Among the many Japanese ramen brands to arrive here recently, Afuri Ramen must be one of the most anticipated.
Since it opened in the new Funan Mall last month, it has been thronged by long queues, rivalling those seen at Afuri outlets in Tokyo since the brand started in 2003.
What makes the ramen here stand out is that yuzu is added to the chicken broth.
There is a choice of shio (salt) and shoyu (soya sauce) ramen. I usually prefer shio because it has a cleaner taste, which enables you to actually taste the broth base.
But in the case of Afuri, the shoyu version is quite delightful as the citrusy yuzu juice brightens and lightens the flavours.
The thin noodles work well with the light broth and there is plenty of shredded bamboo shoot to provide crunch. A half-egg, a slice of chashu and a sheet of seaweed complete the bowl.
There is also a spicy ratan ramen, but this is strictly for chilli lovers because the yuzu is barely discernible here.
There are also two versions of tsukemen on the menu - spicy and non-spicy. These are dry noodles served with a dipping sauce that is spiked with yuzu. The noodles are wholegrain and thicker to stand up to the stronger-tasting sauce, accompanied by chashu that is cut into cubes instead of sliced.
For tsukemen too, opt for the non-spicy version if you want to enjoy the yuzu sparkle.
All noodles are priced at $15.90 a bowl.
WHERE: Afuri Ramen, B1-29 Funan Mall, 107 North Bridge Road MRT: City Hall OPEN: 11.30am to 3pm, 5 to 9pm daily PRICE: $15.90 a bowl TEL:6970-1386
HOTPOT STALWART STILL DELIVERS
Sometimes, you forget about restaurants that have remained at the same location for a long time with no menu or decor changes.
But after writing an article about hotpot eateries from China recently, I was reminded that the pioneer of mala hotpots here was The Magic Of Chongqing Hot Pot at Tanglin Shopping Centre.
It opened in 1994 and, after 25 years, still serves an authentic version of the Sichuan pot with options of spicy and non-spicy broths.
The mala broth is more aromatic than fiery and food cooked in it tastes good without being overly spicy or oily.
There is an a la carte menu, but the a la carte buffet prices are so attractive that you go for the works instead. The lunch buffet (with 56 items) is priced at $22.90 from Tuesdays to Thursdays and $24.90 on weekends, while dinner (with 78 items) is $35.90 on weekdays and $38.90 on weekends.
If you cannot find what you like in the buffet, just add an a la carte order. Fresh scallops, for example, cost $28.
If you love beef, you can also go for the ongoing US beef promotion. For $55 a person, you get free flow of US beef along with the buffet.
And to celebrate National Day, a serving of Boston lobster is going for $54 instead of $88 until Aug 12.
WHERE: The Magic Of Chongqing Hot Pot, 04-06/07 Tanglin Shopping Centre, 19 Tanglin Road MRT: Orchard OPEN: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm daily TEL: 6734-8135
MALA RAMEN WITH KICK
Menya Kokoro is not new, but the ramen brand from Japan opened a new outlet in 100AM mall recently and introduced a mala flavour just for Singapore.
Kokoro is known for mazesoba, which is a dry version of ramen that is best described as a Japanese bak chor mee.
Its Mega Tokyo Maze Soba (from $12.80), an upsized version of its signature ramen, comes with a minced meat sauce that is cooked for four hours.
The noodles are also topped with chashu, poached egg, nori, green onions, chives, chopped garlic and ground saba fish.
The Furious Mala Mazesoba (from $14.80) has a dose of Sichuan peppers, dried chilli and chilli oil to liven up the flavours. If you prefer a soupy version, there is the Furious Mala Ramen Soup (left, $14.80).
Both come in three levels of spiciness. My choices are level three for the mazesoba and level two for the soup. But I am quite the chilli fiend, so if you cannot handle mala flavours, I suggest you go a notch down.
And be prepared to sweat.
WHERE: Menya Kokoro, two outlets including at 02-10 100AM, Tras Street MRT: Tanjong Pagar OPEN: 11 am to 9.30pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 11am to 10pm (Fridays and Saturdays) TEL: 6443-1727
A CULINARY TOUR OF EUROPE
Gordon Grill at the Goodwood Park Hotel is going on a culinary tour of Europe these two months by presenting iconic dishes from different European countries in three set menus.
Available for lunch as a three-course set ($78 a person) and dinner as a four-course set ($98 a person) or an eight-course degustation menu ($168 for two persons), the dishes cover places such as Greece, France, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Britain, Germany and Austria.
My favourites are the French classic pan-fried foie gras, served with balsamic-marinated cherries, and the Hungarian goulash, a hearty soup made with onion, beef, potato, sweet paprika and caraway seed. Deciding on the mains is a bit more difficult as almost everything sounds good.
But if you are a light eater, I would say go for the Portuguese grilled tiger prawn, which is fresh and sweet.
It comes with eggplant puree and tomato paprika rice.
Otherwise, get the Spanish grilled Iberico pork pluma, which boasts delicious, succulent meat.
The honey-glazed salmon from Norway and the Angus tenderloin from Britain are dependable picks too.
For dessert, the Austrian sacher-torte is my choice.
WHERE: Gordon Grill, Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road MRT: Orchard WHEN: Till Sept 29, noon to 2.30pm, 7 to 10.30pm daily TEL: 6730-1744