Ok, so our return visit to Ramen Champion happened a lot sooner than I anticipated…
On Wednesday night, we tried three more contenders. A wanted to try Tetsu, the other tsukumen vendor, and I wanted to try Bario. Since Bario considerately sells half portions of their famous Bario ramen, we were able to share one more bowl from Iroha.
Their specialty is the Very Rich! Paitan ramen - “paitan” being the Japanese way of referring to a milky soup (rather than century egg, as I’d hoped). Very Rich! is right. The consistency is more like a thick, almost starchy gravy rather than a soup, and even with the dipping method, it’s still pretty salty. The noodles are decent but the chashu is again quite forgettable.
Between the two tsukumen vendors, Taishoken is the clear winner.
Bario’s ‘thing’ is their thick noodles that are made from bread flour, which has a higher gluten content and therefore produces stronger and chewier noodles. Their signature Bario ramen comes with a few slices of thick chashu, a slightly cloudy soup and topped with a mountain of beansprouts. The egg is optional but I would highly recommended getting it as an add-on. They do a half portion of Bario ramen for $7, as opposed to the full one for $13.
I think opinions are mixed on this one. Wong Ah Yoke named this his least favourite of the six, and another friend didn’t fancy it either. Nor did A, who really couldn’t get past the thickness and chewiness of the noodles, but admitted that the broth was pretty good. On the other hand, it also had the longest queues out of all six stalls, unless that’s due to the “let’s just join the longest queue” herd mentality.
I personally liked it a lot. Yes the noodles were a bit disconcertingly thick, but no different from an al dente tagliatelle, for example. I loved the heaping mound of beansprouts, and the soup was flavourful without being too rich/jelak. I think the soup already has a considerable amount of garlic, so I would advise passing on the optional minced garlic if you want a cleaner flavour. The chashu was good, and the egg was excellent.
Their black ramen is their bestseller, with a primarily shoyu-based broth. This is so far my least favourite. It didn't do anything for me at all. I’m usually not a shoyu ramen fan to begin with, and the slightly thicker consistency of the broth didn't help. The noodles were sort of in between normal ramen and Ikkousha’s thin noodles, and I guess were pretty nice and springy. The main highlight was the chashu here, which was sliced nice and thin, tender and had a good meat/fat ratio. Best chashu of the lot so far, but unfortunately everything else fell short.
So far for me, it’s a toss up between Ikkousha and Bario for first place, but since we've already tried five out of six, we might as well, for the sake of completeness, go one more time to try Gantetsu’s Sapporo ramen.
Bario vs Iroha vs Tetsu. Round 2. Fight!
Bario has awesome broth. But I hate the weird thick mee-pok like noodles.
Iroha has awesome char siew. But I hate the soy sauce broth.
Tetsu had a weird thick dipping sauce that I thought I’d hate but it really grew on me. It’s by far my favourite of this round.