Thursday, May 22, 2008

Search for Ramen: Part 1 - Menya Shinchan

I love ramen. I can eat this almost everyday and not tire of it. So I decided to begin a series to search for the great ramen places in Singapore. As I have already eaten in many of the greats, I am planning to blog about Tampopo in Liang Court, Ken's Noodle House in Orchard Plaza, Central's Marutama, Bon Gout - a rather strange bookshop/restaurant in Robertson Quay (BTW, I don't quite like the ramen served in Miharo at Gallery Hotel, so probably won't write more than I am here about that) and today's subject: Menya Shinchan.

Menya is in a somewhat difficult to find position, though once found, never forget. The cheerful waitresses wear T-shirts which says "Ramen is Art" already promises to be good.

All the noodles are hand made in-house (right in a small room inside the restaurant), and the soup used is made from scratch. This typifies the kind of obsession which characterises the Japanese culture. The owner is a retired Japanese an expat, who used to be President of the Ramen Society in Japan before he arrived in Singapore. After a stint in Singapore and Malaysia, he loved the region so much that he decided to open this shop.

One sign of a great ramen shop is that it does not serve anything else (other than side dishes) other than ramen, and another telltale sign of a serious ramen owner is that frequently no ocha is available - this Japanese green tea which is ubiquitious in Japanese restaurants, is not served. Menya is one such restaurant, as is Ken's Noodle House mentioned earlier. This is because one school of ramen artisan practitioners the ocha's taste tends to take the edge off the broth of a good ramen. Only cold water, soft drinks and beer is available.

The signature ramen in Menya, in my view is the Shinjiro. Firstly, the dish impresses with the size. Served in a rather typical sized ramen bowl - which is rather huge, but usually the bowl is approximately half filled. But the Shinjiro was heaped full of ramen, bean sprouts, and cabbage, this was not the half filled bowl. So large is the ramen, that they offer a ladies version...half the noodles, but same amount of cabbage and bean sprouts, and a serving of ice cream is substituted for the smaller noodle size.

They serve several other types of ramen, ranging from black sesame to shoyu types but I did not find them to be worthy of special mention as is the Shinjiro. Curiously S$13 seem to be the standard price for a bowl of ramen in Singapore...all the other ramen restaurants mentioned in paragraph 1 are all priced similarly. This makes eating ramen more expensive in Singapore than Tokyo, where a typical ramen shop, even specialist ones, will dish you a nice, steaming bowl for about Y600 (now about US$6, or S$8). The more fancy places will charge Y900 or so.

The noodle in the Shinjiro is on the thick, much more alike the Chinese yellow mee (however, as it is a ramen, it is hand drawn rather than machine cut) than the usual thinner ramen and is served al dente. If you prefer softer ramen, it can be ordered. But for me, al dente is the only way to go.

The broth was special. Thick, heavy, viscous (though not as viscous as one ramen I once had in Kyoto which had the consistency of lor mee rather than pork bone broth) and very tasty and not too salty. My usual complaint to tasty ramen broth is usually that it is very salty...typified by Tampopo's otherwise excellent stock. But the Shinjiro was well balanced...and frankly superb. Hints of pork, and an amazing fragrance was evident. The huge portion of vegetables was crunchy and very fresh.

It came with two rather small pieces of chashu. OK, its not small...each almost half the size of my 8707 Blackberry as can be seen in the picture, but they were so good, they felt small.

Japanese chashiu is also typifies the cultural tendency to perfection. The Japanese copy something so well, and take it on to another plane, that they make it their own. Ramen, a Chinese invention, is one example. The highest form we Chinese have taken the ramen to is the TanTan mee, which to me is unspectacular. But the Japanese have taken the ramen to new heights of art.

The chashu is the same. The Japanese chashu is also an artform which has deviated from its Chinese origins. While the Chinese version features a fillet which is barbequed with a sweet (usually colured red) sauce, caramalised into a crispy, slightly burnt crust while maintaining a juicy inside, the Japanese variety is typically made from pork steak cut, and usually roasted without any sauce. Menya claims their chashu is made by training received from the famous Japanese chashu masters at Chuka Soba Eguchi.

