Soba

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Menya Sakura 麺屋桜

Published March 22, 2017 by piggie

Chuka Soba Special, S$14.90++

Menya Sakura is yet another new ramen restaurant in the scene. In their grand opening special, they introduce a 3-day one-for-one promotion starting with this, Chuka Soba Special at S$14.90++ on Mon, 20 Mar 2017. They were offering Tonkotsu Ramen Special (S$13.90++) and Tonkotsu Tsukemen Special (S$18.90++) one-for-one promotion for the next two days respectively. I asked my dining companion on her choice and she settled on Chuka Soba Special on day 1. I didn’t voice any disagreement though I actually prefer trying their Tonkotsu Ramen.

Hailing from Nagoya by founder NAGATANI Hideto, my first impression was nothing spectacular given the fact that Nagoya is not a major ramen battleground when compare to the likes of Hokkaido and Kyushu, where pretty anywhere else are more inclined towards Shoyu-based ramen (actually, also the signature in Asahikawa, Hokkaido). However, when the name NAGANUMA Sho comes up, it’s a different ball game. Chef NAGANUMA was the former executive chef of Hide Yamamoto in Marina Bay Sands, and currently helming Menya Sakura. I’m really interested to see how can he brings out the difference in this highly competitive ramen market.

My personal preference has always been Tonkotsu, Miso, Shio, and Shoyu ramen in that order, preferable with a tint of spiciness. It doesn’t help when Soba is also my least favourite noodle, behind ramen and udon. I tried my best not to carry prejudice, but whatever little prejudice I have was completely wipe out the very moment the noodle was served, right before I even have a chance to take a look. Yes, I ain’t bragging, the broth fragrance just hit my nose before I can even lay my eyes on the noodle, and I can never imagine a Shoyu ramen (oops! I mean soba here) can be that good! Now, I’m beginning to apprehend why Shoyu ramen is more popular in Japan, though, however, I didn’t ever tried ramen (or for that matter, soba) as good as this in Japan despite visiting there no less than 7 times in the last decade.

Menya Sakura claims Chuka Soba special is their most popular ramen in Japan, with a rich flavourful soup made with Saba, Niboshi, and other ‘secret’ ingredients, paired with 4 pcs Nori seaweeds, 3 pieces tender charsiu (chashu), a whole Aji Tamago egg, along with bamboo shoot and leeks. The broth tastes a little salty though, but as Menya Sakura claims they don’t use MSG, it’s still bearable for me. Well, if this is the same standard they have in Japan, they certainly earned their bragging rights. Notice I haven’t mention the noodle? Wait, was that really soba? My dining companion and I almost wanna rub our eyes and summon the waitress over to verify whether the chef had mistakenly used ramen noodle instead? OK, I exaggerated a little bit here. Simply put, it’s that good! No, simply outstanding (for a soba, that is), putting them on par with the so-called soba I tried at Menya Takeichi in Suntec City. It was very smooth, chewy, and most importantly for me, lack the usual buckwheat texture of conventional soba. Somehow, over an amazing 3 days, I probably tried the best soba I ever tried, twice (the other one being Yomoda Soba)! And I’m starting to get disillusion over how good soba can get. I ain’t disguising the fact that I’m practically a novice when coming to soba, which I used to dislike because of the buckwheat texture.

Apart from the broth and noodle, the charsiu was reasonably thick and chewy, retaining what I feel is the ideal texture and flavour a good charsiu shall possess. Wait till I come to the Tamago. Usually in ramen, how good the Tamago depends on how runny the egg can get and the flavour it brings. Menya Sakura’s Tamago is truly outstanding, somewhere between a soft boiled egg and a hard boiled egg, upon biting, the texture was so remarkably molten and flavourful, gosh I’m seriously running out of vocabulary to describe this, it’s so good I feel like ordering a few more of it!

As a side note, the restaurant also offers free kimchi and ice water for diners.

In conclusion, all I can say is, Menya Sakura makes their ramen simple, but taste heavenly good!

2nd Visit

Premium Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with Jumbo Aburi Chashu, $15.90++

Menya Sakura ‘tempted’ me for a 2nd visit with their 1-for-1 new Premium Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen promotion on JPassport, simmering tonkotsu for more than 12 hours, along with their original aged Shoyu sauce, including 1 piece of seaweed, bamboo shoot, leek, and one giant piece of Aburi Chashu (Aburi meaning partially grilled), a pretty thick one at that, with special Umami paste on top. Their selling point is undoubtedly the thick chashu, with a good texture and tasted rather flavourful. The broth is notably too salty in my opinion, but at least I don’t feel a strong urge for water after eating, a good testification on their claim on not using MSG. Menya Sakura claims to be using ‘Hirauchi’ noodle, supposingly flat, though I don’t really find it flat, but it’s quite smooth and great to slurp actually. Overall, I find it above average, in part due to the saltiness of the broth, but it tastes much better when I added the ramen pepper provided on the table.

