Touted as one of the best ramens in Singapore… no, the world, by Michelin, Tsuta has just opened at Pacific Plaza along Orchard Road
Being a Japanese junkie, it’s no big secret that I really love my ramen. So naturally, the arrival of the Tsuta brand to our shores didn’t fall on deaf ears; I admit I was intrigued as to why diners in Tokyo would queue as early from 6am to savour a taste of this Michelin-starred bowl. For those of you who are unacquainted, Tsuta made the food industry sit up and take notice once it became the first ramen eatery in the world to bag the Michelin award. And what can I say? Singaporeans love hype, especially when it comes to comfort food like ramen. But did this insurmountable wave of hype prove to be a double-edged sword for Tsuta’s first branch outside of Japan?
First of all, the hype is no exaggeration – within its first week since opening, I was told that it had already attracted queues that stretched beyond two hours, and the 18-seater (this is twice as many seats as the Tokyo outlet) would sell out by 6pm. While you won’t find Chef Yuki Onishi preparing these sought-after bowls in the open kitchen – you get to witness everything here: from the massaging of the noodles to the handling of the delicate onsen eggs with care, and even slabs of char siew that get blowtorched ’til sinfully charred – he has personally trained the Singaporean chefs that will serve you with precision and professionalism.
The processes of ordering and payment here might strike a chord with those familiar with ramen restaurants in Japan. Giving a nod to the DIY method found in most ramen joints in Tokyo, you settle your order via a modern touch-screen interface with comprehensive pictures and descriptions (this is unlike the old-school button machines in Japan, which can be a nightmare to navigate if you’re unprepared). After a few finger-taps, you get your receipt, pass it to the staff once you’re seated, and twiddle your thumbs (while trying not to drool) as the chefs whip up your bowl on the spot.
Don’t expect to find much variety here though; Tsuta Singapore only has two ramen flavours: the richer shoyu made from three different types of shoyu, two of which are made in-house and one specially brewed using soy beans matured for two years; and the shio, a lighter, less-heaty broth that balances Okinawan sea salt with Mongolian rock salt. But both are enhanced with an unorthodox ingredient that I personally think – depending on your preferences – makes or breaks this dish. Truffle sauce is generously added to both broths – black for the shoyu, white for the shio – and its distinctive aroma can be detected instantly. If you’re not jaded over the notion of adding truffle (or ‘truffle’) to everything, you might still deem this umami element a godsend. I, unfortunately, am more of a ramen purist, and this felt more like an unnecessary gimmick to me than anything else.
That said, I had no qualms with the other elements of the ramen itself – the noodles were springy and firm, the char siew slices were succulent and thick without being tough, the braised bamboo shoots added a subtle sweetness to the thin yet tasty broth, and the onsen egg is a soft shell hiding gooey goodness. So if you intend on braving the queue for two hours, I’d recommend you get the full works ($22.80), instead of the standard bowl at $15. And also, if you don’t like your ramen too salty – you can’t alter your preferences as you order here – go for the shoyu that’s less sharp on your palate than the shio. I figure I would’ve fancied these bowls more had the truffle sauce been integrated better into the broths; to me, it just tasted like shoyu and truffle, shio and truffle – strong tastes duelling against each other with no clear victor.
Would I be less critical had this been a food I didn’t eat on a weekly basis? Perhaps. And if it hadn’t won the ‘gold-standard’ Michelin award? Yeah, probably as well. But I reckon that if you really dig the idea of “truffle ramen”, this unconventional bowl would be your cup of tea… or well, ramen. I’ll just stick to my tonkotsu, thanks.
Tsuta Singapore, #01-01 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road, Singapore 228210. Contact their website for opening hours and availability.