Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ramen Champion Great World City -A Brave New World

By: Mark

Their new emblem or something
Arthur and I were invited to the much- anticipated opening of Ramen Champion's new outlet at Great World City on 19th November. I, to say the least, was incredibly excited and practically salivating over the opportunity to try the various new ramen stalls. In fact, after waiting close to 2 weeks for it to open, I succumbed and headed down on my own prior to the food tasting session, at the expense of being labelled a "ramen rapist" by Arthur. Bearing in mind my much-documented inability to resist ramen's seductive allure, this title is well-deserved I suppose, and one that I now carry around with a similar pride to that which is bestowed upon war medals. Veering back from that deviation, I'm delighted to say that Ramen Champion's new outlet deserves all the attention it's been receiving recently from the media. This outlet is yet another haven for Ramen lovers, and will definitely receive a warm welcome from them.

Like the outlet at Bugis+, Great World City’s Ramen Champion is unmistakable with its broth-derived aroma wafting in the air, attracting anyone with a nose and a stomach who happens to be on the same floor (true story –I was unable to find the store until I picked up the scent of ramen broth).

Decorative entrance
In contrast to the outlet at Bugis+ which had the rustic feel of a foreign land far-removed from reality, Great World City’s felt a lot more modern, with brighter lightings and more chic interior finishing. Its windows that separate it from the building's exterior are not fully covered with stickers, causing me to feel not as isolated from outside life than Bugis+.  The result is an eatery that feels less distant from the real world and bears more resemblance to other eateries around its price range. There’s nothing here to complain about however, and I believe that Komars wanted to preserve a sense of identity for each different outlet of Ramen Champion, instead of creating homogeneous eateries much like huge fast food chains.

At the end of the outlet, there are large tables with long benches accompanying them, which will accommodate bigger groups more easily. This is definitely a nod in the right direction by Komars, recognising and catering for the Marche-type crowd (ie large groups in search of an eatery with a good variety of food) that’s likely to patronise a place like this.

I must say that I really like this place. Like Bugis+, it clearly strives to integrate elements of Japan into its overall architecture, from its finishing to its furniture. This is bound to please ramen lovers, and the atmosphere of the eatery makes it extremely conducive to indulge in ramen gluttony.

Food (initial impressions): 
During the tasting session, we were provided with a free flow of the ramen stalls’ various side dishes and ramen (which of course, allowed us to eat to our very spacious stomachs’ content). The side dishes included gyozas with various toppings, chicken karaage and spicy chicken wings, which were in general, very well done. Arthur and I felt though that the central focus of Ramen Champion should be placed on the ramen dishes themselves, which is why we are not including photos or detailed reviews of the sides. Make no mistake though, they are very worthy appetizers, and I’d definitely recommend them to any seriously starving customers, to whom a bowl of ramen by itself wouldn’t be enough. Also, this section will only include our initial impressions of the ramen, with reviews being put up soon.

Bishamon Zero

This rendition of miso ramen tasted as perfect as miso ramen gets. Considering the frankly mediocre standards of Bishamon outlets outside, this is surprising, albeit in a welcome way. The broth was well-balanced, with no individual flavours overwhelming the others. It also had a tinge of spiciness to it, which, like the other flavours, wasn’t overwhelming at all. These factors, combined with the other ingredients, made the components of the ramen perfectly complementary, making us tremendously impressed.

Trust us. It's as good as it looks.


This stall’s name and sukiyaki style of ramen bear uncanny resemblances to Bugis+’s Buta God, making us wonder if they shared the same chef. However, we were assured by the PR team that they were separate entities. As compared to Buta God, Butaou’s broth was almost diabetically sweet, signalling an overuse of soy sauce without enough pork to ground it and give it substance. Also, I found Buta God’s pork more well-marinated and homely than Butaou’s. With their near-identical styles of ramen, these stalls are in unavoidably direct competition with each other, but if you asked me, I’d definitely take Buta God over Butaou any day of the week.

Cheap looking bowl does not mean cheap tasting Ramen.

Tonkotsu Itto
I (Arthur) felt particularly strongly about the following two Ramen stores and as a result decided to "fight" Mark for the rights to covering this section of his post. He was reluctant at first but with a costly bribe of one Chasu , he finally gave in to me. With that out of the way, here are my initial impressions:

To start with, Tonkotsu Itto was unmemorable to say the least. When I first read Mark's review, I was actually a little disagreeable with his harsh rating, even taking to a long discussion with him regarding it. Now however, having tried it myself, I must agree that this stores Ramen, as of now, is quite unimpressive indeed. The first word that came to my mind when sipping in the soup was "deception". What I mean here is that the soup is decently thick, but deceivingly so. Why? Because, as far as I could taste, much of the soup's thickness comes from starch and not actual time and effort put into the boiling it. Don't get me wrong, adding starch to the soup might not be too bad an idea, but here it just ends up tasting bland and looking thick on initial observation, a combination that creates anticipation then crushes expectations. The noodles are similarly mishandled, overcooked to the point of complete brittleness, having minimal resistance and chew to them. As for the egg and Chasu, they were pretty average at best.

Look closely at the soup...

I was particularly interested in this store's Ramen, being that it seems to share a style quite similar to Bario Ramens'. I was personally quite hopeful that Miyamoto would be able to match Bario's flavorful experience whilst presenting a few tricks of their own, being that Bario seems to be the only one of its style around in Singapore till date. To that end, it's actually a little iffy; and my hopes were in a way, half granted. 
Let's start with the good points. The first was clear once the bowl arrived on our table. Coupled with the broth and noodles was a generous serving of succulent, fatty looking Chasu which beckoned drooling. It didnt only look good though, it tasted good too. The meat was of good quality and had been lovingly marinated and cooked to give off a heavy and well smoked flavour. Here's the thing though, Miyamoto's broth is especially light, a broth of chicken and pork that was clearly flavored off with salt. This made for a confusing eat that contrasted extremely heavy with light taste. As of now, i am still undecided as to whether this should be considered a good or bad paring, but generally, the soup was decent enough. Its like a ever slightly heavier version of your standard Shio Ramen with a slightly more sophisticated taste. 

High hopes for this guy...High hopes still.
The noodles on the other hand was not very well done. Similar to Tonkotsu Itto, it was quite brittle, though its bulkier thickness did help, it was not sufficient to make it great. As for the egg? That might as well have been hard boiled.  
Bishamon Zero was undoubtedly the star of this food tasting session, with the others lagging quite far behind it. However, ramen quality can suffer, and it’s clear that they put in a special effort in their food preparation to accommodate the tasting session’s attendees, meaning that it wouldn’t be completely objective to base our judgement of the stalls on this tasting session alone. Rest assured that we’ll be back to write up more comprehensive reviews of this outlet, the process (ie more ramen!) of which I’m obviously looking forward to.

As a whole, Komars has put in a commendable effort in opening this new branch , and I suspect that having an outlet in Great World City would serve as a reason for many to visit this mall. We’d like to thank them for their hospitality during the tasting session. Although they aren’t directly involved in the preparation of the ramen, they have advanced the ramen culture in Singapore by sourcing for ramen stores in Japan to bring over, and by providing the capital to set up Ramen Champion (along with all the accompanying risks of a business venture), among many other things. Their dedication to ramen is clear to all, and much appreciated by ramen lovers like us.

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

#01-22, Great World City, 1 Kim Seng Promenade

Operating hours:
11:30am to 10:30pm daily

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