Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ramen Bar Suzuki: More bar than Ramen eatery

By Mark and Arthur

Suzuki Ramen Bar is perhaps one of the more hyped, if lesser-known ramen eateries in Singapore. The “hype” bit largely draws from their rather contentious claim of being one of the only two ramen shops in Singapore which sells genuine ramen. On the other hand, whilst Suzuki Ramen bar is quite recognised within the local ramen scene, it lacks prestige and popularity among the more casual scene when compared to say, Tonkotsu King. What really intrigued us in particular was the aforementioned boast, which is potentially  of the “dying-to-be-disproven-and-shoved-back-down-their-throats” breed. Having said that, we went to find out whether Suzuki Ramen Bar could put its noodles where its mouth is.
Standard Japanese affair, Noren at the entrance
The store is a short 5 minute walk from Raffles Place MRT station, tucked along 61 Circular Road. It carries multiple options and a good selection of toppings, sauces and add-ons to customize one's Ramen and includes a few interesting but gimmicky choices such as the addition of cheese and basil; and squid ink.


Arthur's take:
The store entrance has the appearance of an authentic looking Ramen store which is backed by its interior layout, featuring an average length bar table with high stool seating near the entrance and a few standard tables further in the restaurant. The design is fused with a dim, ambient lighting and dark colour scheme, matching the chic and classy feel of the Boat Quay area. The warm and calming atmosphere may be attractive for couples and good for those looking to do some drinking. This is well supported by its selection of sake and beer. 

Mark's take:
From the outside, Suzuki Ramen Bar looks like what I’d imagine a typical ramen shop to be –small, cramped with some vaguely Japanese-related décor. The interior is rather modern, but conservatively so, and does not err on being tacky the way Kagetsu Arashi or even Ippudo does. Although it doesn’t have the grimy, rundown feel of authenticity, I liked the minimalist chic-classy vibe it exudes.

The free eggs
As expected in any establishment (whether authentic or commercialised) that prides itself on its Japanese fare, we were greeted with long chains of Japanese phrases. Unlike the common crowd, these were uttered in an almost hushed tone, keeping in line with the classy feel of the eatery. Another difference we noticed was the full black ensemble that the staff were decked out in, without the big logo of their shop on the back of their shirts, unlike many of its other competitors. Again, this isn’t something I’d hold against them, especially as it suits the shop’s minimalist theme, but I missed the authentic feel afforded by those brash logos.
A gripe I had was with the condiments available, which were presumably there to add flavour not just to the food but also to the Japanese feel of the place. I mean, who the hell eats mayonnaise with ramen?! Despite this, the free flow of eggs and potato salad were a welcome perk that added to the authenticity of the place. Normally, such a move by an eatery (in Singapore at least) would result in a level of feasting not seen since the end of the Great Famine. The absence of such a scene here greatly impressed me as it spoke volumes of the civility of the dinner crowd, and the overall mature, civilised feel of the eatery itself.
Mayo with your Ramen anyone? Right...
Probably nice with the free eggs though:)


Arthur's take:
What I ordered:
Pure White Tonkotsu Ramen (basic Ramen with chashu): thick noodles, strong soup –S$12.90
Addition of special toppings (extra chashu, half boiled egg, seaweed) –S$3.00(additional charge)
When the Ramen first arrived, I was prematurely disappointed. It was topped with the standard array of wood ear fungus, finely chopped spring onions and strands of pickled ginger, but what caused my disappointment was the broth which appeared bland and diluted. My rash judgement was quickly dispelled when I took in my first spoonful of the broth. It had a creamy flavour that was much heavier than it looked, carrying a strong and promising taste. This was unfortunate because it only took a few slurps before the abundant use of ginger became apparent.
Looks can be deceiving
-the soup looks weak but packs quite a punch

The dense flavour of ginger tries to add a fresh, stimulating spice to each scoop and was particularly effective at masking the strong smell-the uninitiated might call stench-which is common with pork based Ramen stock. However, the feeling of freshness quickly wears off and it became too overwhelming for the broth’s basic flavour to be properly enjoyed. The broth also came with a dessertspoon-sized serving of their ‘special sauce’ which added a nice zing to the broth but was again quickly overwhelmed by the taste of ginger which proved more a distraction than a complementary item. Overall though, the broth was definitely above average and worth a try.
The noodles were nothing to be excited about. Whether they were over-boiled in water or prepared with too little strength is unknown, but it was clear that they lacked the tension and resilience which defined a good serving of Tonkotsu Ramen noodles. They were brittle and weak, giving in to bites easily and doing little to complement the broth. The noodles were nowhere near what can be described as Al-dente and overall not very appetising. These were paired with a considerably overcooked half-boiled egg and unimpressive chashu. 

