Sunday, December 27, 2009

AFURI (阿夫利)@ Ebisu, Tokyo

Here in Tokyo again enjoying my leave... and of course catching up on some delicious ramen!

Today's ramen expedition takes me to AFURI(阿夫利) in Ebisu, Tokyo.

I was watching the TV program "King's Brunch" on a lazy Saturday morning, and coincidentally AFURI was featured as the No. 2 ramen among the top 10 ramen shops in the Ebisu and Meguro area.
It was a ramen shop that I chanced upon a few years ago, and I had an excellent impression of its light but flavoursome ramen.
Without any hesitation, I took a 30mins trip and headed to AFURI for lunch!

AFURI's entrance, chic and clean

Opens from 11am to 4am in the morning!

The name "AFURI" came from the name of a mountain, Mount Afuri, in the Kanagawa prefecture of Japan. The shop is named after the mountain as it uses water collected from the wells of Mt. Afuri.

What an effort! I wonder if any shops in Singapore is that particular.

Open kitchen, clean interior

A small and neat ramen shop, AFURI has a row of about 15-20 counter seats, facing the open kitchen where 4-5 staff worked diligently and politely preparing the ramen. The lighting is a simple row of bare light bulb hanging from the roof.

I ordered the Yuzu Shio Ramen (ゆず塩麺, 850 yen).

While waiting for the ramen, it was interesting to observe the little details of how the staff were prepared them. And AFURI lived up to expectation of being the No.2 shop in the area!

- The chief chef tasted the soup of every single bowl of ramen served, to make sure that the thickness of the soup is right
- Every piece of char siew is grilled before its served, making it more fragrant
- The staff was placing the toppings on the ramen carefully to ensure its presentation

Yuzu Shio Ramen

A pretty bowl of ramen!

The light soup is a mix of chicken and seafood (bonito, seaweed, dried fish) with a tinge of yuzu essence. It is refreshing, and because its light, you won't feel like stopping. The ramen is topped with a piece of char siew, seasoned egg, seaweed, menma, mizuna (a type of Japanese vegetable) and yuzu peel. The grilled char siew was tasty, the yoke was perfectly semi-cooked, and the crunchy mizuna added texture to the ramen. The narrow noodles matched the lightness of the ramen well too.

All in all, it was delicious! It was a bowl of ramen that can make me go bottoms-up, finishing all its soup.

AFURI has 2 outlets, one in Ebisu and a new one in Harajuku. Both are within walking distance from the JR station and not too far off from Shibuya. If you are in Japan and are looking for something light, this will be perfect for you!


View Ramen Walker's Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - AFURI @ Ebisu, Tokyo
Address: 〒150-0013 東京都渋谷区恵比寿1-1-7
Types: Shio
Price: 750-850yen
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ippudo Singapore @ Mandarin Gallery - Part 2

Finally managed to find time to visit the new ramen on the block, Ippudo Singapore @ Mandarin Gallery.
Arrived at 840pm, and as expected, there was a pretty long queue.

really good business, huh?

After waiting for about 20 minutes, I managed to step into the store.

But interestingly, thats not it!

There is a bar counter area where the customers are asked to wait some more, with a queue forming around that table. However, we can start looking at the menu and even order drinks and two types of finger food (Ippudo Bun and Lotus Root Chips) while waiting for a seat.

Quite a brilliant idea! I thought.
A way to encourage spending while the customers are waiting.
But none of the customers bought into the idea, and patiently waiting for our seat.

For me, I took the time to take some pictures of how the interior look like.
The restaurant has 2 areas, a counter area facing the chefs, and a table area.

Counters
... and table section

The interior is done up in a posh way, with dark walls, a big chandelier in the middle, and bowls arranged artistically on the wall.

With my wife, we ordered the Shiromaru and Akamaru ramen with egg (S$17 each), plus a Gyoza.

... but we are told that their they have sold out their gyoza.
However, they have this dish call the Gyoza-nia (rhyming with Lasagne), which is gyoza baked with cheese. Its a whopping S$10, but I thought that I should try since I've queued up for so long.

Gyoza-nia. Can you see the gyoza?

Must admit that the portion is a bit small. I'm virtually paying $2.5 per Gyoza.
The taste is ok, but for the price...

Next came the main dish of ramen ... but we were told that they ran out of egg!
Their business must be so good.
I'll have to come again to see the standard of their egg.

Akamaru-Kasaneaji 赤丸かさね味

Made with pork bone soup and topped with 2 pcs of pork belly char siew, flavored oil, black fungus and spring onion. There is a ball of miso in the middle that you can mix into the soup to adjust the level of saltiness you want.

Shiromaru-Motoaji 白丸元味

Moving on to Shiromaru, which is the original-style Hakata ramen. Pork bone soup, with pork loin char siew, spring onion, cabbage and black fungus.

Not sure if you've noticed something...

That Ippudo uses 2 types of char siew for the 2 types of noodles!

The more fatty pork belly is used for the strong Akamaru, and the more lean pork loin for the Shiromaru which is more mild.
It is quite rare that a shop is particular to the level that they will prepare 2 types of char siew. I am impressed by the effort put in by them.
The char siew itself is reasonably good. I prefer the pork belly ones.

The noodles used were the proper narrow noodles meant for Hakata-style ramen. This is more "right" and I like this more than the normal noodles used for other stores that sells kyushu ramen (e.g. Yoshimaru, Tanpopo).

Although I couldn't get my gyoza and tamago, all in all my experience was quite pleasant.
The staff were courteous and well-trained in the Japanese way... and many of them somehow can speak Japanese quite fluently. The decor is pleasant and comfortable. The ramen is decent too. If you like the authentic Hakata ramen, this might be the only place that offers it.

The only grumble that I might have is the price. With a ramen with egg, which is actually the normal serving in other stores, costing S$17, it is about 20% more expansive than other good stores like Miharu. The $2.5 per gyoza is a bit steep too. The presentation of the noodle can do better too.

Will still return to try the other dishes that they have. But perhaps not so frequently, and might concentrate just ordering the ramen.


View Ramen Walker's Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - Ippudo Singapore @ Mandarin Gallery
Address: 333A Orchard Road, #04-02/03/04 Mandarin Gallery
Types: Hakata Ramen (Tonkotsu)
Price: S$14-17
Rating: 8/10

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ippudo Singapore @ Mandarin Gallary

Another Japanese ramen chain arrived in Singapore!

博多 一風堂(Ippudo)

Their website is very cute! Lego-like figures of customers and staff zooming around the stall, making and taking orders, just like how a real stall might look like.

Ippudo Phamplet

I've eaten their ramen in Tokyo before and quite like its tonkotsu ramen.
However, I was there at the wrong time!
Only managed to grab a piece of the pamphlet...

Opening hours before their grand opening on 12 Dec 09...

Before its opening on 12 Dec, they will be having lunch soft opening from 2-4 Dec, and dinner soft opening from 5-7 Dec.
Thereafter they will take a break until their official opening on 12 Dec.

... sob

Anyway, taking this chance to share more about Ippudo.

The owner, Mr Kawahara, is a success story in the ramen world.
Started his business in 1985 with a 10-seater stall, he gained fame after opening a stall in the Yokohama ramen museum in 1994.
He subsequently won the "All-Japan Ramen Master Competition" 3 times in a row from 1997-1999.
With over 50 outlets in Japan now, Ippudo opened its first overseas outlet in New York's East Village in 2008.
This outlet in Mandarin Gallery will be its 2nd overseas outlet.
Not bad, Singapore!

Most probably I can only try it out after its grand opening.
Will see how it matches up with their stalls in Japan.
Till then!

Link to Part 2
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