Singapore - On Nov 6, ramen fans will be able to taste the wares of one-Michelin-starred Tsuta ramen from Tokyo.
The restaurant - with only 18 counter seats - is located on the ground floor of Pacific Plaza.
Like in Japan, where ramen is ordered through a vending machine, diners here can order and make payment at a modern touch-screen kiosk at the entrance of the restaurant. After getting a ticket and receipt, they wait in line until the staff usher them to their seats.
Only two ramen options are available - the brand's signature shoyu or shio ramen, topped with char siu, bamboo shoots, and ajitama (flavoured egg). Prices range from $15 to $22.80, depending on the amount of meat and whether diners want an egg with the noodles.
I am a big fan of tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen - the richer the soup, the better. And I normally go for a spicy version if it is available. So I am not sure I would like Tsuta's light broth.
The shoyu ramen is made with two types of shoyu (soya sauce); one from a factory in the Wakayama prefecture, and the other is Tsuta's chef-owner Yuki Onishi's own shoyu. The broth is also made up of dashi with beef, vegetables, clams and other ingredients. It is topped with a dollop of black truffle pureed in truffle oil.
The shio ramen, on the other hand, is made with a chicken-seafood broth, Okinawa sea salt and Mongolian rock salt. It comes with green olives pureed in truffle oil.
While the shio ramen broth is light, the only flavour on my palate is salt. The shoyu soup has a stronger and more complex flavour of soy sauce, which is balanced perfectly with the truffle. I like that the truffle perfumes the ramen without overpowering the dish. I slurp up almost all the soup, something that I can't do with rich tonkotsu broth without going into a food coma.
The noodles - made on site with a blend of whole wheat and grain flours - are long and thin, and are cooked just right. The smooth texture reminds me of soba. After all, the shop's full name is Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta. Here, chef Onishi says that the word "soba" is used when the noodles are of a higher standard than the more common ramen.
The toppings are nothing I don't already expect from a good ramen restaurant. I get tender, well-marinated pork char siu, as well as a long piece of bamboo shoot.
Surprisingly, my egg does not have the perfect smooth exterior I expect. There are some blemishes on the surface, so perhaps the chef had problems peeling the egg.
The menu also has a small selection of side dishes such as ro-su meshi (sliced roasted pork shoulder on rice, topped with fragrant butter sauce ($6), and soup chazuke ($2), where diners can add the remaining ramen soup to rice garnished with bonito flakes and Japanese seaweed.
Miso ramen and tsukemen (ramen served with a dipping sauce), which are on the menu in Japan, may be introduced later.
This is the second Tsuta in the world, after the original, a nine-seater which opened in 2012 in Sugamo. The Singapore shop is the result of a partnership with investment company Hersing Corporation, which is also behind dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan and Hong Kong restaurant Kam's Roast Goose, which will also open at the mall later this month.
The signature shoyu ramen is certainly worth a try, when the queues ease up.
Tsuta at 01-01/02/03 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road, opens for business on Nov 6. Its hours are 11am to 6pm (until Nov 11), and 11am to 10pm daily (from Nov 12). For more information, go to www.facebook.com/Tsutasingapore.