You're not here to have service, ambience or whatever restaurant bullshit obligatories. You're here for the best ramen in the world (tentative).
I've travelled around Singapore for the best ramen available. Yoshimaru, Tampopo, Marutama, Santouka, Ajisen(is a piece of c***), all stores in Ramen Champion (both Bugis+ and Changi T3), Ramen Play(c*** that's better than Ajisen c***), and a bunch of other forgettable places.
Keisuke Tonkotsu King is hands down the best in terms of soup flavour, serving size and taste. If you're an avid ramen person, you'll know that most restaurants import(if they do) from the same source, so it's a moot point to compare noodles texture. Just pick Katamen (hard noodles) and you'll always be happy. Anything that's not katamen you're better off cooking your own soggy instant noodles.
I've been to the US, and scoured their lands for ramen too. Alas, all Japanese restaurants in the US are run by Koreans (okay, not all but majority) who serve mediocre Ajisen standard ramen. Even the Katanaya in San Francisco with its long queues is at best, the same taste as our Marutama. So Singaporean ramen lovers, you people are a bunch of spoilt foodies.
Then I did a Ramen tour of Japan, eating everywhere from south of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Nagasaki. Because Hokkaido noodles are like our fishball noodles, I conveniently left that out. All the ramen were great, and averaged at the standards of our the Yoshimaru in Singapore. Then I headed to the destination spot for Ramen pilgrimage (technically speaking ramen came from China but just bear with me for the sake of this review), Hakata.
I tried a bunch of Hakata-styled ramen in Hakata itself. Despite all the legends and myths of ramen gods and divine stock, the ramen were only slightly better than the rest of Japan. The bulk of the restaurants source their noodles from the same source, which you can obtain from the Hakata souvenir stores yourself, so the noodles are largely the same. The differentiating factor lay in all the slight twists in soup flavour and pork. These were some serious, hardcore, awesome flavours, ranging from milky to peanut buttery to tinges of sourness. After going through the tasting and expectations, I came to realise none had the soup stock I liked best, all the way back home at Tanjong Pagar.
If the ramen capital of Japan has nothing comparable (close fight though) to this Tonkotsu King in Singapore, I doubt the world would have anything even near its standards. HOWEVER, Japan ramen were pretty much all under S$10, we're being ripped off. WORLD'S BEST COMES WITH A PRICE.
In conclusion, if you don't like the ramen here, go away. To some other dimension or universe.
Personally I prefer the Black Spicy mixed with copious amounts of pickled tao geh, but now that I'm older and my stomach sucks a**, I'll have to settle with the normal option. :(
This is an adapted review from my blog. Full review and more photos can be read from this link:
We arrived just slightly past 6 p.m. but the queue had already reached an incredible length, taking us close to 30 minutes before we were admitted. However Tonkontsu King clearly ooze Japanese efficiency by providing order forms upfront, allowing diners to place their orders before stepping into the store.
Upon our turn, we were ushered into a claustrophobic interior where space was a premium. It was obvious that the interior was meant just for dining. - tables and chairs were packed close to each other, and walking space was kept to a minimum, I wonder if the restaurants were this packed in japan as well.
I have to say that Ramen Keisuke's bowl of ramen was one of the best which I have tried before. Our ramen - Ramen Keisuke ramen with Japanese soft boiled egg, had a solid texture which held its own until you chew it apart. The broth was cloudy with goodies, with chashu, chopped onions and black fungus adding tastes to my palate. The liquid was so tasty that every slurp of ramen was accompanied with a scoop of broth to savor the sweet and salty taste. Ramen Keisuke really earned its namesake with this broth. However diners should take note of its saltiness - too much could leave you really thirsty.
One offering of Ramen Keisuke which I found novel and interesting is their bowl full of eggs. Each table was allocated a bowl full of hard boiled eggs, which came in brown and white variants, for your consumption. However their shells were difficult to be peeled, leaving quite a mess when removing them, often prickling the egg white and leaving it with craters. Since these were free offerings not included in the bill, I guess I should not complain about it.
Ramen Keisuke won me over with their taste, which is just above most Japanese restaurant offerings. I would choose this over most of the chain restaurants, but I would not queue another time just for the sake of it.
I was there yesterday. As expected, the ramen was delicious. Great broth, noodles cooked to right texture. What was a disgust was the service of the guy attending to me.
I was there about 2:45pm. No queue, which was great! I pooked my head thru the Noren and I'm greated not by the usual Japanese "welcome" but a rather unwelcome "wait, wait!" I see that the restaurant wasn't packed to the brim, so I asked if I could have a seat. But the same guy who gave me the "wait, wait" just told me "wait outside a while!", showed me out and gave me the order form and a pen. Still in awe, I looked thru and was trying to tick my choice of noodles on my palm when I heard "come, last table". Yup, that same "wait, wait" guy!
Well, I'm here for the noodles so what the heck about their service I thought. The noodles came soon and I was off to slupping my delicious noodles and downing the soup till I hear the same annoying voice saying "wait la!" to a couple who wanted to change their seats from the counter to the table.
