Friday, January 10, 2014

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen Opens First Standalone Shop in Singapore

Kousuke Yoshimura, founder of Hakata Ikkousha, personally cooked the ramen for us

Hakata Ikkousha has opened its first standalone shop in Singapore at Tanjong Pagar Plaza. Most people may have heard of Ikkousha or tasted it at Ramen Champion (it won the Ultimate Ramen Champion in 2011 and 2012). But this shop is a little different - extra attention is given to ensure that the stock here is thicker than over at the Ramen Champion franchise.

The young founder of Ikkousha, Kousuke Yoshimura, came personally from Fukuoka, Japan, to officiate at the launch and to prepare ramen for us. It was quite an honour to meet the taisho (big boss) himself. He's also got a small crew of Japanese staff to help lead the local team here, so that's comforting. General Manager Kentaro Tanaka heads the Singapore operations. Store manager Hisashi Inoue speaks very decent English, so say hello to him!

The standalone shop is small but cosy
The new shop opened last December, but I thought I'd give it some time to find its footing before blogging about it. The small little space is cosy, but brightly decorated with bold hues of red against dark wood panels and furniture. It probably seats about 30 pax.

I have not been to Ramen Champion (somehow I prefer to visit individual ramen shops rather than a group of stalls), so this is my first time trying Ikkousha's famous Hakata style ramen. They focus solely on varieties of tonkotsu, the pork bone broth that is so popular with many Singaporeans.

Ikkousha's God Fire ramen
God Fire Ramen (S$13.50) is probably the hot favourite with locals. I like this one best too, and the serving bowl itself is awesome - I want bowls at home that proclaim "God Fire" too! You can choose from four levels of spiciness for the broth. They advise that no.2 is already quite spicy.

Ikkousha Tonkotsu Ramen
Tonkotsu Ramen (S$12) is their basic tonkotsu broth, but it's truly full-bodied. It's been simmered a long time to achieve this creamy consistency. The chashu at Ikkousha is deliberately thinly sliced, so you can taste the richness of the broth. The meat is also quite lean, compared to other chains.

Ikkousha Red Tonkotsu Ramen
Red Tonkotsu Ramen (S$13.50) looks even more fiery as the God Fire, but it's not spicy at all. Ikkousha's noodles are (true to Hakata tradition) white, springy and straight. They pick up the flavours of the broth well.

Ikkousha Black Tonkotsu Ramen
Black Tonkotsu Ramen (S$13.50) is darkly rich potion which will please garlic fans. I love garlic, but this was very filling.

Ikkousha Shio Tonkotsu Ramen
Shio Tonkotsu Ramen ($11.50) is pleasantly light on the palate. It's not as "porky" or rich as the basic tonkotsu. This salt-flavoured broth can be enhanced by the special ramen sauce available at the tables, if you prefer something more potent.

Founder of Hakata Ikkousha, Kousuke Yoshimura, shows us how he prepares the ramen
Here is Yoshimura-san showing us how he prepares the noodles, which he has specially designed to go with the broths. Form, texture and colour are critical, and the natural flavour of the wheat comes through to complement the pork bone soup base.

The six flavours of tonkotsu at Ikkousha Hakata Ramen Singapore
There are actually six flavours of tonkotsu altogether at Ikkousha - the last one is Miso Tonkotsu Ramen, which was not ready yet at the time of tasting.

Choose your broth variety, noodle texture, broth intensity, oil preference and then your toppings - flavoured egg S$2, spring onions S$1, bean sprouts S$1, black fungus S$1, bamboo shoots S$1.50, seaweed S$1.50, chashu (3pcs) S$4 and a special combination (S$4.50) of chashu (2pcs), flavoured egg and seaweed. Extra half portion of noodles is S$1.

Tori kara age - deep-fried chicken
There are also side dishes like fried chicken (S$5 for 3pcs). These are big, hot and juicy. Served with a flavoured salt dip, these crisp nuggets will add some tasty protein to your meal.

Gyoza side dish
There's also gyoza (S$5.50 for 5pcs; S$10 for 10pcs), the common accompaniment to ramen. The skin is thin and just lightly charred at the bottom. Pretty decent, although still not the best I've tried (oh, where has Ken's Noodle shop gone?)

Ikkousha has opened its first standalone shop in Singapore
Ikkousha's motto is to bring happiness to all people. With their smooth and creamy tonkotsu, they'll certainly be making happy bellies. I've yet to try Ikkousha in Japan (darn, missed them while I was in Fukuoka both times), but what we have here are pretty hearty bowls to satisfy tonkotsu cravings. I also suspect this standalone shop is much better than the Ramen Champion stalls, but I'll have to visit those one day to confirm.

Block 7, #01-104
Tanjong Pagar Plaza
Singapore 081007
Tel +65 6538-1880
Open daily
Mon - Sat: 11:30 am - 10:00 pm
Sun: 11:30 am - 9:00 pm

Many thanks to the lovely team at Ikkousha who hosted us. 
Photos taken with the Canon 5DMKIII kindly loaned by Canon Singapore.

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