When TT and I lived in New York, ramen was a staple in our fall/winter diet. The colder it was outside, the more likely you were to find us huddled on stools in a hot ramen restaurant slurping up giant bowls of tonkatsu broth and hand-pulled noodles.
After moving to SG, ramen really fell by the wayside. To be honest (and contrary to local custom), I don’t usually seek out steaming bowls of hot soup in 90 degree hot and humid weather. I’m already sweating; I don’t need my lunch to make me sweat even more. But also, obviously, we live in a part of the world where soup and noodles in broth are a staple of the diet. While we’ve had our fill of pho, laksa, sliced fish soup, and hot pot, we realized over the weekend that we haven’t had ramen ONCE!!!! Not one time in nine months!
So after a lazy Sunday spent with Netflix, we got our butts up and went off to indulge in some Japanese ramen.
Tonkatsu King in Tanjong Pagar is the principal branch of Keisuke Ramen, a slew of Japanese restaurants smattered around Singapore and often lauded as some of the best ramen you can find in the little red dot.
With a high reputation and only 20 seats, there is often a queue but chairs line the wall outside and complimentary cold Japanese barley tea is offered to keep you from overheating. We waited for 15 minutes at 8pm on a Sunday which wasn’t bad…but I can’t imagine how crowded it must get during peak weekday hours!
Once in, we plopped down at our shared table with another couple and took in our surroundings. Tiny stools lined wooden tables where couples, families, and singles crowded together.
On the tables were chopsticks, spoons, mayo, a mortar and pestle to grind your own sesame seeds, and unlimited helpings of marinated bean sprouts and hard boiled eggs for you to enjoy before your ramen or with it.
The walls were a chartreusey kind of yellow with vintage Japanese newspaper clippings and posters pasted all around.
Four seats lined the bar with the ramen master overlooking the whole restaurant. Elevated a bit, and behind a tiny partition, the chef and his sous chefs scurried about doling out heaping scoops of their three namesake broths, topped with soft boiled egg, noodles, huge slices of tonkatsu pork, and a giant slab of seaweed.
The menu is simple –
- choose between three broths: Tonkatsu King, Black Spicy Tonkatsu King, and Red Spicy Tonkatsu King;
- choose your add-ons or opt for “All Toppings”; and
- choose the nature of your ramen, everything from thickness of the broth to texture of the noodles
We chose the regular Tonkatsu King
and the Black Spicy Tonkatsu King
washed down with a wasabi ginger ale.
The ramen was so rich and flavorful! We both opted for “Normal – the Japanese way” for all of the options. I think next time I might choose to make the broth a little lighter – it was just so silky, you could almost taste the pork bone fat. It reminded me a lot of Mu Ramen in Brooklyn, if anyone has been.
The Black Spicy broth seemed to be seasoned with and get its black namesake from black pepper. It was very peppery but yummy! I would assume the red takes its spice from more chili/chili oil.
I was surprised with how sparsely the bowls were adorned. Usually ramen places fill the bowls with noodles, egg, corn, meat, seaweed, and a slew of other toppings but at Tonkatsu King, the broth is the real star – shown, I think, by the fact that the initial way to order it is just with noodles and meat! The seaweed and egg, as you see above, are extra.
We did indulge in one of the complimentary unlimited hard boiled eggs but can a hard boiled egg ever really compare to a perfectly soft boiled onsen egg? NO.
Tim recently watched a documentary on ramen masters in Japan and learned that one is supposed to “engage in a relationship” with their bowl of ramen. You shouldn’t be speaking with others or dividing your attention – your focus should be solely on the meal in front of you.
While I can’t say we forgot each other in the process, we slurped happily away at our ramen bowls and gave our undivided attention to finishing up every last drop.
Find Tonkatsu King at 1 Tras Link next to the Orchid Hotel in Tanjong Pagar. They don’t take reservations so be prepared to wait! We left around 9:15 pm and there was still a line to enter!
1 Tras Link #01-19 Orchid Hotel Singapore 078867
Mon-Sat: 11:30~15:00 / 18:00~22:30
Sun: 11:30~15:00 / 18:00~22:00