Mark's take:

What I ordered:
Pure White Tonkotsu Ramen (basic Ramen with chashu): normal noodles, normal soup -$12.90, with a flavoured egg as well ($1.50)
I ordered a Pure White Tonkotsu Ramen ($12.90) with pork belly chashu and a flavoured egg, and selected “normal” for both the thickness of the soup and the amount of flavoured oil in it. Upon the arrival of the ramen, I was initially rather disappointed by the clear, thin-looking broth, but decided not to jump to any hasty conclusions based solely on its tepid appearance. My first sip of the soup yielded a surprisingly strong taste, one that defied my initial expectations of a weak-tasting broth. Disappointingly, subsequent spoonfuls were completely overwhelmed by the taste of ginger. If I’d been a blind man doing a taste test, I would barely be able to tell that it was a pork-based soup, so strong the ginger’s taste was. In fact, the ginger even drowned out whatever little taste the insipid noodles may have had.
Mark's Ramen, taken with too much camera flash

The flavoured egg bordered on the verge of hardboiled (as shown in the photo), with none of that molten lava yolk I was expecting, to the extent that I might as well have thrown in one of the complimentary eggs instead. Suzuki Ramen Bar is not alone in committing this unforgivable sin, with many of the ramen shops in Singapore seemingly having colluded and decided that hard-boiled eggs are a viable alternative for what is promoted as "flavoured", two styles of eggs which bear little to no resemblance to each other at all. As for the pork belly chashu, it was neither fragrant nor tender, and was simply mediocre.  


Arthur's take:
Considering the base price of S$12.90, the bowl of ramen is reasonably priced for its quality. It also helps that the restaurant provides complementary self-served iced Oolong (Wu-Long) Tea which was good for washing down the strong, lingering taste of Ramen. It also comes with free hard boiled eggs for those who want to get more out of their meal. 

Mark's take:
Value-wise, Suzuki Ramen Bar’s ramen was slightly overpriced in comparison to the others out there. $12.90 for the most basic soup base without any extra toppings is kind of on the pricey side, especially for the quality of Ramen I received. Similarly, the rest of the menu is just a bit too expensive for my liking as well, with simple toppings that could set us back as far as $3. 

Overall, the restaurant is a clear notch above commercialised Ramen chains but not yet close to a great Ramen experience. As far as the Ramen goes, I believe we've found our decidedly negative answer as to whether Suzuki Ramen Bar could back their claim up. While we’re more used to the vibrant hustle and bustle of other shops which try to recreate the same atmosphere as back in Japan, this more toned-down approach works as well. With this atmospheric presence as a saving grace, we would gladly recommend it to office workers in the nearby vicinity looking for a convenient and decent meal along with a drink; and casual Ramen lovers who happen to be in the area. However, it may not be worth a long distance trip and is not particularly good for large groups, families or the more critical Ramen enthusiasts.
Have you eaten here before? What was your experience like? We're interested -do share with us in the comments below!
Quality & Taste(75%)
Better than the average crowd but nothing to write home about
Value (15%)
Good price and satisfying portion for above average Ramen
Ambience & others (10%)
Relaxing atmosphere that is excellent for drinking and dates
Worth a try if it’s a convenient location for you

#01-01, 61 Circular Road, Boat Quay area, Exit G from Raffles MRT

Operating Hours:


  1. Sounds like it's worth a try

  2. too expensive selling just the noodle luckily it have free eggs and ulong tea. I feel still wont visit waste money.

  3. Hey! I'd agree that the $15-ish pricetag is a bit tough to justify if you see it as just a bowl of noodles, but do bear in mind that by way of the broth (which is boiled for at least 6 hours) and the superior quality of the ingredients used, ramen's a better bowl of noodles than our local fare. Still, if you're gonna spend $15 on a bowl of noodles, you might as well spend it on the very best, which this ramen eatery isn't.

    Thanks for dropping by all the same!