The fast-food of ramen.
I fff… love ramen. It has been “a while” since Singapore has seen some ramen action. I haven’t tried Keisuke’s new pop-up in Bugis, but it’s on a to-do list, somewhere very soon. For my fix on ramen in Singapore, I look to The Traveling Hungryboy, who seems to have the scoop on everything someone like me might like. So, when I saw the post on Ramen Kagetsu Arashi, I was foaming in the mouth – eager to jump to it, and I did, today.
Kagetsu Arashi is to Japan what Ajisen Ramen is to Singapore – it’s one of the big ramen chains, with stores in every city in Japan. It even has a whole tsunami full of outlets in Taiwan as well. The concept of Kagetsu revolves around a garlic tonkotsu broth base, and on the table, are plenty of condiments to help “customize” your ramen. I don’t know about you, but it’s never a good sign when there are too many condiments in a ramen shop, complete with instructions on what you should do if you want your broth sweeter, spicier, milder or umami. I see it not only as being lazy on the chain’s part, allowing diners to season, tweak and change the integrity of the ramen completely, but an excuse if the diner’s experience is not ideal. I can deal with the essentials, like vinegar for the gyoza, but 9 condiments is too much.
The gyoza, which at SGD 6 for 5, was generally more expensive than what the established, more well-known brands are charging. I would have given it an average pass if not for the fact that each gyoza varied in quality, ranging from the fairly decent to the downright revolting thick skin, little filling. Next, I discovered, after the meal, that there was a method and science in using the various condiments and sauces to create the signature gyoza sauce. Having dedicated a whole page in the menu to explaining what each sauce was, you’d think that they’d put in the recipe for the gyoza sauce, but they didn’t. The staff could’ve explained, but let’s not get into the service aspect of Kagetsu. If you have to know, it’s troll.
The bowl arrives, and is presented to me looking positively anti-climatic and underwhelming. Like Keisuke Tonkotsu King, the noodles are submerged under the sea of fat (or collagen, because that’s the health conscious way to put it), and the meat, looking dried up and lackluster. Ramen can sometimes taste better than it looks, but this looked exactly like it tasted. The tonkotsu broth just wasn’t rich enough, and the garlic bit, was not only too mild, it was virtually non-existent. Where they’d normally play up to a typical bowl of ramen’s strengths, the ubiquitous memma, chives, onion and boiled egg failed to work well together. It became a point where I too, couldn’t deal with the ingredients. It was at this point that I had to resort to experimenting with the condiments and sauces, which you might guess, only made things worse. With each introduction of a condiment or sauce, the broth became steadily undrinkable – there was a distinctive sharp bitter aftertaste that I just couldn’t pinpoint with each sip of the broth.
This is certainly not something you want to come out to the west for.