Thumbs Up For Ramen @Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, Pavilion KL

Date of Visit:  May 3 2015

I (or rather, my mom) had finally found the best ramen in Pavilion! ūüėĄ

The joint is on Level 6, in the Tokyo Street Precinct. I would say it is pricey (price for a regular sized bowl starts at RM32, add an extra RM4 to upgrade to large) but the quality is well worth it.  First, the broth did not leave an after taste Рproving that no MSG was added.  The bone broth was cooked  and simmered away for ages to a milky creamy consistency as shown in Exhibit A below.

Note:  Eat the preserved plum first to get your saliva glands working.  The puckering sourness will heighten the sweetness of the bone broth! 

Exhibit A: Creamy Miso Ramen

Exhibit B: Spicy Miso Ramen

Exhibit B was spicy but not too spicy for me. I did find the broth on the salty side, but that is because I am that person who never season food with salt (thus a low sodium reading in my blood test). I should concur then, the saltiness is within reasonable standard for the normal mortals!
There are set meals available including cold ramen, sushi and rice sets.  No doubt a revisit is in order with a longer post forthcoming!

Name of the joint is: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, find it on FB here

Oh Lordy, oh Lardy Bowl of Ramen @ Ipuddo, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: May 25 2013

I received a text late last night from a friend in KL raving about Ippudo Ramen at Pavilion.  He suggested that I should go the next time I am in KL.  Sure, and I have been too, and this prompted me to do very backdated post on Ippudo which I am doing now!

I’m not a huge fan of chained restaurants. However, with the arrival of ¬†Ippuddo at Westfield Sydney last year, that piqued my interest and I thus made it a point to drop by at at all the Ippudo joints worldwide, if I can. ¬†This is my 3rd visit to an international Ippudo joint, ¬†I have visited Sydney’s a couple of times but never got around to blog about it, so a revisit is due when I’m back in Sydney. ¬†My review on my very disheartening visit to their Hong Kong branch is¬†here.

It was a Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm.  Contrary to what I have heard, there were no queues.  Has the hype died down so quickly?  Myself and another got a table and were seated immediately.  Service was efficient and friendly РMalaysian hospitality cannot be faulted.

The ¬†conformity of colours and use of eating utensils such as bowls and spoons to decorate ¬†the restaurant¬†gave a sense of familiarity to the place – like how you know when you are in Macca’s when you see the red and yellows.

We were seated in the naturally-lit bar area with views of the pedestrians at arcade and the bridge.  The waitress apologised for seating us at the high chairs, but the high chairs were very comfortable.  Looking at the chairs at the dining booths, I envisioned myself with trouble get out of from the low kiddie chairs. IMG_0083

The bar counter looked impressive and well-stocked.  It is good to know that Ippudo has an impressive cocktail menu of interesting Japanese drinks.  I was interested in the Calpis soda, but reckon I buy Calpis from the Japanese grocers from across the bridge on Level 6 to mix a pitcher up for my afternoon fiesta at home.

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Prices of the ramens range from RM26- RM36 which is very expensive for a bowl of ramen. ¬†So, I’m not surprised to see ¬†people sitting near us sharing their noodles.

Our order arrived relatively quickly.

I can’t recall ¬†the name of this ramen my other had but I think this is the most ‘basic’ and cheapest on the menu at RM26. ¬†It came with an egg, beansprouts, spring onions and a couple of pieces of chashu (pork belly). ¬†“Too salty and the sweetness left an aftertaste”, was the comment I got.

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Before I harp on, ramens are basically Chinese wheat noodles.  Ramens are  supposed to be thin and straight, with the ideal texture to be bitey and not too soft.  I prefer mine hard.  Tonkotsu is cloudy white coloured pork broth (as opposed to tonkatsu which is fried pork cutlets).  Tonkotsu makes a hearty soup since it is boiled from pork and bones  for at least 12 hours.

My choice was the spicy tonkotsu ramen and at RM 36, the most expensive. ¬† I found the tonkotsu to be very thick and hearty, almost like spicy satay noodles. ¬†The broth was also overly¬†tasty for a person with ¬†mild tastebuds, ¬†so I could not bring myself to drink the soup. ¬†What a waste since it has been boiling and simmering away for over 12 hours! ¬† ¬†On a high note, the pork belly was perfectly done with a good ratio of fat to meat. ¬†(Be warned skinny-fat people, this chashu with high fat content is not for you!) ¬†I also appreciated the roasted nori sheets which came smelling like…nori?? ¬†LOL

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I thought that eggs in Ippudo joints or other Japanese ramen shops are usually cut into halves. ¬†Perhaps, the newbies at Pavilion are not confident that they can get the timing for the eggs to set just right, so we got a whole egg instead? ¬†Even though I don’t fancy biting a whole egg, the ¬†orangey runny yolk was flavoursome.

