Menya Musashi, Singapore

ramen is all over singapore! there are way too many choices – so much so that everytime i feel like having a good bowl of ramen, i end up spending more time searching which shop i should go to and reading reviews than actually eating the bowl of noodles.

this time, the choice was menya musashi. i used to wonder how good it was when i saw the snaking queues outside the raffles city outlet and this time, it was the outlet at ion orchard that we headed to to see whether it was really worth the queue!

this shop is supposedly one of the most popular in tokyo, and their specialty is the tsukemen, where the ramen and soup are served separately and you are supposed to dip the noodles into the soup with each bite you take! wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous that night so i stuck to the ramen we are used to – a piping hot bowl of delicious noodles. their menu is pretty straightforward: they have a black, white and spicy soup base and for each soup base, there are 4 options, each differing based on the amount of toppings given.

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we ordered one bowl of black big tiger ramen and white big tiger ramen.
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(black on top, white at the bottom!)

what’s the difference between the white and black soup? the black soup is more garlic-y and also a little saltier – a heavier soup in general.

the “big tiger ramen” comes with the most toppings; i suppose its meant to be the “top of the range” bowl (at SGD16.90) – it comes with a mixture of shabu shabu pork and cha shu, half an egg, and a whole bunch of other garnishings. it was the most expensive on the menu but i would say it was very worth the money.20130327_183836
i have to say, they are EXTREMELY generous with the toppings, which is what i really liked.  every bit of noodles could be eaten with something (unlike some other bowls of ramen where its just a lot of noodles with a few measly slices of pork) and the cha shu was one of the best i’ve had with ramen! it was cooked to perfection – tender and very very tasty.as for the soup (which is key to any bowl of ramen), it was definitely not what i was expecting. it was so thick that it was almost like a gravy – i think i remember remarking that it reminded me of lor mee gravy. don’t get me wrong – it tasted good, but was just much thicker than i had imagined soup for ramen would ever be! because of the super generous amounts of toppings given and the extremely thick broth, it was a very filling and satisfying  bowl of noodles. definitely not something that everyone will like though, as its not the normal tonkotsu/shoyu soup that most of us are used to. however, another good thing about it was that i didn’t feel too thirsty after the meal, which means the tastiness is pretty natural and doesn’t come from too much msg!

out of sheer coincidence, the lady sitting next to me on the bus home had had her dinner at menya musashi as well. i sheepishly (or shamelessly?) admit that i eavesdropped on her phone conversation as she recounted to whoever was on the other end of the line how her shoe-shopping trip failed because apparently shoes that are both comfortable and nice-looking just do not exist, and how she did NOT like her ramen at menya. in her words, she said it was “super gao” (gao = thick in hokkien dialect, for the uninformed). she also complained that she didn’t get to drink coke because they only serve pepsi (heads-up for all coke lovers out there lol).

total bill: SGD39

who i would recommend this to: people looking for a different sort of ramen, either the dipping sort (if you are interested in trying something new) or one with an extremely thick soup. guaranteed to be a filling meal! i’m not sure how crowded it normally is as we went early and on a weekday but given the crowd i’ve seen at dinnertime at the raffles city outlet, i’d say its best to go early to beat the crowds. when we went at 630pm, there was no queue, but there was a steady stream of customers.

will i go back? i don’t really foresee myself going back in the near future unless i’m craving this sort of ramen. i think i still prefer the normal soup bases, though this is an interesting change. probably the kind of place i’d consider going to if i’m in orchard with no food ideas and am craving some ramen. i’d definitely say its worth trying at least once though!

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Menya Musashi
2 Orchard Turn
#B3-25 ION Orchard

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Who’s your daddy?

We had initially intended to go to the famed Burger & Lobster for dinner. Owing, however, to the approximated 2 hour wait, we decided to adjourn somewhere else. My buddy Chor Hiang suggested this ramen place just off Wardour Street called Bone Daddies. With a name like Bone Daddies, my visiting friend from Oxford, Tong Hui and I were naturally highly suspicious. I mean what kind of F&B establishment calls itself Bone Daddies?!! After much thought though, I realised, much to my own dismay as well, there again, that what kind of blog is called rockabite, baby?? So cynicism unjustified, I guess: nomenclature is not fully representative and should not be used as a judging criterion. Any doubts that we initially had were eventually, and perhaps even conclusively, quelled when we saw the queue outside the restaurant. It was uber looooong. The queue extended beyond the entire corridor of the restaurant into that of the massage parlour next door. And that wasn’t it; there was another round of queuing inside. Madness, should have just gone back to Burger & Lobster eh. But seeing the number of people willing to queue in the cold dreary weather outside, we willed ourselves to brave the frostbites and got in line.Photo 19-03-2013 07 43 07 PM

Tong Hui, who I must emphasise is of University of Oxford provenance, said that the soup of ramen – being made from boiling pork bone for more than 10 hours – increases one’s chances of getting cancer by 15% or something. *TOUCH WOOD* Seeing the people queuing outside and the people slurping sumptuously inside, I reckoned this was either a myth or that the ramen was so good it was worth the health risk! Not that it mattered, we were going in anyway.