Shinjiro's chashiu was excellent...soft, tender, and full of flavour. The cut of pork came complete with finely marbled fat, as well as a thin layer within.

Half boiled eggs are available as a side dish, and it was quite good. An egg was halfed, and served on a plate and not inside the came slightly chilled. The egg was perfectly cooked (though I prefer the slightly...very slightly raw, slightly runny insides of the egg which Tampopo does oh, so very well), and from the colour of the yolk, it appears to be from chicken which is partially corn fed. Corn tends to give yolk which are orangish in colour compared to a grain fed chicken's yellow yolk. Corn fed eggs are common in ramen found in Japan...but this one found in Menya seems to be from chicken fed a mixed diet, rich in corn.

We also ordered a plate of gyoza...5 dumplings were served in one helping.

The gyoza was served very similar to what I have experienced in Japan...complete with what looked like a skin. This was a membrane formed when the small amount of soup used to cook the dumplings have boiled off. This had a fine taste, and the texture was akin to slightly crisped rice paper. The gyoza was not unusual in taste - good tasting, but nothing special.

Menya Shinchan Japanese Noodle Restaurant
30 Robertson Quay
#01-05 Robertson View

Monday, May 19, 2008

Crystal Jade Restaurant, Singapore

This may come as a surprise to you, but today, just like almost every other day, we had lunch. And this time, we had it in Crystal Jade, Great World City, Singapore, Asia, Earth. As usual, it was full and there was a queue, lucky for us, the queue was not too long and we only had to wait 15 minutes. We didn't really mind the wait that much as this was one of our favourite restaurants and we visit it very often.

After the wait, we entered the restaurant and sat down at a table in a corner. We began ordering our usual stuff but only to have it returned to us as we were later than usual and most of the items sold out.

First came the Preserved Egg with Meat Congee. It was good.

I espcially liked the you tiao. Crunchy, crisp smothered by the creamy like congee. This also was counterpoint to the slightly salty lean meat burried deep within.


Next came the roast pork, my grandma's favourite.


See that strip in the middle of the meat? Thats fat, not as a layer, but marbelled within the meat. Awesome! Juicy!


The crust was very crispy and adds to the overall pleasure when consuming this dish.

As we ate the roasted meat, the Glutinous Rice Dumpling arrived.


It contained salted egg yolk, dried scallops, roast pork, yam and yellow bean held in place by the glutinous rice.


A plate of Deep Fried Beancurd Skin soon landed onto our table as the plates of some of the other dishes which we had finished took off.


There was a total of 6 halves available. Inside it contained shrimps that tasted fabulous.


The last to come was the Salad Prawn sprinkled with Sesame Seeds. The large shelled prawns were coated with mayonaise.


This photo is not that great. This is because the colour of the mayonaise was too similar to the colour of the plate hence fooling the camera's metering system, causing the picture to be overexposed. The prawns were very fresh, and had a firm, crunchy bite.


Crystal Jade Kitchen
1 Kim Seng Promenade
Great World City #03-30
Singapore 237994

Mee Rebus at 60s Live Seafood, Singapore


What transcends race & religion? Not many things apparently, but ironically, food does at times... more so in Singapore than most other places i guess.

We have come to acknowledge that nasi lemak, satay, mee goreng, chicken rice and a host of other local dishes are uniquely local, enjoyed by all races and a great representation of this part of the globe, our northern neighbours across the Causeway included. Some of these local dishes may be prepared by Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians or localised Ang-mohs who give their own different interpretation and signature style but we all claim it as our local fare.

