Upon stepping into the restaurant, you will realize that the decor is very Oriental in style, and this in fact reflects their take on the food they serve, which is a fusion between Japanese and Chinese.
This was a food tasting organized by OpenRice, and first up was a shot glass of fresh cold-pressed soursop & pineapple juice. The soursop was pretty distinct while the pineapple helped to make the juice lighter and more refreshing. The juices at Ramen Isshi are classified by colours, and this soursop & pineapple was called Lemon Yellow.
We also got to try their soy-based mango & passionfruit juice (Total Soy-Yellow). At this restaurant, you get the option of adding unstrained cooked soybeans to your juices. The texture was slightly thick, like a smoothie, and was a little grainy due to the soy.
The first starter that we got to try was their Tofu with Century Egg ($8.00). Small bite-sized portions of tofu are topped with chopped century egg and served in a mix of Japanese soya sauce and sesame oil. The sauce was quite strong which was good as tofu doesn't have much taste on its own. However, I couldn't really taste the century egg and wished it could be stronger.
The Carrot Cake with Saffron ($8.00) was nothing like your hawker centre chai tau kway or western carrot cake. The yellow ball you see is the carrot cake, made from flour mixed with carrot and a little saffron, giving it the yellow colour. It has a prawn cube in the middle and it's served on XO sauce (made in-house) and topped with sliced radish and parsley. You're supposed to eat everything in one bite but though yummy, I felt that the XO sauce overpowered everything else. All I could taste was the slightly spicy and umami XO sauce and the mochi/tang yuan texture of the carrot cake. Presentation-wise it was really visually pleasing with all the different colours.
Next was the Chicken Wings Fritto ($6.00). We were a bit puzzled when this was served - why are their mid-wings so small? They explained that it's actually half a mid-wing, that's why! The wings are first deep-fried then dipped in soya sauce. Even then, it wasn't too salty and it was just right. The chicken was really tasty, with crispy skin and juicy, tender meat. Writing about it now is making me salivate . The little ball in front of the chicken wings is actually made of 七味/shichimi, a common Japanese spice mixture you can find in many Japanese restaurants. It's freshly made by the restaurant, just like many of their other sauces. It was slightly spicy with a really fragrant szechuan pepper taste. What I also love about this dish is that it's really easy to eat because it's half a mid-wing...no need to try all means and ways to get the meat out from between the 2 bones in a mid-wing.
The next dish is very Japanese in style - Tuna Sashimi and Avocado Salad Asian Style ($12.00). The bottom layer was lovely creamy avocado followed by cubed tuna sashimi then topped with a 70% boiled egg yolk. Simply take a bit of each and wrap it up with seaweed, very much like a California handroll. Drizzled on the plate was a sauce made using sesame oil, mayo and szechuan peppers. The sauce was nice but there was no need to add this as the tuna, avocado and egg with seaweed was already really yummy on its own. I really loved the creaminess of the filling paired with the seaweed Yummy!!
Ramen Isshi also serves Homemade Kua Pao in Assorted Flavours ($8.00), in which the buns come is subtle beetroot, turmeric, matcha, prune, black sesame and original flavours. However during the tasting, we only tried the original one. This is something like kong ba bao with the bun made in-house (they have a machine with different functions, allowing them to make buns, gyoza skins and ramen). Sandwiched between the bun is a piece of pork belly and shredded scallions, with a side of sauce that's similar to that used for Peking duck. The bun was a bit too dense for my liking, and I also wished that the sliced pork belly was thicker. It's thinner than the bun so I can't really taste the meat.
As mentioned earlier, they also make their gyoza skin in-house. Their Homemade Pan-fried Gyoza ($5.00) was served with a side of vinegar and chilli oil. One of the staff shared that the steamed part of the gyoza absorbs the vinegar/chilli oil more easily than the pan-fried side. I liked that the skin was thin and the meat filling was quite juicy. However, the folds of the gyoza was a bit hard.
And finally it was the star of the show - ramen! First up was the Tonkotsu Shiro Ramen ($12.00) using pork bone broth. The soup was tasty and creamy, the creaminess is probably from the many hours of boiling the pork bones. I also loved that the soup wasn't so thick hence you won't get jelat/sick of the soup by the end of the meal. As for the noodles, they are the straight type of ramen, also made in-house. I really liked that it was slightly firm with a nice bite to it. The meat was also superb! Really really tender and both the meat and fats just melted in your mouth. It's the first time I have praises for all 3 components - the soup base, ramen and chashu.
There was also the Tonkotsu Kuro Ramen ($13.00), which is their signature ramen. It uses the same pork bone broth but layered with really fragrant sesame oil that's been fried with shallots and garlic 4 times to obtain 4 layers of taste. The 4 times of frying definitely worked because I could smell the fragrance of the sesame oil, shallots and garlic, and could taste it in the soup too...super yums and fragrant!! Even though the fragrance was strong, the soup wasn't jelat...not sure how they do it.
After having some food in our tummy, the good people of Ramen Isshi made us some strawberry makgeolli. This was pretty light in taste, and while you can still taste the alcohol, the drink goes down very easily.
The last ramen served was Tonkotsu Aka Ramen ($13.00), which uses the same Tonkotsu base but with added seafood stock and szechuan pepper. I really loved this because you can really taste the seafood even though it was quite spicy for me. It tastes something like really yummy and flavourful prawn mee soup. Ahh, now I'm salivating again, haha!
For those looking to takeaway ramen for their lunch, fret not! Ramen Isshi takes a lot of pride in their food. How do I know? (1) Instead of packing the takeaway ramen in a normal disposable plastic container, they pack it in a 2-tier stainless steel lunch box in a thermo bag. The soup is packed into the top layer (which is air-tight so it won't spill), and the bottom layer is for the noodles. This prevents the noodles from turning soggy and also helps retain heat, so you won't get cold soggy food when you reach your office! (2) The noodles made for takeaway uses a slightly different recipe from the noodles made for dine-in. Hence by the time you reach your office (they shared that 10 mins is the perfect timing), the noodles will be just right.
So after all the food, we ended the meal with a dessert that's cold and refreshing - Almond Jelly with Framboise ($5.00). The bottom layer was raspberry, followed by passionfruit then almond jelly at the top. When you eat the almond jelly on its own, you can really taste the almond. But when eaten with the raspberry and passionfruit, it's overpowered by the other 2 (not that it's bad). The raspberry was a little tart and sour, and I like how it helps to clear the palate after your meal.
On the whole I really like all 3 types of ramen. All are good but it really depends on what you like or what you're craving for at the moment. The Shiro Ramen is already really good by itself, but is lighter in taste compared to the other 2, while the Kuro Ramen is great for those who like something more fragrant. Aka Ramen is perfect for those who love seafood but must also be able to tolerate some heat. I will definitely be back for the ramen
Thumbs up to Ramen Isshi for being able to serve great ramen, chashu and soup all in a bowl! Also, thank you OpenRice for organizing the tasting!
(Check out my OpenSnap account for more pics of this tasting!)
Recommended Dish(es): Chicken Wings Fritto,Tonkotsu Shiro Ramen,Tuna Sashimi and Avocado Salad Asian Style,Tonkotsu Aka Ramen,Tonkotsu Kuro Ramen
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