Finally, Saturday marked our third visit to Iluma's Ramen Champion to try the last contender - Ganttetsu, serving Hokkaido miso ramen. Read about our previous visits here and here. (Iluma is a bit of a mess right now cos they’re renovating, but rest assured that Ramen Champion is still on the 4th floor.)
Their house special is a corn and butter ramen with a special blended miso broth. I expected to really like this, since the first time I tried a miso butter ramen was in Sapporo and I fell in love with it.
For some reason though, this one really didn't float my boat. Perhaps it was their miso blend, or the fact that they added a dollop of minced ginger, but somehow the flavour of the melted butter just didn't quite mesh with the rest of the flavours. The noodles were pretty typical; the char siew was sliced a bit too thin so by the time you mixed everything up, the slices more or less disintegrated.
On a related but separate note, for the first time I felt that same slightly ill, ramen-ed out sensation, that I last experienced after the miso butter ramen we had in Sapporo. Which leads me to the (possibly inaccurate and completely unresearched) conclusion that it's caused by the butter. Strange given that there isn't all that much butter; certainly less than most pasta sauces or even fancy French sauces.
So anyway, we have a winner! Although A's and my choices are different. My vote is a combination of my personal favourite, and a desire to bring in a new style into an already saturated miso/tonkotsu ramen market.
Bario's Jiro-style ramen gets my vote. I love every aspect of it - the broth that's slightly cloudy from minced garlic, the thick chunks of still tender pork belly, the mountain of bean sprouts, the perfectly cooked egg, and even the thicker-than-usual chewy noodles. I even like how they have a half portion of their signature Bario ramen, which is the perfect portion size to satiate your craving without overdoing it.
I submitted my vote in the boxes outside, and just tried voting on Facebook as well. (Actually, I tried to flood the voting channels but you can only submit one vote per Facebook account.) So far, based purely on Facebook votes it appears that Ikkousha has come out tops, with Tetsu in second place. Bario is third and Taishoken is second last.
I find that rather disheartening. I have nothing against Ikkousha, but honestly, do we really need yet another tonkotsu ramen in Singapore? Fine, Bario’s thick noodles may not appeal to everyone, but surely we could all benefit from the introduction of a good tsukemen place? And what better stall than Taishoken, the people who invented the style?
In order of my personal preference:
1. Tai Sho Ken. I love the light dipping broth. Some may find it salty, but it’s also a refreshing change.
2. Tetsu. The thick dipping broth seemed strange at first but rapidly grew on me.
3. Ikkousha. It’s good, but a bit forgettable compared to the rest.
4. Ganttetsu. I personally find the butter and corn too overwhelming.
5. Bario (didn’t like the noodles)
6. Iroha (Really didn’t like the soy sauce style broth)
Bear in mind that these are based only on each stall’s signature ramens.