However, there is one local dish that remains less highly profiled than say, nasi lemak, satay or chicken rice. While still mainly prepared only by the Malays, it has become an equally accepted and consumed local dish as the rest of the others. Sorry for this rather long winded intro for a ...(drum roll) Mee Rebus! (m.r.) Yes our very own local-style pasta man! Just like its sister dish, Mee Siam (m.s.), m.r. is as uniquely local and multi racially eaten and enjoyed as the other more famous local dishes i mentioned earlier. {Eh no gender puns intended in the acronyms lah}

The m.r. is yellow noodles served soaked in thick gravy, usually slightly peanut in taste with a good sprinkling of green chillies, taupok, dried shrimps ("hare-bee"), fried shallots, bean sprouts, hard boiled eggs and of course, one half of a single lime for extra tang.

And so it was, on this lazy Wesak holiday morning, when Peter and i went in search of breakfast/brunch. We drove past the idyllic Stable Club at Bukit Timah until we reached the Green Fairways - a 9-hole golf course packed with holiday golfers. Eh, can find food here one meh? Yes, promises hubby.

Really nice greenery all around (mostly provided by golf fairways on one side) and lo behold, an open style eatery called "60s Live Seafood"...

Whaddya know got local food! We ordered the set breakfast (4 slices of kaya butter toast, with 2 half boiled eggs and a coffee) and of course, my favourite Mee rebus lah!


When the m.r. was served, i must say the presentation was pretty nice to look at (as you can tell from the photos). It was with great anticipation that we savoured our Wesak day breakfast. Of course Peter, being Chief Taster, took on ze tasting first and he started to nod in approval after the first mouthful. Eyes gleaming, he said "Hmm, not bad! Not bad at all". Ok, here comes my turn... what was this yellow noodle boiled (rebused) in traditional peanut gravy (kuah) going to taste like??


Remembering all the lovely ones I've tried in katong, raffles place and some say in malaysia, I must say - this particular m.r wasn't quite as traditional or similar to the ones i've tried before. Firstly, there was a lot more dried shrimp than peanut in the gravy and there was quite a lot of kicap manis (sweet black sauce - which you can also detect if you looked closely at the hard boiled eggs in the photos). There was also the stray soya bean, seeming from a helping of tau chieo.

Suffice to say that the noodles were just right,not too soggy. The taste was really that of a very home-made style mee rebus, the kind you'd expect from your neighbourhood makcik but with a twist - the kicap manis with a hint of chinchalok. i would have preferred the gravy to be a bit thicker and more peanutty. But it was the kicap manis that differentiated it from all the other m.r eaten before and this puts this m.r. in a 'must try at least once' category. Of course, no one should expect any two m.r. from different stalls to be exactly the same. This particular m.r was really quite down-to-earth with some rawness yet remained delicately well-balanced and well, quite enjoyable and interesting. For S$2.80 a bowl, it was satisfying and worth a second visit i think (don't forget ambiance was lush green fairways on one side and birds chirping around - what more can you ask for?)


The breakfast set of kaya toast (cost:$2.99) was nothing to shout about - Ya kun and Killiney are still pretty safe. Our kaya toast today was, in my book, barely acceptable.


Don't know about Pete (who seemed to enjoy it all this morning) but personally, i found the toast a tad too dry, kaya did not have enough pandan and butter had already melted into bread. Thankfully the half-boiled eggs were done quite right (though Peter pointed out that with an idiot proof timer, shouldn't get the eggs wrong, right?). For me, it was the humble local m.r. that i would go back for (and also want to try their nasi lemak too the next time, as it was sold out when we arrived. shucks! must be good one hor, so fast sold out?)

So there you have it - a pretty enjoyable breakfast at the Green Fairways resulting in my first blog posting ever (goodness how did this happen?) Must be all that dried shrimp and kicap manis in the m.r. which I think was served in a pretty nice location.(ok,ok, east coast next to the beach could possibly surpass, but, gotta blog this lah before i forget!)


