Friday, July 15, 2011

Ramen Champion at Iluma


Hey, the annual Ultimate Ramen Championship has made it to our local shores down at Iluma (201 Victoria Street, ILUMA @ BUGIS, #04 – 08/09/10) and it seems that six stalls located a "stadium" will be around until this time next year vying for our votes so that the winner is able to set up a restaurant here. The above features a bowl of Bario ramen from the stall of the same name. This stall from Tokyo features semi squiggly noodles made from bread flour. What you actually see from the above picture is but, the proverbial tip of the iceberg for the amount of bean sprouts that went into the bowl of noodles. There's more of them sprouts here than a single serving of them in some chicken rice stalls!

I wisely sampled more than a few spoonfuls of the garlicky broth before mixing in that enthusiastic portion of grated garlic that one could help themselves to from the stall front. The original broth tasted very much like a hearty minced pork soup. A very decent one at that too. What I liked about this particular bowl was the play of textures from both the thick chewy noodles and the crunchy bean sprouts. The former when put in a local context, was akin to lor mee noodles - albeit with more bite and none of that yellow noodle taste. In fact, this was very much like Japanese lor mee. Guardian UK apparently put it as "50 best things to eat in the world" list. I'm not sure I would agree to that statement, but I really do not think I would mind at all giving this a second go. With much less garlic the next time. On the side, Bario does have some crispy skinned and meaty gyozas which I found to be pretty good.


By a stroke of chance, Ikkousha that does Hakata styled ramen with my favorite tonkotsu broth was just next door to Bario. Didn't have to navigate too far away through the lengthy queues and crowd. What stood out for me for their bowl of creamy broth, was a depth of porkiness and smokiness that created a rather unique flavor not yet encountered here. Their thin noodles were unfortunately overcooked and were not as firm and chewy as I liked.

I would like to give this stall my vote since I feel that this one is definitely on toe to toe with Nantsuttei, but I think I'm quite keen on giving some of the others in the competition a go before I decide on it.


What was universal for both ramen stalls were the aromatic char shu that were so tender that they fell apart easily in the mouth. The sad thing here was the aji tama from both too, did not have the molten yolk and the shoyu flavors that I was expecting to be seeped into the egg.

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