Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ippudo TAO @ UE Square - TAO Kuro

This week's ramen adventure brings me to Ippudo TAO at UE Square, along Mohamed Sultan Road.

It took over the space previously occupied by Ah Yat Seafood... the ramen empire is taking over the abalone world!

Ippudo TAO is Ippudo's second outlet in Singapore. And it is not a simple replicate of its first outlet like the others. It is a new concept store borne out of a collaboration between Ippudo and a Japanese drum group TAO, both originating from Kyushu. It is a collaboration between ramen and art.

How apt this is!
Ramen, an art form itself (to me), is collaborating with another art form.
And art has it commercial angle too, and this collaboration will further push TAO's branding and awareness.

A little bit more on TAO, it is a internationally renowned Japanese drums (Taiko, 太鼓) group that has been performing around the world, including Europe, America and Australia. You can see a video about TAO here.

This collaboration is also not a one-off effort too. For the purpose of this new concept, Ippudo and TAO actually set up a joint venture company to promote the new concept worldwide. The first outlet was opened in Fukuoka in April 2010, and the 2nd one here in Singapore in August. A 3rd outlet was opened in Ginza, Tokyo recently in September.

Isn't it amazing that we got it even before Tokyo?

The restaurant has booth indoor and outdoor seats that offer a different feel. The interior of the indoor part is modern, using a black-red-and beige color scheme, giving it an atmosphere of a restaurant bar. The music played is some upbeat music.

Whereas on the outside, the setting is simpler. The seats have a view to a screen projecting TAO's drum performance on it. With the drum beat energetically pounding in the background, this section of the restaurant gives it a more Japanese atmosphere, which I prefer more.

... well but at sat indoors this time :)

wall decoration

This wall decoration of drummers I guess echoes the theme of the restaurant. What is interesting is that it is made up of hundreds of small discs hanging of a nail. It must have taken a lot of effort to assemble this.

random shot - new napkin

Time to go into the food...

Ippudo TAO's menu differs from the Ippudo's in 2 ways.
First, it offers yakitori as one of its key items.
As I'm a fan of yakitori too, I ordered my favourite tsukune to try.

Served in a stone plate, the tsukune was grilled well and it was delicious.

What's more, it came with a tool to help the helpless foreigners to take out the meat from the skewer! I've been to quite a number of yakitori store, and I don't remember so far that I've come across this. Good job!

Although I prefer to bite the yakitori off its skewers, I took a try. And indeed it is quite easy to use.

The 2nd difference is in its ramen. Ippudo's Shiromaru and Akamaru has taken a side-step, and the key ramens here are called TAO Kuro (Black) and TAO Aka (Red). Both of them are still based on tonkotsu soup that Ippudo is good at, arranged in a new way to represent the spirit of TAO.

I ordered the signature TAO Kuro, with an additional egg.
(Still have gripes about them not having egg as a default topping...)

TAO Kuro has a tonkotsu-shoyu soup base and topped with pork-belly char siew, black fungus, spring onion, uma-dama (special blended miso ball), and charred fragrant oil that gives it the "kuro" look.

Taking a closer look...

It uses not the typical narrow noodles of kyushu's tonkotsu ramen, but a thick, curly and noodle that is bouncy and catches the soup.

Similar to the other Ippudo ramen, TAO kuro is a well-made and delicious. I particular like it thick taste and also the noodles that matches the dish well. I have not yet watched any performance by TAO so I'm not sure if it has expressed TAO's spirit, but its definitely a good bowl.

This Ippudo, I guess due to its location, has no queue too!
Many a times I was trying to go to Ippudo after work, but once I see the long queue I was put off. (Sorry that my love for ramen doesn't go as far as queuing up for 30 mins after a long day at work..). For the Ippudo lovers out there including myself, it is a way to have the same good taste without the queuing.

And I'll sit outside next time to see TAO's performance on the screen!

The Ippudo and TAO JV aims to expand this concept to more territories.
And its expansion plans involves opening of a theater restaurant in Broadway of NY!
Who could have imagined that a theater restaurant will one day serve ramen!?!
Looking forward to their opening in the future.

View Ramen Walker's Ramen Map in a larger map

Ramen Data - Ippudo TAO @ UE Square
Address: 207 River Valley Road #0-55-56, UE Square
Types: Tonkotsu

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