22 Mar 2016
1. Ramen Keisuke Lobster King
3C RIVER VALLEY RD #01-07 THE CANNERY, CLARKE QUAY, S179022. TEL: 6255-2828.
OPEN DAILY. 6PM-5AM. LAST ORDERS 4.30AM. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/KEISUKETOKYOSG
Everyone loves ramen. And who doesn't like lobster? Marry the two, make it ultra affordable, and you have a recipe for success. Yep, a bowl of Lobster Ramen starts at a mere $13.90 at this 10th outlet of the Ramen Keisuke chain. And that’s why there’ve been ridiculous queues outside the 62-seater eatery since it opened a month ago in the party central of Clarke Quay.
The average waiting time at dinner is a numbing one-and-a-half hours. But before you get too excited, know that there are no luscious chunks of lobster meat to be found here. What were you expecting at these prices? What they do have, though, is meticulously prepared lobster soup. Drawing inspiration from his French culinary training, chef-owner Keisuke Takeda — who worked in French restaurants for 12 years before going into ramen — came up with this bisque-like lobster stock ramen and he seems to have hit the jackpot. The Tokyo-based chef boasts 30 restaurants in Japan and visits his Singapore outposts monthly.
How did he decide on this lobster ramen specialty shop, a first in Singapore? "Because I am a revolutionist. Ramen in Singapore is getting stagnant, it’s always tonkotsu flavour. I wanted to show how versatile ramen can be. Singapore’s ramen dining scene is ready to have a revolution, just like Japan did 10 years ago," he shares. Did the 45-year-old chef foresee the crazy queues here? "I’m very grateful to my customers for their support. For the past few years, every one of my restaurants here has seen queues since opening day. And there are still queues now."
THE LOOK: The serene space is designed with a Japanese shrine theme, ’cos “Clarke Quay is a tourist destination and we wanted to present something more traditionally Japanese,” says the PR rep. Check out the tiled roofs overhead, and the large bell in the middle of the dining room. Next, keep an eye out for Mr Nishikawa (left), girls. The Tokyo native who’s in charge of service and operations has boy band-worthy looks and has proven to be a blogger’s darling.
22 Mar 2016
Ramen Keisuke Lobster King: On the menu
The head chef here is Tokyo-born Sato-san, who oversees all the outlets in Singapore. There are four variations of lobster stock ramen, paired with four different noodles. A standard bowl comes with a slice of pork belly chashu, a slice of chicken chashu, one prawn wonton, and bamboo shoots. A non-ramen dish here we really love is the Omu Rice smothered with a creamy omelette and rich beef sauce.
22 Mar 2016
Ramen Keisuke Lobster King: The food
Lobster Broth Ramen with Clear Soup from $13.90 (above)
This clear soup takes about six hours of simmering over low heat with pre-roasted rock lobster shells (so very French), assorted vegetables and a small amount of pork and chicken bones for depth. It’s a light, savoury-sweet broth akin to lobster consommé. Paired with thin, straight egg noodles (made locally in a factory here specially for Keisuke) that have a firm bite, this luscious ramen is best savoured with additional toppings like moreish house-made Prawn Balls ($1), and a marinated Egg ($2) with gooey yolk. Delish.
Lobster Broth Ramen with Rich Creamy Soup from $14.90
The most popular ramen here. The deeply orange, thick and flavoursome soup takes over 10 hours to prepare. Lobster shells, vegetables, chicken and pork bones are merrily boiled over a higher heat than the clear version, and reduced to achieve its richer, lobster bisque-like mouthfeel. It’s paired with thin noodles that have a slightly rough texture to better ‘grip’ the voluptuous soup. A robust and satisfying bowl, which however, gets a bit too jelak for us towards the end.
Bottom line: The lobster soup here, cooked using a mix of French and Japanese techniques, is indeed delicious. Lovely with the chewy noodles and all its trimmings. Full disclosure: our tasting was hosted, so we did not have to wait in line. Therefore we can’t say we’d queue over an hour for this, especially since we’re told the “shortest” waiting time is around 30 minutes at… 3am.
22 Mar 2016
2. Ramen Keisuke Kani King
#01-03 CATHAY CINELEISURE ORCHARD, S239695. TEL: 6262-6968.
OPEN DAILY. MON-THU NOON-3PM, 5PM-10PM; FRI NOON-3PM, 5PM-2AM; SAT NOON-2AM; SUN NOON-10PM. LAST ORDERS 2.45PM, 9.45PM & 1.45AM.
Keisuke-san is on a roll. Riding on the momentum of the wildly successful Lobster King (previous page), Keisuke Ramen opened its 11th outlet a fortnight ago. Designed with pop culture elements and vintage pieces (check out the vintage Ultraman guarding the entrance) from the Showa period (1926–89), the 40-seater exudes a cheerful, welcoming vibe. Perhaps to cater to the young clientele who throng Cineleisure. As with all his concepts, chef Keisuke attends to every detail, including the design of crockery for the ramen. The colourful ceramic bowls adorned with crab motifs are made in Arita in the Saga Prefecture of Japan, renowned for its ceramics. Crab broth ramen is the draw here and it is one of chef Keisuke’s signatures: a version of this dish won him the title of Ramen Champion in Japan in 2011. Flower crab, also known as blue swimmer crab, is the main ingredient here. Whole crabs are boiled together with pork and chicken bones, and vegetables such as carrot, onion, ginger and garlic.