Set up like a bar, with bar stools and not chairs, and with rock music playing in the background, Bones Daddies was conceptually as surprising as its name. Indeed this combination of such a setting with ramen was interesting. The queue inside was rather agonising, especially as we felt so close to the food yet still so far.Photo 19-03-2013 08 18 46 PM

Making it worse was this party of 4 seated in front of us, who had finished their food but continued playing some lame numbers game. They were taking their own sweet time to leave; it was diabetes-inducing. And the clearing of tables for a turnover of customers was also pretty slow by the service staff. This made the wait painfully long, particularly when they give you the menu while you are standing in line.

After 15358230231051 years, we were led to our seats. First thing I noticed was that the layout of the tables was pretty cool. They had chilli oil, sesame seeds, chopsticks and this interesting garlic masher. Photo 19-03-2013 08 40 37 PM Photo 19-03-2013 08 40 52 PMPhoto 19-03-2013 08 40 05 PMI guess this gives people a choice if they want their garlics whole or mashed. Or to have their ramen completely without an excess garlic-y taste at all. The item that caught my attention the most was, however, the bottle with hair bands in it. I felt it was a nice and thoughtful touch as peeps with long hair often get their hair into the broth, making both the hair and broth disgusting. Photo 19-03-2013 08 45 42 PM Photo 19-03-2013 08 48 05 PM

Anyway we placed our orders and we each got the purportedly famous tonkatsu ramen. On the menu it was stated that the bones are  boiled for 20 hours – which makes, assuming Tong Hui was not bs-ing, us doubly susceptible to cancer compared to the average ramen eater elsewhere! Anyhow, Chor Hiang, the friend who recommended this place, mentioned that the servings were a tad small. It was also suggested that we enhance the flavour of the broth with a topping of cock scratching (£0.80), whatever that was. I was undecided but after considerable scratching (of my head), however, I decided to stick with the tried and tested extra bean sprouts and an extra egg.Photo 19-03-2013 08 16 52 PMPhoto 19-03-2013 08 18 26 PM

Alas the ramen arrived and it smelt great.  Before we began eating, we saw this group of Caucasian ladies taking pictures of their food. Stereotype disproved! And I guess it also suggests something about the quality of the food there that others, and not just this food blogger extraordinaire, were keen to capture their palettes in photos.Photo 19-03-2013 08 51 02 PMPhoto 19-03-2013 08 42 33 PM

On to the ramen. The bean sprouts were crunchy and juicy. The egg yolks were runny and viscous at the same time. Done almost to perfection! It was really rich in taste as well. And the texture of the yolk in your mouth – it just melts.Photo 19-03-2013 08 52 45 PMPhoto 19-03-2013 08 53 44 PM

The serving of meat was decent, two big pieces that were thinly sliced with a nice decent amount of fat, making it supple and tasty without an overly swinish (yes, yes, I know it’s still pork, nonetheless) and oily taste. Looks sinful, I know; but if it’s healthful, chances are it won’t taste as nice!Photo 19-03-2013 08 56 36 PMThe broth was really thick. It was almost as though I was drinking a cream of ramen soup instead. I guess it was nice, and I doubt you can justify charging 3 quid for extra broth if it isn’t good! There was also a judicious amount of spring onions and radish slices in the broth. Some veggies to justify the indulgence. However, the radish taste was a bit overpowering and I think this may put some people off, especially if they’re not radish fans. The noodles themselves, though, were pretty average. No special taste or extra ‘bounce’ that other famous ramen restaurants profess to have.

Halfway through, I decided to add some chilli into the mix. I felt it enhanced the taste of the soup in a good way, giving the thick broth – which gets static in taste after almost an entire bowl – a bit of an extra kick. Not too much chilli though, it was rather spicy and may overwhelm one’s palette if too much is added.Photo 19-03-2013 08 59 51 PM

It was funny that their bowls had a ‘thanks’ written at the bottom, almost as though they expected everyone to finish the broth to the last drop. Well, I did anyway and was amused by their sense of humour. The bowl of ramen was filling, unlike my friend had previously warned. Maybe it was the extra egg and bean sprouts.Photo 19-03-2013 09 03 15 PM

On a side note though, what I had mentioned previously about the radish proved right too – my friend left all his radish untouched, citing the fact that it tasted strong and he didn’t really like radish. Perhaps they could consider doing something like the whole garlic pieces with radish as well?