I noted that Menya Sakura changed somewhat since my first visit. Now they pre-charged the bill before you even see your ramen, and seems like they no longer provide free kimchi.

Menya Sakura 麺屋桜
69 Boat Quay
Singapore 049857
Tel: +65 94693366

Opening Hours:
Mon – Sat : 11:30hr ~ 20:30hr

Yomoda Soba (よもだそば)

Published March 19, 2017 by piggie

First and foremost, allow me to stress this is a sponsored article, but I will nevertheless stay neutral in this review. Let me start by giving a brief history on Yomoda Soba, but to begin with, I need to elaborate on Japan Food Town, where Yomoda Soba (よもだそば) and other 15 authentic Japanese restaurants are located.

Japan Food Town can be found inside Isetan level 4, Wisma Atria, it is a collaboration between Cool Japan Fund and The Japan Association of Overseas Promotion for Food & Restaurants. The former comprises organisation such as ANA, Isetan, JTB, and many other established corporations. When it was first opened in Wisma Atria last July (2016), it was met with much fanfare. Just like Eat at Seven in Suntec City, which also involves ANA, I feel it can hardly goes wrong, I trust ANA to select the best of Japan for diners here. ANA is a 5-stars Japanese airlines, and they would risk tarnishing their image and reputation otherwise. So, naturally for the first few months at least, I was expecting Japanese chef to helm the restaurants (or maybe they are here to stay for the long haul? I don’t know), pity I didn’t have the opportunity to visit until now, and my visit is certainly not disappointing.

The name Yomoda actually came from a Matsuyama (Ehime, Shikoku) dialect, meaning a jovial friend who loves to see the funny side of things. The soba restaurant is hailed from Tokyo, but its proprietor is actually an Ehime native, that explained. Frankly speaking, Soba is actually my least favourite Japanese noodle, I still prefer Udon and ramen anytime, provided of course, the noodles are done genuinely (definitely not the terrible Singapore flavour, particularly for Udon). Soba is probably the most economical noodle one can find in many parts of Japan, but personally, I don’t quite like the overpowering buckwheat taste.

Tempura Seiro Soba, S$23++

As an invited guest, I am allowed to choose between their Tempura Seiro Soba Set (S$23++), or their Tendon set (S$20++). Both sets include their signature soba, but I selected the former anyway. Seiro Soba is served cold, in Japan it’s marvellous for Summer, when diners dip their ice cooled soba into a bowl of cold dipping sauce, and usually enjoyed with an assortment of tempura. My Tempura Seiro Soba comprises a variety of prawn, braised pork, chicken, paprika, pumpkin, and kidney beans, dipped in tempura batter and fried. Yomodo claims their soba is Sarashina Soba, using only the inner part of buckwheat, which is why their soba noodle looks a little whitish instead of the conventional green colour, and handmade on-site using buckwheat from Nagano, a prefecture famous for their soba too. Yomodo’s soba is moderately springy, not so strong on buckwheat taste, for me, that’s really great! But having said that, they do offer traditional-styled soba such as Kitsune Soba, Hanamaki Soba (and also the less conventional ones such as Tomato Asari Soba, Hot Spicy Soy Milk Chicken Soba) too. Pardon me, I ain’t a Soba expert, you can refer to Japan-Guide for further elaboration. In addition, they also serve a thinner version of Sanuki Udon. As for their Tempura, it was crisply fried, not excessively oily, and the goodness within is mesmerising, it’s definitely fried on the spot, not pre-fried like my favourite Udon restaurant in Singapore did.

Yomoda Soba claims to import their flour, sauce, and rice from Japan. That’s probably one of the reasons why their prices (and probably likewise the other restaurants here) are much more than their outlets in Japan.

Yuzu Sorbet, S$5++

I didn’t want to walk away without paying anything, so I ordered a Yuzu Sorbet after my meal. It has a rich citrus flavour and plenty of fruit pulps, pretty appetising! Yomoda Soba serves free plain water, other than that, they have limited range of cold drink and dessert. But being a traditional Japanese restaurant, you can expect lots of sake!

Yomoda Soba (よもだそば)
Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Rd
Singapore 238877
Tel: +65 62623467
Website: http://www.japanfoodtown.sg/stores/yomoda-soba/

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