Burger Shack v2.0
From the guy whose father brought us Island Creamery – the beloved after-school hangout of top junior college students who couldn’t stop reminiscing about it even in university, that it turned an entire generation of polytechnic and ITE graduates, and me off – comes Burger Shack. Burger Shack on the other hand, was a smaller, humble and modest attempt. It was never at the top of anyone’s list for burgers, simply because despite the chalkboard whitewashed contemporary interior, it was just a regular, run-of-the-mill diner with burgers that were alright, certainly not great, but not exactly memorable. And it was alright, given that it seemed to understand that its target demographic were students from the nearby Bukit Timah elite set who were, well, just kids with different set of priorities and appreciation.
Owner Ian Kwok has refashioned Burger Shack into Little Hiro, a reinvigorated Burger Shack with some Hawaiian Japanese influences. And while a trip to a wedding in Hawaii might have inspired the redecorated beachside barbecue cabin and the menu, what it has truly done, is give Little Hiro something the public can latch on to: branding. The classics that supported Burger Shack is still there, but now, there are unique and interesting enough items to entice people to travel all the way to Bukit Timah just to check it out. And one of their highlights, could be their ramen burgers.
The ramen burger is a very, very new phenomenon. It made its debut at a food festival in Brooklyn, New York in September 2013 when Japanese American Keizo Shimamoto, a ramen blogger decided to turn his passion for ramen into a business idea. What’s popular in New York, apparently works for the rest of the world, and soon inspired others to start offering the dish. Its influence and popularity across the world has even outpaced the cronut, which debuted just a few months before the ramen burger.
You might ask, what is a ramen burger?
A ramen burger is just a burger where the buns are replaced by ramen which is cooked and then fried long enough to get a good crisp around the “bun”. Although it’s an American invention, the ingredients so far, usually take on an Asian characteristic and flavor, presumably due to the perception of Asian cuisine being healthier in the west.
My biggest pet peeve with Little Hiro’s ramen burger is that the ramen “bun” generally lacked structure. It wasn’t crisp enough, and the bottom “bun”, presumably due to the heat and moisture, was collapsing due to the lack of firmness. It’s virtually impossible to pick it up by hand (who eats real burgers with a fork and knife, right?) and before long, it becomes a noodle dish with fries on the side. The ramen “bun” was generally plain, but I was disappointed that the karaage, while tender, was lacking in flavor to really anchor the whole burger. The use of the egg mayo was interesting, but I couldn’t see the point of it. Like a typical Singaporean, I squirted a huge amount of chili sauce into the burger which I felt, gave it a nice sweet-spicy counterbalance to the otherwise dry and carb-heavy burger.
On a side note, and this is just a pet peeve, but the black-white bear that Little Hiro uses looks a lot like Taiwan’s new budget airline V Air’s logo.