Serene Reviews: Ramen Champion!
Hello everyone! :D Do you guys love ramen? I DO! XD And I love it a lot!
Fortunately for a ramen-lover like myself, I was able to attend a media sampling last week along with Chermont at Ramen Champion, Bugis +. Hooray!
If you didn't know about Ramen Champion, it's a restaurant that basically invites 6 authentic Japanese restaurants (restaurants in a restaurant - RESTAURANT-CEPTION!) to be part of this ramen competition that they hold annually. Customers come into Ramen Champion to try any ramen of their choices and after their meal, they are given the opportunity to vote for their favourite ramen contenders.
For the 2012 Ramen Champion competition, we have 8 contenders! 6 at Ramen Champion Bugis +, and the other 2 are located at Ramen Champion Changi Airport T3!
The highest voted ramen contender will then be crowned as the Ramen Champion of that year. The three contenders with the lowest votes will, sadly, be kicked out of the competition and new contenders will be brought in.
It's an interesting concept for a restaurant itself, don't you think? :) A competition within a restaurant! XD And to think that the contenders actually change every year! OAO it's a good way to keep the customers coming in because there'll always be something new to try.
Right, on to the ramen itself then! Just thinking about it now is making me hungry. :(
Miss Prue (the senior executive marketing IC) was there with Chermont and I for the media sampling and she was really friendly! It was nice chatting with her about the ramen and the restaurant itself. She presented to us 6 bowls of ramen from the different Japanese contenders and even allowed us to try something that wasn't in the initial 6! ;)
First off was the AOYAMA's Special Tonkotsu Ramen! Aoyama is a new contender for the 2012 Ramen Champion, and I'll be certain that Aoyama will be here for next year's competition. ;) Why?
It's because I'm a fan of rich, thick broths for ramen, so this one definitely caught my eye! The overall taste of the broth wasn't too strong as well, but might be a bit too much for those who aren't frequent ramen eaters (ramen broths are meant to be rich to enhance the taste of the noodles and everything else combined). The noodles are soft and thin, making it easy to chew it together with the meat and the bits of leek in the broth. The flavoured egg tastes AWESOME with the soup. Very nice combination. It's a simple but extremely tasty tonkotsu ramen. Special, indeed.
Aoyama's Special Tonkotsu Ramen is priced at $15 per bowl! :D
Following that, we have BARIO's Ajitama Ramen. Bario is also a new contender for the competition! :>
I can't say how much I LOVE THE BROTH. It's totally rich and really thick. Goes well with the pork belly and bean sprouts. The flavoured egg tastes excellent with the broth as well- really good marination there. Everything in this ramen is something that I really approve of for ramen lovers! There are two special points about this ramen. First, there's a whole lot of bean sprouts added in. It's for flavouring the broth slightly and it's also something that you eat the pork belly with. Secondly, the noodles are not your normal kind of noodles! These noodles are thick and relatively chewy. Reminds me of mee pok noodles, but slightly thicker. I actually love everything about this ramen EXCEPT the noodles. :/ I prefer thin and chewy ones, so unfortunately their special point was a turn-off for me. I still love the broth a lot though. XD
Bario's Ajitama ramen is priced at $14.50 per bowl.
The next one that was served was from GANTETSU. Their name shouldn't be a stranger to those who visited Ramen Champion before, because Gantetsu was present for last year's competition! Here's Gantetsu's King Chashu ramen!
This ramen is something that I'd recommend for those who aren't fans of really thick broths. The broth is much lighter compared to the previous two bowls that Chermont and I sampled (Chermont liked this one more because it's not overwhelmingly rich). The pork cha shu is well marinated and easy to chew - goes well with the soup and the seaweed on the side! The special point about this ramen is that it has a sweet aftertaste for the broth. It's unique because I don't normally expect such an aftertaste coming from a ramen (usually I'd expect just strong pork taste on my tongue <3). I'm not a fan of sweet and mild stuff, so this ramen didn't really cut out for me. But it's definitely suitable for those who are trying out ramen for the first time, or just want something milder for their taste buds.