60s Live Seafood
60 Fairway Drive
Singapore 286966
tel: 6469-8060

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ghim Moh Food Center, Singapore

After church, we headed off to have lunch. We intended to consume fish noodles at the famous XO Fish Noodle place in Holland Village. When we arrived it was under renovation. I may blog about it another time. So, for now I present ye, oh faithful reader with a rather mediocre meal. We went to Ghim Moh Food Center, latitude: 1° 18' 39", longitude: 103° 47' 17".

Wanton Mee

They were quite generous with the ingredients but the wanton and the char siew quality was very ordinary.


The noodles were firm to the bite and were covered with a black sauce reminiscent of the gorgeous wanton mee found in Kular Lumpur, but this was just a poor cousin of it. The noodle tasted very strongly of kee the ingredient that gives it its characteristic yellow colour. It was accompanied by a bowl of shui kau dumpling soup.


The dumplings were large but unspectacular in taste. The skin was too thick and the filing was bland. The stock could have been tastier and would have improved with some pepper.

Ipoh Hor-fun

This hor-fun was nothing like the variety found in Ipoh. I didn't like the noodles as I felt that it was very plain. It was not as smooth and soft as the genuine noodles you would get in Ipoh and in some specialist stores in Singapore. The sauce was very uninteresting also.

Char Kway Teow

We thought this was a good find because of the loooong queue. We were impressed by the old man frying so we imagined that the food would be great. It took a total of four shifts (dad, then me, then mom, then me again standing in line) to buy one plate of $3 CKT. It came full of lard and cockles, which usually is a promising sign.

Huge pieces of lard were spread out randomly in the midst of the noodles. Looks yummy!

The cockles were equally large and once again spread out in a random order in between the noodles.

Despite the great looks, the taste was a letdown. The chilli was not hot, therefore defeating its purpose, the noodles were not salty enough. My father preferred the Outram Park Char Kway Teow now at Hong Lim Complex and my mother the one located in Amoy Street Food Center. I agree with both of them. I may blog about these another day. This plate simply wasn't worth the heart-stopping cholesterol and ultra long wait.

Roast Meats

At last, a dish worth writing about in this food center. We ordered the triple meats, comprising of roast duck, pork and char siew.

I liked the char siew the most.

My father shared my view, and declared the sweet, crispy char siew a winner.

There was a nice juicy layer of fat (blue arrow) sandwiched in between the meat that was encrusted by a sweet, crispy, roasted and charred outer layer(red arrow). The mouth feel was incredible. As you bite in, the fat would burst in your mouth and the crunchiness of the outer layer added to the pleasure. This is char siew as it should be. Sinful but tasty.

Roast Pork

Though a little bit on the salty side, the skin was super crunchy and the meat was leaner than the char siew yet it was still tender and juicy.

My mother enjoyed the duck the most. It was roasted a little on the dry side, but the skin had the same beguiling black sauce as the char siew. Dad and I thought the Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint at Paya Lebar was superior.

Wanton Mee stall

Char Kway Teow stall

Roast Meat stall

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tateru Yoshino - Tokyo, Japan

One of the newly minted Michelin rated restaurants in Japan, Tateru Yoshino is a gem within the busy Shiodome area. Perched atop level 25, at the looby level of Park Hotel at the Shiodome Media Tower, this is a very small eatery - only 22 seats. Chef Yoshino prefers to keep his restaurants small to ensure high quality of cooking and service. The restaurant was brightly lit, with sunlight streaming in from the large windows.

This restaurant is one of two which were awarded the coveted Michelin 1 star belonging to gifted chef Yoshino. Co-incidentally, Shiodome Park Hotel also features another 1 star Michelin restaurant within the same premises.

As I usually stay at the Park Hotel, I took the opportunity to visit and have lunch with my wife on 21 April 2008. The set lunch was very reasonably priced at Y3675 for a 4 course meal comprising of Amuse-bouche, soup, main course, petite dessert, coffee/tea.

The Amuse-bouche was a breaded deep fried quail's egg, and tuna. Despite being deep fried, the egg had a light, crunchy crust, and the insides still soft.