I was at their Tori King outlet some few days back and it's worlds apart from what I got here! The staff there was helpful, making sure that my wife, myself and our 3 year old boy was seated comfortably before helping us with our order. When my boy accidentally spill over his cup of water, they were quick to attend and kept assuring us while we apologise. Such a stark contrast from the "wait, wait la!" attitude from this outlet.
So, in a nutshell, if U're very happy to get such "bo-chup" service from this joint to complement your ramen, you may wish to think again.
And for the management, maybe it's time to have the consistent good service to keep up with the excellent ramen on the menu?
Having tried chef-owner Keisuke Takeda’s chicken broth ramen at Tori King, there was no way I was going to miss his pork broth ramen. Was finally here after 2 months and ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen Special, an original soup with all toppings. Chose normal soup and noodle texture, defined as authentic Japan taste on the simple menu, and customised for less oil and no spring onions. See full review and pictures at http://live2eatdottravel.blogspot.sg/2013/02/ramen-keisuke-tonkotsu-king.html. Loved how the freshly ground black and white sesame seeds added a nice aroma to the thick, rich and creamy pork broth cooked with pork marrow bones and fat for hours. While the ramen and soft-boiled egg were done just right with pork chaysu neither too hard nor fat, would have preferred both the egg and pork to have a bit more flavour. Nothing to fault on the crunchy black fungus and big seaweed, except the parts soaked in soup 'til soft. Individually, every ingredient was good and they came well together to be the best ramen I have eaten in Singapore. Despite the fact that there were sinful blobs of fats floating in the tasty broth as well as better ramen and soup elsewhere.
for photos and more reviews, head to http://theendangeredsartorialist.wordpress.com/food-listings/
there was a sizeable queue outside the stall when we walked from tanjong pagar mrt station toward the shop. and the queue moves slowly, simply because it moves only when patrons within have finished their meal and have vacated their tables. its that small a restaurant. please don't come with like a bunch of 20 friends, because you wouldn't fit inside. even with like 12 friends, you practically need to book the entire ramen shop because there are pretty much like 2x4-seaters, 3x2-seaters and a bartop seating another 4. but since people do realise that there are hungry hordes waiting for them to finish their meal, they are relatively brisk and no-frills after they finish their meal, which is much appreciated. =)
so we got in after queuing for around half an hour, by which the friendly waiter had taken our orders already via some handy sheet of paper-order where you indicated the type of ramen you wanted - normal, black spicy (a more peppery version that's apparently the signature ramen here) and red spicy (i suppose to cater to the singaporean's liking for red hot spicy stuff). you also chose the accoutrements you wanted, either inoli (seaweed), char siew, onsen tamago (egg that is boiled in a precise onsen (hot-bath) temperature to give a semi-runny, semi-hardened consistency with the yolk - amazing) or just be greedy and get all in. of course, me being me, i got the black spicy special ramen with all the ingredients added in. cheers.
whilst waiting for our orders, we took in the surroundings a bit. this place conjures up fond memories of kenka in st marks place, NYC, a really vibrant, hip japanese restaurant which i tried with sheryl+cheewei once and then another time whilst catching up with chen kiang after his work. ahhh memories.. the reason for the resemblance i suppose comes from the old shop japanese posters that were plastered on the walls, the crowded, packed-together seating and just a genuinely authentic japanese feel to the place.
ok let's get on with the food.
[ black spicy tonkotsu ramen special, $15.80]
this thing smelt amazing, a wholesome aroma of peppery, meaty goodness which tasted really good upon first tastings. the broth is really interesting as the pepper adds a certain zing to the soup but does not mask the underlying pork broth flavors. noodles are thin and pair well with the soup. the onsen-tamago is to die for - perfectly made such that when you bite into it, it slowly melts outward giving a really textured response. seaweed was a little awkward to eat since it was essentially one big piece stuck to the side of the bowl, but after we broke it up and mixed it in with the soup, it also joined in the symphony of deliciousness within the brew.
note that this place serves free eggs and slightly spicy beansprouts at the side for u to supplement your meal, making for a really full dinner. they also provide condiments such as bonito flakes and the jap chilli flakes but imo its not too necessary. hmm my issues with this ramen? well two main points - one was that whilst it tasted amazing and special one first bites whilst everything was piping hot, once it slightly cooled down, the taste became slightly too overpowering, like you know how peppery bak kut teh that has slightly cooled suddenly doesn't taste as nice? imo this place needs like warmers to maintain the heat within the bowl, or well, you just have to finish it fast and not be like me, snapping many shots merrily at it. -_- (i think the restaurant is banking on most people doing the former). another thing was that, the soup broth, on closer examination, really conjured some health worries within me because whilst it tasted amazing, i think i spied on chunks on pork fat within the soup which really sends my health-conscious mind into a cardiac arrest. lol.
overall a tasty, interesting ramen option that does duke it out well with other established ramen shops in singapore. do go try it once, though be prepared for the wait, and dun expect it to be some chill, cozy place where you can slowly finish your food, kick off your sandals and relax. be courteous. 7/10