When my friend Dee called and asked me to check out a new ramen place in town, owned by celebrity chef and Tokyo Ramen Champion winner, Chef Keisuke Takeda — I had no reason to say no. After all, a good bowl of ramen is comfort food that’s hard to come by (for me). I am not a ramen connoisseur by any means, but I do like my ramen prepared a certain way. Preferably, the noodles shouldn’t be too al dente, the broth flavorful but not too salty or too oily. I also don’t like skimpy toppings, that’s just plain depressing to be scarfing down on mostly carbs.
“Tori” in Japanese means “chicken” and what makes Tori King Ramen exceptional lies in the broth; made from ingredients such as chicken bones, chicken feet, Japanese seaweed and an assortment of vegetables boiled for eight hours to extract their individually essential flavours. These specially selected elements come together to create a tantalizing and creamy chicken broth, which is layered and deeply comforting. And that’s what sets Ramen Keisuke Tori King apart from other ramen which I’ve had before.
This Ramen Keisuke Tori King restaurant is brand spanking new, and it’s located on the third floor of the newly renovated Amara Hotel shopping mall. Even though the rest of the mall is still bare and empty, with a lot of construction work going on, you won’t miss Ramen Keisuke Tori King because there is a LONG queue of people outside the restaurant. The afternoon when I went, there was a loooonnng line of people waiting to get a seat. After I finished eating and about to leave, there came a new batch of customers – like, an entourage of twelve or so people (all guys) arriving to the restaurant. And I went on THE SECOND DAY of its opening!!! My gawd, this is one super busy establishment, I kid you not.
The menu is relatively minimalist. There are three kinds of ramen broths to choose from, along with the amount of toppings you’d like. You can customize your ramen! What I appreciate tremendously are the options for noodle done-ness as well as the amount of oil in the broth. Additionally, finicky eaters (tsk!) who pick scallions, aka spring onion, outta their food ought to rejoice that there is also an option to exclude that, saving them the trouble of picking each and every little bit off. I usually say just eat the damn scallions already, coz your food’s gone cold by the time you’re done picking them off.
I invited pals Karen and Elaine along with me to try out the ramen together. Karen opted for the Black Spicy Tori King Ramen, Elaine went for the Green Spicy Tori King Ramen (which packs a tasty punch of wasabi without compromising the flavour of the broth – very unique, very special, very unexpected, MUST TRY!).
Meanwhile, Dee and I both went for the Original Tori King Ramen; mine with all toppings, normal broth strength, soft noodles, no oil.
At first glance, the giant seaweed sticking out of the ramen bowl is amusing. Upon closer inspection, I must applaud the super duper generous amount of toppings that are in this bowl of ramen! Look at that piece of charsiew pork, it’s so gigantic it almost covered half the bowl. And there’s also a generous serving of black fungus (wood ear mushrooms), which I am a big fan of.
Oh, then there’s the tamago egg which is perfectly half-boiled. I have noticed that many friends in Singapore really seem to love this; we don’t usually get this by default in our ramen back in New York. You also get a free flow of beansprouts topping (not shown) and freshly roasted black and white sesame that you have to DIY grind for additional texture, aroma and crunch to the ramen. Talk about being treated to a well-rounded gastronomic experience!
If the above still doesn’t satisfy you, Ramen Keisuke Tori King also offers unlimited complimentary hard-boiled eggs in a basket. In other words: FREE FLOW FREE EGGS. :0 Goodness, it’s like a mountain of stuff over your ramen! Yet all so simple, humble and thoughtful.
The rockstar topping, in my opinion, is this actual solid hunk of a chicken thigh that accompanies every bowl of ramen. I found out that how it’s cooked is a particularly intricate and elaborate process. The chicken is boiled and submerged overnight in Chef Keisuke’s premium soy sauce, allowing the flavours to permeate deeply into the meat. Each chicken thigh is then carefully grilled to perfection, boasting lovely grill lines while keeping the meat juicy and tender inside. The meat falls apart easily using chopsticks and it is indeed packed with flavor.
Hey, what’s this I spy on the wall? Additional condiments for the ramen! There’s bonito flakes to further season the ramen broth and a spicy sauce to give the grilled chicken thigh an extra kick, for those who love spicy.
I tried the spicy sauce and it was …. spicy. (._.)” Delicious, but I personally can’t take too much of it (I’m a wuss when it comes to spicy food).
So who is this chef anyway? In Japan, apparently there’s been an annual gathering of over 30,000 ramen chefs to compete for the coveted Ramen King title, in a televised championship called Ramen Champion Series. And the winner in 2011 is none other than the long ponytailed hipster-looking Chef Keisuke Takeda himself. This is a very prestigious title, don’t play play ah.
Food critics and notable publications have all commended Chef Keisuke Takeda for his novel and authentic ramen creations. Bringing to the table years of experience as a veteran French-trained chef, he is highly recognized for conceptualizing innovative yet humble gourmet cuisine. Isn’t this such a great real life story? To create something, paired with hard work and dedication, and then he gets recognized internationally and celebrated for his passion and accomplishments. It is so inspiring and awesome. I had the great honor to meet Chef Keisuke in person and had to take a photo together next to his Ramen Keisuke Tori King banner.
Chef Keisuke Takeda takes pride in ensuring that every customer has the best dining experience possible in all his restaurants (he has three in Singapore, btw; each boasting a unique specialty). Ramen Keisuke Tori King is like a combination of old and new world ramen. It has the classic, simple, filling ideas of old world, while also showing incredible craftsmanship of a ramen revolutionist. Chef Keisuke’s sterling reputation for infusing his own creative signature in traditional ramen is a testament to his commitment to deliver pure, unadulterated gourmet cuisine.
Verdict? I enjoyed my ramen tremendously. Although I must say that the Green Spicy Tori King Ramen (the wasabi broth) would be my personal recommendation and I totally totally urge you to go for that. With the “all toppings” option of course. And if you need to scroll up to look at the ordering form again, pay special attention to the prices. The most expensive option is S$16.90 only! That is such a bargain for the incredible amount and choices of toppings that you get with the ramen! It will definitely fill you up and you ain’t gonna burn a deep hole in your pockets. No wonder at just second day of restaurant opening, eager customers and hardcore ramen fans did not skip a beat and had all made their way to this restaurant.
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RAMEN KEISUKE TORI KING
100 Tras Street #03-15
Amara Hotel Shopping Mall
Tel: 6604 6861