Sunday, September 1, 2013

Buta God: Ramen's black horse, a softer and sweeter side

The most striking thing about Buta God is its willingness to buck the trend (as you'll read about soon enough in this review), which takes real courage to do. Sticking your neck out from the rest of the field is a risky thing, and if your food is not of exceptionally high quality, this has the potential to turn a stall into a laughingstock for those in the know. This inherent risk is perhaps one of the major reasons few ramen eateries here venture outside of the tried-and-tested formula of Tonkotsu broths which Singaporeans are so accustomed to. Again though, if one wants to stick to the norm, his dish must be significantly better than his competitors in order to be outstanding. By virtually creating its own style of Tonkotsu ramen, Buta God absolves itself of this necessity. Regardless of the path a chef chooses, his dish must still be executed well; it's just that failing to do so with a dish that dares to be different carries a much greater magnitude of risk, as opposed to being mediocre but mainstream, which at least affords a multitude of similarly middling competitors to hide behind.

Taste, quality and presentation:
Having written that about Buta God's uniqueness, what really gives it this attribute are its broth, egg and chashu. Starting with the former, the soup has a sweet taste to it, despite being Tonkotsu-based. This isn't in the diabetic sense of the word, but is more of a sweetness that hovers on top of the essential pork base of the soup, making it extremely refreshing, especially for someone as accustomed to thick, heavy broths as me. While it's sweet, don't mistake this broth for one that's light or weak -it holds its own as well as the heavyweights of the ramen world (ie Bario and Tonkotsu King), despite not being as overpowering. There're fatty bits floating in the soup, but not in Bario's heart-attack-inducing abundance. Personally, I feel that they didn't add much to the taste of the soup (the Collagen used is generally better for strong, salty bases), and especially with their rather meagre amount, didn't have much business being there at all. Either way, I don't think they played much of a role in affecting the soup. Towards the end, I felt that the soup's sweetness may have drowned out its porkiness, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that this makes the pork base irrelevant. Despite this minor shortcoming, Buta God's soup is less oily than other stalls, and this coupled with its sweetish taste definitely makes it a welcome addition to the local ramen scene.

Clearly different from the outset
The yellow noodles used were relatively thick (when compared to the prevalent thin Hakata style), although not to Bario's extent. I felt that this was a good choice of noodles, as it complemented the lighter soup base by allowing the soup to cling to it. The result was a noodle that was well-lubricated and flavoured nicely, allowing for excellent slurpability. 

Regarding the two other anomalies of the ramen, the chashu used was not the large slab of pork that's usually used, but was stewed slices of pork. Since I've always associated such dishes with my grandmother, I felt that the ramen had a very home-cooked feel to it, which made it more personal. The pork slices had a nice, slightly-chewy bite to them, entirely appropriate for their style of preparation. They absorbed the soup too, but did this without allowing it to compromise their bite or override their taste. Also, the portion of the pork was generous, and I believe that the total amount of Buta God's pork easily exceeded the usual single chunk of chashu. As for the soft-boiled egg, I was initially quite skeptical (one of the reasons I had my girlfriend try this stall before I tried it myself) that any style of egg other than Ajitsuke Tamago could work with ramen. The only thing that prevented me from flaming it (which I was rather inclined to do initially) was the fact that the egg was perfectly soft-boiled, with a yolk that dissolved in my mouth instantly upon entry, filling it up with a fuzzy goodness that completely shut me up. I still struggle to see how a soft-boiled egg complements the dish, but hey, it was done to absolute perfection, so no complaints there. 

At the price of $12, my Tonkotsu Sukiyaki Ramen's generous portions of ingredients and the unique experience of eating such a different style of ramen made it well worth the money. While there was a $15 version offering more meat (Nikumashi Ramen), mine filled me up pretty well already, and I see no compelling reason to upsize.

On its own, Buta God's willingness to buck the ramen trend already makes it stand out from the relatively homogeneous ramen crowd. It executes its unique brand of ramen extremely well, elevating its status from simply outstanding to brilliant. The willingness to experiment and come up with something different from everybody else is a recipe for success, and definitely one that we can learn from in our competitive, rigid society. If Bario's overwhelming ramen symbolised a brutally headstrong man, then Buta God's could be compared to the liberated modern lady -sweet and able to use this natural sweetness as a charm, free to experiment with different partners before finding the right one, and not cowed by men. 

Recommended and certainly worth a visit, not just for the sake of trying something different but also due to the merits of its ramen. In fact, coupled with its Japanese chef-owner (As far as I know, the only other stall with a Japanese chef is Gantetsu), I really don't see any reason not to go.

Have you eaten here before? What was your experience like? We're interested -do share with us in the comments below!

Quality, Taste and Presentation (80%)
A unique ramen that's a refreshing change-up from its saltier cousins
Value (20%)
Reasonable pricing, and good portion served
Ambience & others (0%)
Check Ramen Champion main page on the blog for ambience
Great Ramen that's worth its price

#04-10, Bugis+, 201 Victoria Street

Operating Hours:
11:30-22:30 daily

1 comment :

  1. The pork and egg form the sukiyaki portion. The broth also is reminiscent of sukiyaki.
    For traditional sukiyaki, you dip the pork into a soft boiled or raw egg before eating. This is why they use a soft boiled egg.