Overall, it was really good ramen, the soup was really rich, perhaps a tad overly so for my liking. But the eggs were really appetising and the quirky combination of a bar setting and rock music with ramen was truly something original. Would I be back? Not if I had to endure another almost 2 hour wait, especially in the kind of cold we endured. However, for a tad under £15, it is a place that I would definitely recommend, at least once – for the entire experience (queuing aside) if not just the food. Is it, then, worth the repeated exposure to cancer risk? I think not.DSCN1589

Bone Daddies
31 Peter St,
London W1F 0AR

Jin Kichi, Hampstead

today we made our maiden foodie club trek to Hampstead, solely based on a recommendation by nic’s (dubious) japanese hairdresser (i mean, just look at the state of his hair…). this restaurant is just a minute away from the hampstead tube station, and is known for its yakitori.

first impressions:

1. japanese newsletters/magazines for customers to take home with them –> LEGIT…

2. sushi bar was manned by japanese chef grilling yakitoris on the spot –> OOOH….

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3. spoonless tables –> truly japanese

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4. just ONE blond-haired waiter –> #asianpride

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5. japanese fishmonger delivering fresh produce for the day

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the menu was extensive but nic had preconceived notions of what foods represent the hallmark of true japanese cuisine: miso ramen, tempura, sashimi.

sadly there wasn’t ramen on the menu (but udon and soba were available) so we ended up ordering tempura, sashimi, unagi sushi and a yakitori set.

the yakitori set was first to arrive. while nic was dying to dig in, rach and jo were excited over the prospect of breaking down food for the FIRST time instead of the usual “soooooooo good”. the set included fresh green asparagus with pork, pork with shiso leaf, chicken with onion, minced chicken meatballs, shiitake mushrooms and king prawn.

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Asparagus with pork

rach: asparagus was very fresh and there was a good balance between the amount of pork and greens. you can consider ordering just the asparagus- (THEY WERE SO HUGE AND JUICY LOOKING, NIC WAS ALMOST FOAMING WHEN THE WAITRESS CARRYING IT WALKED PAST – at the food, not the waitress)

nic: pork wasn’t crispy enough, but the asparagus was sweet and cooked to perfection

jo: would have liked the pork to be more flavourful, but the blend between the two flavours was divine

Pork with shiso leaf

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rach: a bit dry, but the shiso leaf was grilled nicely

jo&nic: there are layers of meat and fat in the pork, so you should eat each piece ALTOGETHER so the juicy fatty goodness can seep into the meat.

Chicken with onion 

this is rach’s FAVOURITE skewer of the day.

rach: the chicken was SOOO juicy and the onions were really crunchy and packed with flavour. it was SOOO GOOD.

Shiitake Mushrooms

nic&jo: so juicy, pity we didn’t have it when it was hot

King prawns 

nic: could have even the whole thing, shell and all, if not for the over zealous waitress. (100 marks for efficiency in clearing the table.)

rach: very naturally sweet prawns

Chicken meatballs 

nic&jo: the fineness of the mince is the selling point

rach, dissenting: chicken was too finely minced, could do with more bite

(OOOH- first instance of clashing tastes and preferences????)

the sashimi lunch set came with 3 slices of salmon, 2 slices of tuna, 2 slices of seabass and 2 slices of turbot. the star of the platter was the salmon, which converted nic from a maguro lover to a fan of salmon. the initial bite was crisp and clean, yet it melted in our mouths upon chewing. it was so smooth without the stringiness of lower grade sashimi. nic also announced to the whole restaurant (his voice tends to be loud and booming) about just how good the maguro was. it was a public display of affection ^^ Image

the ingredients for the tempura were amazing. the tempura here was all about the sauce (and source, since it was sooo fresh). the sauce had an unidentifiable mystery ingredient that gave it some sort of kick/oomph. nic describes it as ‘an alcoholic surge’. the initial kick of the sauce soon blends into the flavour of the meat/veggie and merges into an organic whole. heaven is a place on earth. like the yakitori king prawn, the meat was firm, juicy and sweet and the batter light, fresh; it was a distinct……(for the lack of a better word) DISTINCTION. the ingredients were also coated with just the right amount of this amazing batter; never tasted anything batter.

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the miso soup was pleasant though it seemed that the savoury flavour came from a stock as opposed to the miso itself. not sure if thats a positive or negative thing but it was nice.

there were let downs – the rice and hence the unagi sushi. the rice was too moist and clumpy. possibly reheated from previous days? for the sushi we wanted more unagi and less rice. we would have preferred a crispier seaweed wrap.

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Wrapping up, before asking for the bill, we three have a tradition of playing ‘the price is right’ this allows us to share with you what we felt the meal was worth and enables you to compare it to what we actually paid.

Our guess was: £55

Total bill: £54 nett

Ambience: casual, for the family

Service: efficient, though sometimes overly so; felt rushed as we didn’t make reservation;

Who we would recommend it to: small groups of discerning consumers of japanese cuisine; not people looking for a leisurely lunch

Will we return?: Rach: Possibly; Jo: there are comparable alternatives in central london but will go back for the hampstead experience; nic: probably.

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Jin Kichi 

73 Heath St  London, Greater London NW3 6UG
020 7794 6158