ON THE MENU: There are five variations of crab broth ramen, including clear broth and one tsukemen (dry noodles with a dip), plus the obligatory gyoza. Again, do not expect to see any actual crabmeat in your noodles. Jars of pungent pickled cabbage with garlic chives (exclusive to this outlet) are new additions to the popular free-flow marinated bean sprouts and hard-boiled eggs at each table.
22 Mar 2016
Ramen Keisuke Kani King: The food
Pictured above (L - R)
Crab Broth Ramen with Rich Soup from $13.90
This luscious soup takes about nine hours to prepare and according to chef Keisuke, is designed to be “more feminine” compared to the “more masculine” lobster soup. This crab bisque-like concoction brewed with flower crab is indeed more elegant and has a sweeter aftertaste. However, we prefer the, ahem, macho full-bodied flavours of its lobster broth brethren. The noodle for this ramen is slightly curly and chewier. It’s topped with two decent slices of chashu: one roasted, another braised. Skip the Clear Soup version of this dish — it tastes like a watery shark’s fin soup.
Kani Tama Ramen (Crab Egg Ramen) from $13.90
A fluffy, slightly runny omelette crowns a bowl of noodles and sweet, rich crab broth, topped with mock crabstick, pieces of pork belly and garlic chives. The egg thickens the soup and transforms it into almost a gravy. Yum.
Spicy Crab Broth Ramen from $14.90
The sweet crab soup here works quite well with the accompanying chilli bean paste, sansho pepper, Sichuan peppercorn and Japanese chilli flakes. In fact, the sweet, spicy and sour flavours remind us a bit of local chilli crab. Not bad.
Bottom line: Pleasant crab ramen, though definitely less slurp-worthy than its more umami lobster cousin. But if you think you can get away without queuing here, dream on: the average wait is about 45 minutes on weekdays and up to two hours on weekends. So we say get in line for the lobster ramen instead if you’re the sort who doesn't mind waiting forever for your grub.
22 Mar 2016
3. Menya Takeichi
#03-313 SUNTEC CITY MALL, 3 TEMASEK BOULEVARD, S038983. TEL: 6235 3386.
OPEN DAILY. 11.30AM-3PM, 5.30PM-10.30PM. LAST ORDERS 2.30PM & 10PM. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/MENYATAKEICHII
Menya Takeichi, which opened just over a month ago, is the latest addition to the Eat At Seven Japanese dining enclave in Suntec City. Lauded as one of Tokyo’s top chicken ramen chains, it boasts over 40 stores in Japan. It has been ranked “Best 10 in Chicken Paitan (white soup) Broth Ramen” in Supleks Ramen Database, the largest ramen-centric website in Japan. While there are reportedly long queues back home, there was no sign of food-blog-loving hipsters at the 58-seater when we got there before noon, though it did get respectably busy during lunchtime. The brightly-lit dining room decked out in light wood is neat and pleasant, if functional. Chef Mamoru Kanaya, previously from Buta God in Ramen Champion at Bugis+, helms the kitchen.
ON THE MENU: The signature dish here is collagen-rich chicken soup made by simmering fresh meat for over 10 hours. The PR rep tells us there is no pork and lard used to amp up the chicken soup here, unlike at other similar ramen joints. There are four variations of chicken broth ramen, and assorted side dishes including juicy Chicken Gyoza. Navigating the menu is confusing, though. Four main pictures of ramen soup are shown, and all are named "Special", but that just means adding more toppings to your noodles. The word before "ramen" will tell you what flavour it is: Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt), Spicy. If it says only “Ramen”, then good luck guessing that this means “original soup”, ’cos the menu doesn't say so, and the equally confused waiters can’t really explain it to you either.
THE SERVICE: Our hosted tasting went without a hitch. But when our colleague visited on a separate occasion, she was served by clueless wait staff. “Sorry, I don’t understand your question,” was what she got from a blank-faced waiter after she asked him what was in the starter of Vegetable Stick Salad.
22 Mar 2016
Menya Takeichi: The food
Special Ramen $15.50 (left)
During lunch, this signature ramen with the original thick chicken soup brimmed with the essence of the bird. It was gentle, soothing and only slightly sticky. However, when our editor visited during dinner, the soup had turned almost gluey and eye-wateringly salty. There’s a thermal jug of clear bonito-based broth on each table, which you can add to your soup to thin it out. It works well — provided it’s hot (our ed’s was cold). The pale, skinny noodles are made only with egg white for a milder flavour and slightly softer texture. The perfectly cooked soy sauce-steeped egg, smoky roast chicken thigh chashu and tender chilled chicken breast chashu are enjoyable, but the minced chicken meatballs are bland.
Rich Spicy Ramen from $14 (right)
A harmonious blend of chilli padi, onion, garlic, togarashi chilli powder and spicy miso gives the savoury soup some kick. However, when our colleague had this same dish at dinner, the flavours were overwhelmingly tart and spicy.
BOTTOM LINE: Generally tasty but inconsistent chicken ramen. The befuddled service staff here also needs to undergo some kind of service boot camp.