HAND ME a step–by–step checklist – “Make your own RAMEN ! !” – and I’m instantly a happy boy. It saves not only time, but also another tired take at placing my food order, which, if you know me, sometimes turns into a spectacle on its own – I enunciate each word into pieces, complete with elaborate hand gestures.
Before I commit, hand me a checklist… and I’m yours!
Thank RAMEN KEISUKE TONKOTSU KING at 1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867, for reducing “eNTeNG, the One–Man Act” into four easy steps. Hunched over my slip of paper at a small corner square table with one end pushed to the wall and another against the seat at the next table, I was a microcosm of how cramped – ok, “quaint” – this ramen place feels. I caution to say that I had to toil over my options. I mean, when you know what flavors you like, you just check away.
Step 1 – “Please choose the RAMEN”. Black Spicy Tonkotsu King (S$ 11.80), check! Of the two spicy variants, I chose black over red. I’ve always associated something spicy with being red hot. So why not black hot for a change.
Step 2 – “Please choose your favorite Topping”. Seaweed (S$ 1.00), check! This one’s a no–brainer. I’ve never been a fan of “flavored” egg. And whenever a menu screams, “Recommended!!”, the more I’d veer away from it.
Step 3 – “Please choose your favorite flavor”. Taste of the soup – Strong, check! Chicken oil – More, check! Noodle texture – Hard, check! Not one to shy away from the extremes, I guess my lips just had to break into a half–smile as I checked away options that celebrate the funambulism with which my palate approaches flavors. A one–line disclaimer says, “’NORMAL’ will be the Authentic JAPAN Taste’”. With the choices I made, I clearly had waived all rights to being the boy who cried inauthentic!
Step 4 – “Please tell me which ingredient that you ‘don’t’ want”. Who doesn’t want spring onion? Pork chasyu? Black fungus? Not me!
I almost specified “VERY HARD” on my preference for noodle texture! On my next visit, I will!
At this point of my quest, it has all come down to two things – the broth and the ramen noodles. And oh, every chance I get to spike my bowl with the hint of sesame oil that makes any ramen experience feel like a throwback to my childhood. Here, it took an artisanal approach – I had my own mortar and pestle to grind lightly roasted black and white sesame seeds before I tip them over to my bowl.
For that hint of a little sesame goodness, a seeming throwback to my childhood, I had to exert a little work. So artisanal, with my own mortar and pestle.
The broth was slightly thick, milky white, and quite flavorful. I could tell that this robustness could only come from pork and pork bones simmered for hours, and seasoned by a ramen chef so good that he could very well be wearing a crown on his head instead of a chef’s toque or a Japanese headband. I wish the noodles were thinner. But that didn’t win over my heart’s desire for an extra serving. Unlike at IPPUDO, no one checked my bowl if I still had some broth left before they acknowledged my hankering for the extra helping of noodles.
My BLACK SPICY TONKOTSU KING RAMEN!
I know I did check seaweed as my choice of topping. However, when I saw how it made it to the bowl, it almost had the look of an afterthought – like, all was done and perfect and then someone said, “Stick a seaweed sheet in it! Go!” Haha! It does have the look of a breakwall. It was as if it would come in handy with the (eventual) uncontrollable slurping of the noodles and the broth.
The requisite extra bowl of noodles!!!
If it were not for the very limited space, I would’ve kicked my shoes off, rested my feet on a stool, and with one hand on my tummy and the other holding on to my cold Keisuke (Japanese) Green Tea Cola (S$ 3.00), admire the mishmash of retro Japanese art and calligraphy on the wall, thank the fact that this had got to be the shortest walk from my commute to an awesome meal – only two minutes from the Tanjong Pagar MRT station – just in time before I will have realized that I should behave more appropriately.
The mishmash on the walls gives the place some more of its authentic Japanese feel.
This KEISUKE (Japanese) GREEN TEA COLA is just… what’s the word… oh, fab!
This place, after all, is home – for the broth alone – to a TONKOTSU KING.
Here resides the TONKOTSU KING of the BROTH!!!
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