*photos taken by Iphone 4
Ramen shops have been sprouting up around Singapore, and so far I’ve heard nothing but good thing about them. Thanks to the existence of the many food blogs out there, my ramenya list shrank down to the best two – Ippudo & Santouka.
Ippudo is a very famous ramenya in Japan that serves Hakata style ramen. Ippudo at Mandarin Gallery is their second branch outside of Japan, the first being New York city. A reason good enough to warrant a visit huh?
This interior of Ippudo Ramen is not like an ordinary Japanese Ramen shop; it has a posh, stylish look with huge chandelier hanging at the main entrance. If you look around the shop, there is a huge display of “wall of bowls”; which is pretty enticing in my humble opinion.
Let me first forewarn you about the perpetual long queue spotted outside this restaurant. However, Ippudo is a good example of patience is more than a virtue, it’s a reward.
…reward in the form of a piping hot bowl of ramen in milky broth.
The waitstaff asked how do we like our noodles to be -soft, regular or hard. We elected regular, as it is probably the safest bet if you want something al dente but not too chewy.
We ordered Ippudo’s signature bowl, the Akamaru “red sea” Ramen (SGD 15++) that comes with dab of spicy miso paste and fragrant garlic oil. The white, milky broth was definitely salty and robust on the first taste. However, it got really addictive as we continued to slurpe away. The combination of pork broth, spicy miso paste and garlic oil has added layers of complexity to the broth as well. The noodles were distinct – firm in texture and ultra thin, straight and white in appearance.
Our bowl also came with two measly pieces of porkbelly chashu, fresh scallions and dried black fungus. The chashu, with a good ratio of fats and meat was tender, but not melt-in-the-mouth tender like Santouka’s.
The Shiromaru “white sea” (SGD 15) which is the original tonkotsu recipe, is milkier but lighter in taste compared to the Akamaru version. I prefer Shiromaru for its “cleaner” taste, while KampungBoy adores the “complex” taste of the Akamaru version.
“Ramen for Everyone, Smile for Everyone”
We also made our way to Santouka, located at a well hidden corner inside Central, Clarke Quay.
There’s a perpetual queue outside, maybe because it’s a very small restaurant with limited seating capacity.
We were there really early (before the dinner crowd started to flock the place) so we managed to secure a window seat that overlooks the beautiful Clarke Quay.
The Tokusen Toroniku Ramen is the house specialty here; it comes with a choice of three soup base – shio, miso or spicy miso. We chose Shio Ramen (SGD 19.50), upon our waitstaff’s excellent recommendation. Luscious pieces of sliced pork’s cheek were served on a separate plate together with toppings such as scallions, seasoned bamboo shoots, shredded black fungus, Japanese fishcake and a single pickled Japanese plum. Tossed all the toppings into your ramen bowl and voila! You get a good bowl of ramen laden with ingredients.
Tokusen (特選) means “specialty/premium quality”; while Toroniku refers to the cheek meat, by which only 300g can be obtained from a pig. The pork slices has a mild smoky and salty flavour. And as you bite into it, it was so soft that it literally melts in your mouth. It reminds me of toro – almost no chewing is required! This really is the best slice of pork I’ve ever eaten!
We also ordered another ramen set that comes with rice. You are suppose to pour the soup into the rice after you are done with the ramen. The set costs SGD 17, and it’s a pretty good deal.
We found the flavor of the broth too overwhelming on the palate, and the noodles had a mild lye water taste to it.
However, we do prefer Ippudo’s over Santouka if you are looking for a good bowl of ramen; where price and portion is not a concern. That does not defer us from going back to Santouka too; their pork’s cheek cut is so soft and tender that they literally melt in your mouth when consumed. Portion is bigger, and it offers more value for money.
Chashu/Pork Slices: Santouka
Value for $$: Santouka
333A Orchard Road
Mondays to Saturdays 11am-11pm
6 Eu Tong Sen St
#02-76, The Central
Tel: (+65) 62240668
Open Daily: 11.00 am – 9.30 pm
If you’re walking on the 2nd floor, look out for “Grains” and you’ll find this restaurant at the end of the walkway that divides Grains into 2.