Friday, December 19, 2014

Singapore Food Blog - Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King (豚骨王)

Location: Tanjong Pagar, Central Business District (CBD), Singapore

Those familiar with the Tanjong Pagar area may notice a long queue at a corner of Orchid Hotel just near the Tanjong Pagar MRT station. A closer look would reveal a wildly popular ramen restaurant called Ramen Keisuke, which had received rave reviews online. To differentiate this branch with the few others under the same owner, this was suffixed with 'Tonkotsu King'.

I was recommended to this ramen restaurant after our outing at Department of Caffeine, a session which lasted from mid afternoon to late evening. Since Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King was right near Tanjong Pagar MRT station and we were heading that way, we decided that we could try our luck getting fed here. Although it received a mixed review from my gang, I personally like the dish for its broth's superior taste.

The banner carrier

We arrived just slightly past 6 p.m. but the queue had already reached an incredible length, taking us close to 30 minutes before we were admitted. However Tonkontsu King clearly ooze Japanese efficiency by providing order forms upfront, allowing diners to place their orders before stepping into the store. By bringing us step by step through our choices, we chose the type of ramen, the toppings to go with, the flavor of the broth and the noodle's texture.


To facilitate a more efficient order, the order form is available outside of the shop. Prices and choices are all specified clearly, with steps guiding diners through the choices. You choose your ramen, toppings and flavor from the form, and could even specify what you would not want. Talk about Japanese efficiency...

Upon our turn, we were ushered into a claustrophobic interior where space was a premium. It was obvious that the interior was meant just for dining. - tables and chairs were packed close to each other, and walking space was kept to a minimum, I wonder if the restaurants were this packed in japan as well.

Diners did not dwell longer than necessary in Ramen Keisuke, staying just long enough to finish their bowls. The waiters and waitresses were efficient as well, catering to less diners rather than handling a large crowd. The order prepared up front and received even before we were seated meant that we get to dig in just moments after we were assigned a spot.

Our ramen - Ramen Keisuke ramen with Japanese soft boiled egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) (SGD12.80), with a normal taste broth and normal level of chicken oil. The outcome was a superbly delicious ramen! Getting towards the bottom we found that there is too much oil into the broth, creating a greasy dish. Maybe in subsequent visits we should get 'less oil' rather than normal amounts.

I have to say that Ramen Keisuke's bowl of ramen was one of the best which I have tried before. The springy ramen had a solid texture which held its own until you chew it apart. The broth was cloudy with goodies, with chashu, chopped onions and black fungus adding tastes to my palate. The liquid was so tasty that every slurp of ramen was accompanied with a scoop of broth to savor the sweet and salty taste. Ramen Keisuke really earned its namesake with this broth. However diners should take note of its saltiness - too much could leave you really thirsty.

Of course, the tantalizing tamago was a heaven sent - its runny yolk core wrapped in a solid marinated egg white would make every diner squeal with delight on every bite, savoring the taste and experience as slow as they could. The chicken oil added to the taste and fragrance of the bowl, but with one problem - floating on the broth it was unnoticeable at first but upon reaching the end of the bowl, they started to get denser, diminishing the appeal of the ramen. Near the end it felt that we sipped more oil than broth.

Green tea cola (SGD3) sounds better than it tastes. I was intrigued by the concept of having both green tea and cola taste in a beverage, but clearly the cola was overwhelming the much lighter green tea taste, making the latter almost non-existent. Not worth it if you are looking for a novel taste, but would be enough to quench your thirst.

One offering of Ramen Keisuke which I found novel and interesting is their bowl full of eggs. Each table was allocated a bowl full of hard boiled eggs, which came in brown and white variants, for your consumption. You could take as many as you like to be served with your ramen. However their shells were difficult to be peeled, leaving quite a mess when removing them, often prickling the egg white and leaving it with craters. Since these were free offerings not included in the bill, I guess I should not complain about it.

Grinding sesames

Sesame seeds were offered to each diner to be grounded and added into the ramen. You could choose how fine it should be ground and how much to add into the ramen by yourself.

Eggs for your choice: brown or white?

A packed interior

The never ending queue outside

There is no doubt that Japanese food is usually inflated in Singapore and Malaysia but Ramen Keisuke is on the lower end of it. To get a big serving at close to SGD13 is rare indeed, especially since Keisuke Takeda, the chef owner of the restaurant bearing his name, is Ramen Champion of 2011 Tokyo Ramen Championships. And when I mentioned 'big serving', it really is that - it is not meant for light eaters to finish a full bowl without being too stuffed to walk. 

Ramen Keisuke won me over with their taste, which is just above most Japanese restaurant offerings. I would choose this over most of the chain restaurants, but I would not queue another time just for the sake of it. I do hope they could improve the seating situation in their restaurant, because the queue is not because they are popular, but because there is nowhere enough place for diners. This could be tough though, unless they plan to move permanently to a shoplot with ample space. Maybe in my next visit I will look for the other few restaurants of Keisuke's and hope that the queue is not as long.

Environment:         A small restaurant in a busy central district
Suitable for:            for family or friends, or just for usual dining
Food score:              7/10
Food:                           4.5/5.0
Service:                       4.0/5.0
Value:                          4.0/5.0
Ambient:                     2.0/5.0

Operating hours:   (Mon - Sat) 11.30 a.m. - 3.00 p.m.; 6.00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m.
                                        (Sun)            6.00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m.
Directions:                Disembark at Tanjong Pagar MRT station, walk towards Tras Street and locate Orchid Hotel. The restaurant is very small, located at an outside corner of Orchid Hotel, so do not walk into the hotel. The mentioned corner faces both Tras Street and Tras Link.

Website:                    Official homepage of Ramen Keisuke
Contact:                    +65 - 6636 0855 (phone)
E-mail:                       -
Address:                   1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867.

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