Gantetsu's King Chashu ramen is priced at $15! :D
Alright, next comes IROHA! Coming from a champion ramen chain in Toyama, Iroha's King's Ramen is something that many people will remember for the distinctive shoyu flavoured broth!
The first thing that I noticed about the ramen is the difference in the broth. It's not the usual pork broth that I'm used to, so the taste is actually pretty refreshing! The broth is made from chicken shoyu, and it still tastes wonderfully rich with a right amount of thickness. I love how tender the meat is and how well it really goes with the broth. Also, the slightly sour aftertaste left an interesting impression with my taste buds. It's not something that I'd normally try, but it's an interesting change nonetheless.
The price of this ramen is $18! A bit pricier than the other ramens but it's something that all ramen lovers should try at least once.
Next is the TAISHOKEN's Cold & Spicy Tsukemen! This is a unique kind of ramen because it's cold and you eat the noodles separately from the sauce!
Singaporeans will probably be unwilling to try this actually because it's for a fact that we're known to be unadventurous when it comes to food that we're not used to. It's my first time actually trying this bowl of cold and spicy noodles, and I have to say... It's either a love or hate relationship that you'll have with it. For me? This ramen isn't working out. D: It has a unique taste for sure - with the cold and dry noodles tossed with fresh lemon, chili oil and vegetables; then dipping the noodles into the spicy dipping sauce. I normally look forward to eating cold noodles (like cha soba), but this ramen doesn't have the taste that I'd look for in ramen - that overwhelming rich taste. It has a nice spiciness to it though. Normally we'll eat ramen and enjoy the hot broth burning our tongues, but for this Cold & Spicy Tsukemen, it'll only start burning during the aftertaste.
This special ramen costs $15! Adventurous ramen eaters, or people looking for something refreshing and new, should try this for sure. ;)
Last on the list of the 6 contenders available at Illuma would be the 2011 Ramen Champion winner - Ikkousha! What we had was Ikkousha's Spicy Takana Ramen. ;)
I can see why it's last year's champion already! Spiciness is something that appeals to Singaporeans a lot, and with that amount of spiciness, it can counter the broth's strong pork taste and makes it sit nicely with the noodles. This combination is really something that most Singaporeans would like. The broth isn't too spicy nor is it too strong. The meat is tender and chewy. The flavoured egg is well marinated and the noodles are soft and thin. This ramen is definitely a crowd favourite.
At the price of $15, I'd say it's definitely worth your money.
Remember earlier on I've stated that Miss Prue allowed us to try certain ramen that weren't included in the initial 6? ;) Those ramens are both from Ikkousha's, and they're namely Godfire and Special Tonkotsu.
One word: Delectable. The broth is amazing! Godfire is for those who love spices. They even have 4 different levels of spiciness for everyone to choose from! Chermont and I were given level 1 to try, and it was alright - wasn't very spicy. ;) You can head down to try level 4 of the Godfire if you think that you can take really spicy foods! By the way, Godfire is not just good for the spiciness, but the broth too! The richness and taste of the pork is great; they balance each other out really well. One of my top favourites of the day. XD
As for the Special Tonkotsu, it's definitely something that I'll eat again when I visit Ramen Champion. It's for people like me who LOVE broths with a strong taste of pork. That amount of oil used... The richness of the broth with one sip enters your mouth instantly and the taste literally explodes on your taste buds and dances around. Give it a try when you're at Ramen Champion! :>
Alright, now this is my order of preference for the 6 contenders at Illuma:
Ikkousha definitely has an advantage over the others because their noodles are built together with spiciness. It naturally has to go with the spiciness. And this spiciness will be what continues to attract Singaporeans to it. I have this feeling to be utterly biased against it because of how most of Ikkousha's ramen gives them the advantage but I can't help but admit the taste of Ikkousha's ramen is excellent. They were last year's winners and I won't be surprised if they take the crown this year as well.
Well, I hope I've made you hungry with this review, because I definitely made myself hungry. =w=