The soup of the day was pumpkin soup. Very fine, subtle taste. As is typical of Michelin style restaurants, the soup featured a fine foam, with a sprinking of thinly sliced parma ham.

Kin had the duck breast, which was stuffed with foie gras. A magnificiently piece of duck was roasted, and then pan fried, and served with a stuffing of the some very good goose foie gras.

The skin was perfectly seared, crispy, and the thin layer of fat just below the skin would burst into a wonderful flavour in the mouth as one bites on the morsel. The foie gras was tender, creamy, and extremely rich. Tasty!

I had the veal, seasoned only with Japanese sea salt and pepper. The veal was done just right, with a hint of red within, and perfectly seared on the outside. The meat was tender, juicy with no hint of fat.

Dessert and petite fours was next. Dessert was a wonderful sorbet of raspberry, and a small slice of mango flavoured cake.

Petite Fours was a good selection of various sweets. We had one of each. The macarons are a speciality of Chef Yoshino...3 different types were offered.

Interesting meal. A typical one star Michelin meal in Europe would cost at least Euro80 per head, even for lunch, so Y3675 (which converts to approx US$36.75 at time of the meal, or S$49) is pretty good value for this very high level of cooking and very attentive service.

gastronomie francais tateru yoshino
Park Hotel
Shiodome Media Center

Wakashachiya - Central, Singapore

Lunch today was Japanese. My father thought of going to this place as he wanted to relive his experience of the unagi he had in Tokyo, two weeks ago. He happened into what appeared to be an old, traditional unagi place after an afternoon of shopping at Yodobashi in Akihabara. The huge camera and electronics store - one of the largest in the world had a whole floor dedicated to restaurants. The unagi kabayaki bento he had there was the best in his experience.

We started with teba chicken wings, they offer three different types - original, spicy and some other thing. We had the original one, which was the middle part of the wing.


It was nicely and lightly fried, the skin was crisp and not very oily with a hint of shio (salt). The meat was succulent and juicy. It was very enjoyable.

My mother ordered the set which comprises of curry udon, rice, and a pork katsu.


Frankly, the pork katsu could have been better. The one she had in Tokyo at Katsukura was still the best she has had. This pork was tough and fibrous although the crust was nice, light and crispy. The udon however, was fantastic. It has a nice firm bite and the curry was gorgeous. The curry gravy tasted like it was made of finely ground potatoes and featured leeks and a piece of fried tofu. She gave the rice to me.

I had the ebi tempura udon which came with two huge prawns perched atop a bowl of steaming curry udon. The curry udon had was the same as the one in the set menu.


The prawns were magnificent, large ebi delicately and lovingly tempura-ed. The batter was light and crispy and the crunchiness provided an excellent counter point to the firm but juicy ebi within.

My father had the piece de resistance: Hitsu-mabushi. This was a huge bowl of finely grilled unagi resting on a bed of rice. The Hitsu-mabushi is the speciality of the Nagoya city where Wakashachiya is from.


It came complete with eating instruction which instructed the diner to portion the dish into four equal parts. Serve the first part on the small bowl and eat it as it is. The second portion is then served onto the same small bowl, obviously after you finished your first portion. Sprinkle it with the chives/spring onions/wasabi and dried seaweed with has been finely cut into strips. Proceed to enjoy the second portion. For the third portion, use the dashi soup (fish stocks from bonito flakes) provided, and the same condiments. This was like a rice porridge. And for the final portion, you may consume the Hitsu-mabushi in any of the above that you prefer. Both my father and me preferred the second.


The unagi was very well grilled and served kabayaki style, covered with just the right amount of sweet sauce. It tasted very fresh, and the meat was soft, smooth and creamy without any hint of any bones which may appear in unagi of lower quality. My father felt that it was almost as good as the one he had in Tokyo, and certainly one of the best in Singapore.

All in all, we enjoyed ourselves very much and the bill came out to a total of about $80 for three persons.


The Central
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#03-92 to 95
Singapore 059817