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You should gather by now that Ippudo is non-halal joint due to its use of pork and pork lard. ¬†The oiliness even removed my ¬†‘industrial-strength’ ¬†Illamasqua matt lipstick!¬†(Ladies – in case you are looking for long-wearing highly pigmented lipstick, Illamasqua is the brand I recommend. ¬†My favourite colours are Box and Sangers, I got them from Myers in Sydney for AUD25 each. ¬†Otherwise, get yours online here)¬†

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If you are not tuned into the ‘foodies world’, you are probably in awe wondering what the fuss was on about a bowl of ramen, just like another friend of mine who ¬†could ¬†queued for an hour with his family when Ippuddo first opened. He couldn’t ¬†comprehend why the hype for such an expensive bowl of mediocre noodles. When I quizzed ¬†him about it, he couldn’t even remember the name of the ramen place!

‘Not blown over’… @Ippudo Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Date of Visit: February 14 2013

To be honest, I have never been a consummate foodie until recently when I discovered the world of food blogs and found bloggers waxing lyrical about restaurants that I have frequented, their opinions I sometimes differ.

Call it mere¬†laziness or ‘good time management’, my nightly dinners¬†while living in Hong Kong as a young expat had been Instant Doll-brand Ramen.¬† What could be more convenient than boiling the ramen and cracking an egg with some luncheon meat!

Like I said, my knowledge of ramen does not extend past instant ramen. So I did some googling for ‘Ippudo’s background…

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“Ippudo is a huge ramen restaurant chain established in 1985 with over 60 locations in Japan, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and I noted recently while in Kuala Lumpur, another new overseas branch opening at the end of February 2013 in Pavilion Mall.¬†

Its founder Shigemi Kawahara was crowned Ramen King in 2005 and holds a place in the Ramen Hall of Fame after winning the championship three times in a row between 1995-1998, on “TV Champion Ramen Chef”, a reputable Japanese television show produced by TV Tokyo.”

I have heard of Ippudo’s Cantonese name (‘Yat Fung Tong’) which literally translates ‘one wind hall’, and this was so-called because “at the time, there were dark clouds over the Kyushu ramen industry, and the founder CEO Kawahara intended to ‘blow wind and revolutionise the era‘”.¬† Since I was not too interested in food back then, I never made the connection with its English name¬†‘Ippudo’ until it branched out to¬†Sydney last year.

Since I understand that Ippudo is very popular, Mom and I were at  Ippudo TST at 11:45am before the lunch crowd hits.

As with every Japanese eateries, one is greeted by a chorus of welcome in Japanese.

Some pictures of the interior…

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Enclosed open kitchen, lone diner at the singles bar area

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Ramen Bowls Wall – 55 bowls from other ramen establishments presented to Ippudo

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History of Ippudo in Manga (Japanese comics)

I ordered the Karaka HK$78 which is the hot spicy ramen. But what came was rather uninspiring noodles¬†half-filled in a ¬†huge bowl.¬† There were¬†chilli oil and scallions floating on top of the broth. The broth was undrinkable as¬†I suspect it¬†spiked with MSG.¬† It certainly wasn’t the ’25-year old recipe which requires slow cooking over long hours to achieve a perfect emulsion of oil and liquid, creating a rich and powerful Tonkotsu that enhances the flavour of pork‚Äďbone topped with IPPUDO’s secret miso, garlic oil, lean slices of pork, black fungus, soybean sprouts and scallions’, that Ippudo’s literature prided itself to be¬†. It was simply oily, not even hot – tastewise and temperature wise!

Talk about stinginess!  Only 2 pieces of thin pork belly, although I admit them to be tastelessly tender.

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Karaka Ramen

BTW, the waiter will ask for your preference of your noodles – hard or soft.¬† I asked for hard and boy, were the noodles hard! ¬†There’s no ‘spring’ to it, if it’s an elastic band, it will snap!¬† Ouch!

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Oodles swimming in oily broth

My mom order The First Surprise in 2013 – ¬†‘‚ÄúTokyo Seafood Tonkotse‚ÄĚ HK$88!…A fish broth combining IPPUDO‚Äôs homemade signature Tonkotse, gives (sic)¬†you a well-balanced sensation you will truly indulge in. Available only at IPPUDO in Tsim Sha Tsui.”

Well, the eggs looked good… with coargulating yolk.¬† Not mom’s favourite so to speak…

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Seafood Tonkotse

BBQ Pork Belly Bun HK$28

A rather unenthusiastic looking bun.¬† This likens to the typical¬†steamed Chinese bun with braised pork belly, except Ippudo’s version has bits of cabbage and a smear of mayo.¬† A bit too sweet for my liking and the bun was hard!¬† I can’t envision what the fuss was about – any Chinese restaurant can do better!

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BBQ Pork Belly Bun

Tofu salad HK$48

This is a scrooge of a salad.¬† It’s as though the creator of the dish knows that the orderer will be sharing, hence, 2 of everything – tomato wedges, brocoli, cabbage and 4 slices of tofu which were topped with sweet, crispy dressing (I can’t detect what I was eating)¬†and seaweed.

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Oh well, with all the shortcomings, Shigemi Kawahara’s philosophy: “To continuously innovate to remain true”, ¬†will no doubt improve Ippudo TST’s standard!