Monday, April 02, 2007

Marutama Ramen

C says:

After our thwarted attempt on Friday night to try the much-lauded Marutama Ramen at Central, we were very buay song (unfulfilled), so we promptly went there again at the next convenient opportunity, i.e. Monday night, after first calling them to make sure that they had enough food for us.

Wow… S wasn’t kidding when she said the ramen rocks here. It was really really good, definitely one of, if not the, best ramen I’ve had so far. This is not a one-off Singapore ramen joint, but rather a branch of a pretty established ramen shop in Japan. Unfortunately their website’s in Japanese with no apparent English version, so I can’t provide much more information on their background or history.

Their outlet here isn’t very big – there’s a counter facing the kitchen, and another 7 or 8 tables that can seat four persons each. I expected a rather poncy place but was pleasantly surprised. The d├ęcor was very simple and unassuming, and it gave off a very casual, friendly vibe. The menu is extremely simple – there are just two basic ramens and two slightly fancier ones, and you can add toppings like pork belly, char siew, stewed egg, spring onion and seaweed.

The two basic ones are a plain chicken soup, and chicken soup with some added fresh chilli. Both come with standard toppings of one slice of char siew, some spring onion and seaweed. I ordered the plain one and A had the spicy one, for a change, because for some reason I felt like something completely traditional. The plain soup was really good, and in my opinion, better than the spicy one. For some reason it tasted richer and fuller-bodied, and had more of that lip-smacking goodness of a thick, hearty stock. The spicy one was very different, and actually tasted cleaner and less rich. It wasn’t inordinately spicy either, nothing like the killer version at Hell’s Noodles. The noodles were very springy – the mark of a good ramen, to me – and were surprisingly thin, almost like thin egg noodles or mee kia.

But the toppings are what really get to me. The basic ramens cost $12, but I would strongly recommended adding another $4 to get 3 more slices of char siew, and $1 for the stewed egg, because just 1 slice of that heavenly, melt-in-your-mouth char siew just isn’t enough. It’s the best ramen char siew I’ve ever had – it’s so soft and tender that it just falls apart with a nudge of your chopsticks. The stewed egg was also excellent, with its perfectly just-set yolk and deeply embedded flavour. I’m having trouble deciding if the egg here is better or the one at Ken’s. Possibly this one.

A’s pork belly wasn’t half bad as well, but because the meat was cut in bigger portions rather than thin slices, it wasn’t as tender as the char siew. Except for some of the fatty bits, the leaner parts tended to be a little on the tough side.

The other two ramens are ‘house specials’ – one is a prawn-based stock with prawn balls, and another is a stock apparently made from seven different kinds of nuts (?? Almond? Hazelnut? Peanut? Brazil nut? Macadamia? Cashew? Coconut? How many nuts can you name? Heh). The latter is apparently served with some fishballs and a forest of coriander/cilantro/kng chye. Needless to say, there’s no way I’m ever going to try that; if anyone does, do let me know how it is.

We were there at about 7.45 pm on a Monday and got seats fairly easily. Food came remarkably quickly too, but S mentioned that the wait for food was pretty long when she went at lunch last week. Also, by the time we left at around 8.30 pm, a small queue had formed. At least turnover seems to be pretty high, since ramen isn’t exactly something that you can linger over, but rather slurp up quickly (and risk burning your tongue).

Anyway, it looks like I’ll be revising my Ramen report soon, because this could well take the top spot now. I’ll keep you posted!

A says:

The char siew RAWKS! Will try mine with seaweed next time. I’m not as big a fan of the broth as C though. Still too oily for me, even though I think that may be the authentic Japanese style.

What I like are the ambience and how knowledgeable and friendly the staff are. This place isn’t tops on my list, but it’s certainly way up there.

Marutama Ramen
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#03-90/91 The Central
Tel: 6534-8090
Opening hours: 11 am - 10 pm (last order 9.30 pm)

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