Thursday, December 3, 2015

Otoko Ramen -A Fresh Interpretation of Shoyu Ramen

Intro 
As an unabashed fan of the heart-attack-inducing goodness of Bario and other similar proponents of the Jiro style of ramen, I was stoked to hear about Otoko Ramen, which had ostensibly reminded some bloggers of Jiro ramen. Excited at the prospect of indulging in a bowl of Jiro ramen again, I nevertheless tempered my expectations, the result of having previous unreasonably high hopes for other stalls shoved down my throat.


Ambience
I won’t waste too much time talking about the ambience in Otoko, because it’s a rather simple, small eatery, non-descript in its appearance, but with a modern feel, unlike the rustic, slightly grimy feel of Tonkotsu King. Rather, unlike the ramen chains which have grown far too detached from their roots, Otoko has an interesting story, as related to me by a wait staff.

Otoko was started by two ramen chefs, who had worked for Santouka in Japan for 10-15 years before deciding to strike out on their own. This explains the incredible chashu served here (more on that later). Having opened since July 2015 or so, they recognized the over-saturation of tonkotsu broths in the ramen scene here, and decided to do something slightly different. Another concession they made to local tastes was with the minced meat suspended in the broth, which is a nice change-up from the usual floating “collagen” (read: fats).

Taste
Shoyu ramen (medium) with Ajitsuke Tamago ($12.90)
Let's start with the broth this time round -I had Otoko's shoyu broth this time round. With its dash of pepper and its slight hint of garlic, I can see why it reminds some of the Jiro broth. Unfortunately (for the heart attack-inclined at least), that’s where the similarities with Jiro end. For starters, Otoko is a lot less oily than Jiro. Otoko’s broth also has none of that overwhelmingly garlic taste that can serve as a deterrence against vampires.

To rate it on its own merits, Otoko’s broth starts off well, striking a good balance between the shoyu/tonkotsu base and the hints of pepper and garlic. I’d say that it’s a manlier version of the traditional shoyu ramen, which I do find too light and sweet at times. It does lose a bit of steam halfway through, by which I mean that the pork undertones become less apparent and the shoyu becomes more so. Some shoyu stores have it much worse though; halfway through your bowl, you feel like you’re drinking pure soy sauce. Thankfully, Otoko isn’t like this.

As for the other components of the ramen, I felt that the noodles were a tad underwhelming, in that they didn’t have a character of their own, but merely absorbed the soup’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that it lacks that distinction of greatness.

The flavoured egg and the chashu –WOW. Holy shit. The former is hands-down within the top 2 in Singapore. In line with that tired old clich√© about pictures, just look at how the yolk is oozing out. Absolutely perfect. Honestly, its only real rival is Tonkotsu King’s egg. To compare between the two, I do taste a little more soy seasoning in Otoko’s. Whether that’s preferred to Tonkotsu King’s is entirely down to individual preferences, so I won’t opine on this matter.


Otoko's chashu is comparable to Santouka’s overpriced Toroniku, albeit less the killer price tag. It’s definitely marinated much better, and unlike Santouka’s, it has a fantastic meat-fat ratio (Santouka’s is overly-fatty for my liking, but that’s the only way it can achieve that melt-in-your-mouth effect). As others have noted, it’s not paper-thin, but neither is it like the slab of meat that accompanies Tonkotsu King’s. This was the star of the meal, and I’m definitely ordering an extra serving of chashu the next time I’m here.


About the only contentious part of the bowl is the serving of cabbage and beansprouts. Being the notoriously picky eaters they are, some Singaporeans adamantly refuse to touch beansprouts (I was guilty of that as a child). However, keep an open mind and eat it –it’s there for a reason. Many have complained that the portions are too big, but that’s precisely the purpose of having the beansprouts and cabbage with their refreshing qualities.

It’s also important to mention that Otoko’s broth left me without the bloated feeling that is the result of really oily ramen. This is akin to ramen in Japan, which while intensely flavourful, doesn’t use more oil than necessary to add body to their broth.
A slightly bigger portion than usual, but still manageable for any true ramen fan
Conclusion
Otoko is a fresh interpretation of the traditional shoyu style of ramen, drawing (at least) some inspiration from the Jiro style of ramen. It has absolutely killer chashu, which bears repetition as it’s that good. It’s a little out of the way in Alexandra Central, but with ramen that’s positively different, it’s a journey worth making.
FOODIE’S RATING
Quality & Taste(75%)
8.4
Come for the broth, stay for the chashu
Value (15%)
8.0
A hearty portion of homely ramen
Ambience & others (10%)
7.8
A modern interpretation of a small ramen shop
Total
8.3
Get your ass over to Alexandra, it's worth it

Address: 
321 Alexandra Road 
Alexandra Central Mall
#01-16
6250 2889

Opening Hours:
Daily: 11:00am to 10pm
Closed from 3pm to 5pm

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  2. The fried oysters burned my lip; the response of the managers upset me.

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