Three months ago, Chabuton opened its first ramen shop in 313@Somerset. And it’s always packed. The reason: The ramen recipes served at Chabuton was designed by Chef Yasuji Morizumi, the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen chef.
Sprinkling Stardust magic in Singapore
Like Lei Garden Restaurant, Din Tai Fung and Tim Ho Wan basks from the halo of one Michelin-star fame awarded to them in other countries.
Din Tai Fung was awarded Michelin-star for three branches in Hong Kong. Tim Ho Wan received one star for two of its branches and Lei Garden has a whopping 6 branches in Hong Kong! To the delight of Singaporeans, these brands have chosen to set up and expand in Singapore.
Chabuton, however, never received the coveted star. The star was awarded in 2011 for Mist ramen restaurant in Hong Kong, a franchise of Mist, a highly respected ramen chain of restaurants founded by Chef Morizumi. He was also the champion in Japan’s famous ramen contests – TV Champion Ramen Expert.
But so what if the name of the restaurant isn’t the same as the one which won the Star. Clearly, Chef Morizumi has proven that he knows few things about ramen! And ultimately, it’s the recipe and consistent quality that matter! No?
Chabuton conquers the east
Forget the CDB, ERP, PIE, and ECP. For those in the east, you needn’t haul to Orchard’s 313 @ Somerset because Chef Yasuji Morizumi now serves signature ramen dishes at Chabuton at Tampines 1.
In the pre-opening, I had the opportunity to taste a few of his dishes including the Chabuton Tonkatsu Ramen (Small: $8.30; Regular: $11.90), Chabuton Shoyu Zaru Ramen (Small: $10.50; Reg: $11.90), and Hitokuchi Gyoza ($5 for 8 pieces).
Refined and delicate
The first impression about the Tonkatsu ramen when served was the lack of layer of oil on top of the pork broth. This is a healthy sign and good for my arteries.
The Japanese leeks and white sesame seeds added some colour to an otherwise light brown pork broth upon which a slice – neither too thick nor thin – of char siew laid beautifully on top.
The broth was very balanced with a mix of mild salty flavour and savouriness punctuated by bits of sautéed chopped onions. The bamboo shoot topping and leeks added flavour dimensions and crunchiness to the overall texture
But the real star of the show was the ramen.
Soft on the outside and firm on the inside, the texture of the ramen was delightful in the mouth. It was springy to the bite, and was a perfect complement to the flavourful pork broth.
A fellow taster, James Yip, said, “It is probably the best ramen, I’ve ever tasted.” He went on to remark how it remained al dente even though the noodles soaked in the hot broth for 15 minutes while I took pictures of the dishes.
New taste sensation
Our second dish was the Shoyu Zaru Ramen. Like all Zarus, the thin ramen was served cold with a side of warm Japanese soya sauce dip.
Unlike the Zaru Soba’s light soya sauce minimalist dips with smidge of wasabi and scallions, this was brimming with soya sprouts, scallions, bamboo shoots, and tiny bits of sliced pork.
Again, the al dente texture of the ramen was perfect. Dipping it in the warm soup created an interesting temperature hot-cold contrast in the mouth. With every dip, the ramen transported bits of the sprouts and leeks adding additional flavours to the saltiness.
After finishing the noodles, as per the Japanese custom, the dip is turned into a soup by adding hot “wari” – the boiling water in which the ramen was cooked – to reduce its saltiness. The “wari” is served from what I can only describe as a tiny lacquered teapot, half the size of a coffee mug.
Even though I emptied all the “wari” into the dip, the soup was as salty as, say, potato chips. I really did enjoy the taste and wanted to finish it, but at that level of saltiness, it was simply unsustainable for the palate.
Even though the saltiness of the dipping sauce was a bit abrupt and overpowering, I preferred the Shoyu Zaru Ramen over the expertly crafted and balanced Tonkatsu ramen, only because I found the ingredients in the dipping sauce offered a unique experience.
In any event, I would recommend visiting Chabuton just to try what a Michelin-starred ramen recipe tastes like. And if you do, remember, you can request firmness of ramen and saltiness to suit your taste.
Chabuton Tampines 1, 10 Tampines Central 1, #02-09/10 Tampines One, Tel: 6636 8335
By Frank Young