regularly attracts a queue outside, and now also have oversea restaurants in Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, and of course, Singapore. What makes Ginza Anzu fascinating is that, they aren’t just a restaurant chain, they have their own farms as well as contracted farms, and their businesses encompass livestock, vegetables, food processing, and food machinery too (Hence, some claim they are from Kyushu, which is also not wrong, considering most of their enterprises are actually originated there). This way, they epitomise a farm-to-table concept, and managed to achieve good control over consistency and quality on the ingredients they use. In addition, they proudly proclaim that most of the ingredients used in Ginza Anzu are imported from Japan. I’m not sure about their restaurants elsewhere, but at least for their Singapore outlet, it’s worth noting that they are also importing premium pork from America.

For this food tasting session, we were allowed to select one from the Ginjo Pork (吟釀豚) Katsu set, and the other one has to be Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set. Any sake lovers here? I know what you are thinking… Nope, I have asked, but the Ginjo Pork has nothing to do with sake. Over here, it’s simply their term referring to selected premium pork that has undergone an unique ageing process.

The main difference between the Ginjo Pork sets is, the Fatty Loin set is using fatty pork sirloin, whereas the Fillet set is using tender and leaner fillet. So, we had their Ginjo Pork Fatty Loin Katsu Set as well as the Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set.

Soon as we placed our order, we were promptly served vegetable salad and radish pickles. My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed the pickles while I love their salad, along with the creamy shiso dressing. The salad is free-flow, but good thing we were only given one bowl to share though, as our upcoming meals kept us so full that we would have struggled to finish two sharing. In any case, our 2-seater table was too small for two set meals, there were hardly any space for the salad and pickles, which ended up, we needed to join another table.

Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set, $28++

The Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set came really fast, perhaps aiding by the fact that we were visiting during off-peak hours on weekend. It comprises breaded pork loin cooked in savory dashi broth dressed in egg swirls, pickles, rice (plain or brown), soup (miso or pork belly). If not for the fact that we weren’t allowed to order both Ginjo Pork Katsu sets, I probably won’t have ordered this, I anticipated the broth to rinse away the taste of the tonkatsu entirely, but it didn’t. It still retains the flavour to a certain level, and not excessively soaky. I genuinely believe that’s the best tonkatsu that goes with broth! On the other hand, the aroma from the egg complement the meat real well, and the pork remains chewy throughout. We were allowed to select between Miso soup and Pork Belly Soup for our meals, in fact the latter is also Miso soup but the added pork belly sure sweetened the broth. As for the rice, they are using Koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture, possibly the land that produces the best rice on earth. Ginza Anzu claims that they select rice that was grown where natural water flows, and in Niigata, which is a heavily snowing region, that is as good to say melted snow water fertilises the paddy field. The best part is, rice is served free-flow for the set menu.

Ginjo Pork Fatty Loin Katsu Set, $38++

This is definitely the highlight from Ginza Anzu. Thick, juicy pork loin is fried to a golden crisp with the bread crust, and there are two different sauces to go along with, one sweet, and the other sour. Diners are given tiny bowl of sesame, which they can grind, and add respective sauce to go along with the tonkatsu. There’s also mustard to go with, but alternatively, if you are a bit more adventurous, you may wanna try it with the salad dressing too.

I find that the meat texture is rather firm, but with some fat portion to balance it. What impressed me was not so much on the meat, but the soft breaded crust. Not only it wasn’t oily, in fact it barely stick to the meat, but it has an interesting mixture of fluffiness and crispiness, quite indifferent from the common tonkatsu I have ever tried.

Other than the tasting menu, we had also ordered a side and a dessert to share.

Japanese Special Tofu, $6++

I won’t call this Tofu cheap, well actually it’s probably due to the labour cost in making them, more so if they import ingredients from Japan. Like many Japanese tofu, Ginza Anzu’s tofu has a coarse texture, which when you apply the condiments, such as the accompanied ginger paste and spring onion, or even the Yuzu soy sauce, it makes them easier to retain the flavour. Solely for Japanese tofu fans, which we happen to be!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Sweet Potato, $6++

Last but not least, their premium Vanilla Ice Cream has a rich vanilla aroma, and since my dining partner and I are both Japanese sweet potatoes lovers (seriously, I’m one who would purchase bags of sweet potatoes at rock bottom prices whenever I visit Japan, not from Donki!), and her favourite ice cream flavour happens to be vanilla too, we thoroughly enjoy this heavenly combination! In fact, this is one I’d like to order on its own even if I’m not having meals in their restaurant.

Towards the end of this review, I strongly recommend trying their Service Lunch ($15++) if you find them available. It’s limited to 20 sets per day between 11am to 2pm. Personally, I have not tried it, but the price is attractive given the presentation and ingredients shown, and this is what I’d love to try for my next visit.

Once again, I would like to express my thanks to JPassport and Ginza Anzu for the food tasting invitation. Although I’m not obliged to stress, but it pays to become a JPassport member especially if you love Japanese cuisines. As of now, Ginza Anzu is offering White Coffee Pudding to JPassport member who visit them for the first time and order at least one main course. At the time of my visit, their White Coffee Pudding was already sold out, so go early to avoid disappointment.

Ginza Anzu
1 KIM SENG PROMENADE, #01-113/114
Great World City
Singapore 237944
Tel: +65 62623408
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GINZA-ANZU-SG-680761165437943/
IG: https://www.instagram.com/ginza_anzu_sg

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

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.

2nd Visit

Kiou Chahan, $6.90

For some reason, I didn’t order their ramen on my 2nd visit, and I had their Kiou Chahan instead. I won’t pretend this is fantastic, but it certainly tasted much better than their Ebi Chahan, no mouldy smell. Now, in my previous review, I did mention I was impressed by their chashu, and in this fried rice, shredded chashu is used, along with spring onions and egg. The aroma was good, and the chashu really brings out the taste up a notch.

Gyoza, $5.90

I also ordered their Gyoza. Ramen Kiou fried it in a way where the bottom is a big layer of flour, ensuring a larger area of crispiness at the bottom, while the top still retains chewy.

My dining partners both ordered their Abura Soba ($11.90), which was a little on the salty side, though the noodle was cooked to a perfect chewiness, according to them, so much so they claimed they would come back for this. For me, I am having reservation until I try it myself next time.

&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