Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Search for Ramen Part 2: Tom Ton, The Central

Tom Ton is a branch, owned by the same Mr. Takagi who also owns Tampopo. Tom Ton specialises in tonkatsu dishes, while Tampopo specialises in ramen. But both stores have extended their menu to include almost everything Japanese...ranging from simmered dishes to shushi and shashimi.

It takes a brave man to call his ramen shop Tampopo. The Japanese cult movie, Tampopo tells a story of a widow's dream to create the best ramen shop in the world.

The very same Spicy Korubuta Shabu Shabu Ramen, which made its name in Tampopo (now on the ground floor at Liang Court) is available in Tom Ton.

The Kyushu style pork bone soup was prepared over 2 days of constant high heat boiling of pork bones, extracting the marrow, and all the goodies of the bones to produce a superior stock. I asked for reduced salt, and the soup was very tasty, nicely balanced, with a good robust pork flavour. In spite of the liberal and colourful sprinking of chilli, the ramen was not too spicy.

The ramen was on the safe side...thin ramen was used, and cooked just slightly softer than al dente texture I prefer. This contrasts with the much firmer bite and eggy taste of the ramen used by Menya Shinchan.

But the centerpiece is the kurobuta slices. Kurobuta, literally black pig, is the pork equivalent to wagyu. Berkshire pigs, which are black and hence the name, are reared in a stressless environment, causing the meat to be tender, and full of flavour.

The taste is truly testimony to the added care to raise the pigs. thin slices of belly meat is quickly boiled and added to the bowl. The texture certainly is very fine, very tender, and beautiful flavour. The pork was a bit fat, but that's what gives rise to the rich taste and soft, tender texture.

The speciality for restaurant is certainly the katsu pork. We ordered the Black Pork Katsu with pink salt served atop a bowl of rice.

The slice of loin pork used was fat, but oh-so gorgeous, satisfying. The meat was tender, and very beautiful flavour. The crust was very crispy, and somehow did not retain the oil despite being deep fried. My personal best is still Katsukura in ANA Building, Tokyo (will blog about this soon), but this was pretty close.

Pink salt, liberally coats the sides of the bowl, and a sprinkling is also on the vegetables supporting the katsu. Pink salt, from Bolivia is a hand harvested rock crystal salt. The characteristic rosy pink hue, and speckled. In addition to its sodium chloride (salt) content, Pink Salt is remarkably rich in other minerals including Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron and an array of other essential and trace minerals.

The taste is subtle...I am not sure in a blind test, if I can correctly identify this from more normal rock salt.

The dish came with one of the most interesting miso soup I have seen. This was rich miso stock, but also brewed with vegetables and herbs and more kurobuta pork. Very fine, rich tasting, and not at all salty like most miso soup. This was a delight.

We also had the kurobuta tofu...see the theme of kurobuta? Many dishes are adorned with this very special, great tasting pork.

The stock was rich, possibly soy with rich pork bone stock...but lighter than the soup of the ramen. The tofu was the rough, cottage style tofu...very delicate soy flavour provided a nice counterpoint to the rough texture and the rich taste of the pork.

As the shop had a beautiful sushi counter, I ordered the namesake Tom Ton Shushi.

This proved to be a mini-disaster. Comprising of a cut roll with 6 different sushi ingredients - I can identify salmon, tuna, another fish, tamago, crab stick, cucumber. The taste is a riot, none of the ingredients was allowed to bloom. The sweet tamago clashed with the mild taste of the salmon and tuna. Wierd.

Other than the misadventure of the sushi, the meal was a great success. The ramen is one of better ones in Singapore, as is the katsu don.

Tom Ton
06 Eu Tong Sen Street #03-88/99
The Central(Above Clarke Quay MRT)
Singapore 059817
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