Hakata Ikkousha Ramen at CHIJMES
Ramen restaurant, Hakata Ikkousha, derives its name from a city called Hakata (birthplace of Tonkotsu Ramen) in Fukuoka and the expression 'Ikkousha' which means 'one happy place'. Chef Kousuke Yoshimura opened his first Hakata Ikkousha in Daimyo, Fukuoka, and chose this name because he wanted to "bring happiness to all the people". An interesting motto isn't it? 3 years after winning Singapore's Ultimate Ramen Champion in 2011 (a title Ikkousha held for 2 years running), Hakata Ikkousha unveiled its second Singapore-based restaurant at CHIJMES in June 2014.Chef Kousuke Yoshimura
I had the pleasure of meeting Yoshimura-san on Wednesday evening during a media tasting at the new restaurant at CHIJMES. A perfectionist, he insisted on cooking every bowl of ramen that was served to us and asked us for feedback at the end of the session. Yoshimura-san, a Fukuoka native, was born to a sushi chef father and a mother who ran an Izakaya (a Japanese-style bar). Keen on cooking since he was a child, he learnt the art of making gyoza at a restaurant for 2 years before returning to cook at his mother's bar. He put his culinary experience to good use as he developed his own recipe for traditional Tonkotsu Ramen with a secret twist. Yep, it's so secret, he wouldn't spill the beans even when we asked.Special Tonkotsu Ramen @ S$16 Essentially 'the works'! Topped with 3 pieces of seaweed, 4 slices of chashu & an egg
Yoshimura-san's signature dish is a humble bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen (S$12) topped with 2 thin slices of chashu (braised pork), kikurage (wood-ear) and negi (scallions). This bowl of Special Tonkotsu Ramen shown above is essentially Tonkotsu Ramen topped with additional ingredients such as nori (seaweed), more chashu and an Ajitama (seasoned egg). In other words, "The Works"! I loved the silky texture of the collagen-rich pork bone-based Tonkotsu broth. Simmered for more than 12 hours, the pork bones are changed often resulting in a concentrated broth that is enriched with a secret sauce. Apparently, the sauce is made with 3 kinds of Japanese-brewed soy sauce, 20 types of seasoning and 5 types of rare seafood. I thought the broth was not as salty as I would have thought it would be, perhaps the formula used in Singapore has been tweaked slightly to suit local tastes. I added some crushed fresh garlic and Shoyu Tare (seasoned soy sauce named 'Ramen Sauce' at the shop) to my portion. I didn't add the condiments into the bowl of ramen that I was sharing with my dining companions as they thought the ramen was tasty enough on its own. The fresh garlic added a lovely punch to the dish. I loved the Ramen sauce which was a light brown shade and had a tasty umami flavour that I thought tasted like Katsuobushi. Chef was a little evasive when I asked him but he later smiled and agreed. Great, only 24 more types of secret ingredients to figure out! Just kidding! Hakata Ikkousha uses pork loin for their chashu which though well-seasoned, seemed a little dry to me. I guess I've gotten too used to pork belly chashu. The Ajitama (seasoned egg) didn't have a flowy lava yolk and was just a little overdone but the flavour was intense with the rich savoury taste of good quality shoyu (soy sauce). The broth, noodles and Ajitama are a Must-Try! I think I shall order the Ajitama Ramen ($14 - Tonkotsu Ramen with Egg) the next time I return.Kaedama (extra noodles) @ S$2
The noodles used in Hakata-style Ramen are thin, white, straight and firm. Blanched for 15 seconds before serving, be quick if you want to take photos else your once firm noodles will become soggy. Like in many good ramen restaurants, you can choose the texture of your noodles. We opted for a "very hard" portion for our Kaedama (extra serving of noodles to be added to the remaining broth). I preferred the noodles with the "hard" texture as it wasn't as dry or stringy as the "very hard" portion.Black Tonkotsu Ramen @ $13.50
We then moved onto other flavours. I loved the Black Tonkotsu Ramen because of the smoky and nutty flavours of the seasoning paste that had been made with blackened garlic and black sesame seeds. If you love garlic and sesame, this is a Must-Try!Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen @ S$13.50
Created to suit the Singaporean palate for spicy food, the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen comes with 4 levels of heat. The portion we shared was Level 1, which was tasty but wasn't spicy enough for me. I love spicy food and can eat tingly Sichuan food twice a day when the mood strikes. I guess I shall have to return with fellow spice lovers to try out Level 3 or 4? This is also a Must-Try.Gold Fried Rice @ S$10
I guess the dish is named Gold Fried Rice for the gilded appearance that the rice grains seem to have from the egg. Whilst it was tasty and is apparently a very popular dish, I feel that if you have to pick just one sinful dish for yourself here, you should go with the Tonkotsu Ramen.Gyoza with Aka Kosho (Red Yuzukosho) @ S$5
The 2 years spent in the Gyoza restaurant have paid off handsomely for Yoshimura-san. The gyozas here were not greasy. Encased within the dainty bite-sized dumpling was a flavourful filling of juicy minced pork that had been seasoned just adequately to enhance the natural sweetness of the meat. The Gyoza skin was moist and pliable with a firm bite and a crisp pan-fried base. The dip added a slight sweet citrusy touch of spice to the dish. Less common than the spicier Yuzukoso (green Yuzu chilli paste), Aka Kosho (red Yuzu chili paste) is made with ripe Yuzu (Japanese Citrus) and slightly sweet red chili peppers resulting in a more tangy than spicy chili paste. The Gyoza with Aka Kosho here is also a Must-Try!
Hakata Ikkousha at CHIJMES will be celebrating it's Grand Opening on 2nd and 3rd July by giving away 100 bowls of ramen (Tonkotsu / Shio Tonkotsu) with the next 100 bowls sold at half price! I hope the crowds will thin down after the Grand Opening so I can go back soon for my ramen/comfort food fix!
PS: Thank you, Hakata Ikkousha and WORD Agency, for the kind hospitality.Hakata Ikkousha Global Standard at CHIJMES 30 Victoria Street, #01-07 CHIJMES, Singapore 187996 Operating Hours: Monday - Saturday: 11.30 am - 10 pm (last order at 9.45 pm) Sunday: 11.30 am - 9 pm (last order at 8.45 pm) Hakata Ikkousha Global Standard at Tanjong Pagar Block 7 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #01-104, Singapore 081007 Phone: +65 6538 1880 Operating Hours: Monday - Saturday: 11.30 am - 10 pm (last order at 9.45 pm) Sunday: 11.30 am - 9 pm (last order at 8.45 pm) Ikkousha at Ramen Champion T3 65 Airport Boulevard, #B2-58 Terminal 3 Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore 819663 Operating Hours: 10.30 am - 10.00 pm (daily)