It is not my first visit to Santouka, but since this is a new menu tasting invitation by JPassport, I would like to start a new post and segregate it from my previous visits. Nevertheless, like I always did, I reiterate my desire to faithfully express my opinion regardless whether it’s sponsored or not.
According to my correspondence with JPassport, my understanding is that me and my dining partner can each choose one main from their new menu. So we decided we would each order a different item and share among ourselves just so we can taste both.
But Santouka’s manager at their Clarke Quay Central branch was very generous and threw in their Toroniku Ramen as well. That means two of us gonna share 3 portion of ramen! I stare at my dining partner bewilderingly, but alas, I thought if their Roast Beef Ae Soba is just what it seems to be, then probably we can finish them all. No and Yes, allow me to elaborate shortly.
Special Iberico Tokusen Toroniku Ramen was first served. Regular patrons to Santouka would already have known, that this is one of Santouka’s signature ramen, nothing new really. It features premium roasted pork cheek from Iberico pig, both attributes are considered premium in their respective categories, and hence reflected in the ramen’s price. Before I go on further on the charshu, let me briefly touch on the noodle first.
Santouka claimed to have tested many different types of noodles before settling on medium sized round noodles, which they found to have good flavour and aroma, most importantly blend well with their soup. The broth comes in 4 flavour options, namely Shoyu, Miso, Kara-Miso, and Shio. Santouka hails from Hokkaido, Asahikawa to be exact, from where Shoyu ramen is typical. However, it’s Shio ramen where Santouka really prowess. While typical Shio ramen presents a clear appearance, Santouka’s came a little creamy, and their broth is rich enough to infuse flavourful taste to the noodle as they claimed.
Japan ain’t really known for Iberico pork, but Kurobuta. The former are usually found in Iberian Peninsula (literally Spain and Portugal), and is considered rare in Japan. It’s worth noting that Iberico pork are usually cured for years and sold as ham (read Jamón ibérico), hence its hefty price tag, but these days you can probably get frozen Iberico pork from upmarket supermarkets or gourmet stores. Even if it’s not cured, its prices are still a few notches expensive than the Kurobuta, which is itself already considered a premium type of pork. And for every pig, regardless Iberico or any species, there’s only about 200-300g of pork cheek, which is relatively rare and probably the most tender meat you can get, that’s why even Santouka can only afford to serve them in limited quantity each day.
Santouka’s roasted Iberico pork cheek offers an adequate proportion of saltiness and sweetness, and to avoid its flavour being wash away by the broth, it was presented on a separate plate, allowing patrons to savour it in its best glamour.
Santouka Tantan Men is a new addition on their revised menu launching soon on 18 Sep 2017 in collaboration with their anniversary here. Served in a Tonkotsu broth, and with respect to the amount of chilli oil present, it only offers a slight hint of spiciness reminiscing conventional Sichuan Tantan noodle. Santouka is obviously distancing themselves from replicating a direct Sichuan version, this makes sense, they aren’t a Chinese restaurant after all. They infused their broth with a strong sesame presence, which created a somewhat nutty flavour. And then instead of using charshu in a conventional ramen, they replaced it with minced meat in Miso paste, along with pickled veggie. Overall, this is rather appetising!
Hold on a second, did I just mention appetising? Wait till I try this!
For a start, I wonder what does Ae mean? I mean, I have tried Maze Soba, Yaki Soba… But Ae Soba (和え蕎麦)?? I couldn’t find an answer, but I guess it either means dry soba or self-made soba.
Anyway, the soba was presented somewhat like Yaki Soba (fried soba), except that the noodle wasn’t fried at all. I believe it was lightly rinsed and drained from the broth, and served dry along with veggies, poached egg, and of course, roast beef as its name suggests. The overall taste of this is somewhat like salad + noodle.
I understand that Santouka uses the same noodle they would use on their ramen, so actually, it’s not really soba noodle they are using. But they ain’t the only one, many other ramen restaurants here did likewise. Personally, I prefer that, because I don’t quite like the strong buckwheat texture in soba noodles to be honest, although I still eat them somewhat.
Looking at the picture alone, you would naturally guess the beef takes centre stage huh? In our humble opinion, no. The wonder of this noodle lies in the little jug in the background, or rather the dressing inside. It’s an interesting cohesion of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and mild pungency all roll into one, exuding a brilliant taste that makes this noodle totally wonderful!
Unable to subdue our curiousity, we summon the manager for an ‘explanation’. She would proudly reveal the use of onion, Kikkoman sauce, wasabi paste, but that’s as far as she would go, the rest, I suppose, are ‘trade secret’. 😛
It has to be that good, that my dining companion, who usually hates onion, finished all the dressing onto the noodle.
The beef was served medium raw, and was quite tender. But I was wondering, why limit this noodle with beef? I think they could have gone with chicken, pork, and seafood as option too. Having said that, I must confess, the noodle was rather generous compare to what I saw from their menu. We struggled, but finish it because we already ate a bowl of ramen each before this, prompting the manager to comment we must have been very satisfied with our meal. True indeed!
After our meal, we felt as if we had buffet. But we top up with a Green Tea ice cream each so as not to leave the restaurant without paying anything. Their Green Tea Ice Cream although lack fragrance, offers a strong and pleasant Green Tea taste. I know the presentation looks bland, but guess that’s why Santouka will be repackaging this into something more eye-catching comes 18 Sep 2017.
Special thanks to JPassport for this tasting invitation.