Thanks to the food comment by other food reviewers, I realized the existence of yet another potentially high caliber ramen shop located at Tai Hang. It seems that they have two signature broths, thick pork bone broth as well as chicken broth. I wasn't too interested in Kureha at first as I'm only really interested in the spicy ramen.
I realized from the photograph that they have an interestingly named ramen - "Super Spicy Bomb Pork Bone Ramen". I thus decided to aim for this one and ditched my colleagues for Friday lunch at "Kitchen M" (which I'm not at all interested in - I recommended my wife to try it out with her friends instead )
As I arrived at Tai Hang at 1:00 p.m., I noticed that it was lunchtime for nearby schools and offices. There were queues for most Vietnamese restaurants along the road and other restaurants which served local cuisines (but not those which served European cuisines though). At this point, I was getting a bit worried about the potential length of the queue. Surprisingly, there was no queue at "Daruma"!
Once I've arrived, I noticed about 4-5 persons waiting outside Kureha. They seemed to be a group. I entered and told the staff that I required a table for one. Luckily, about 5-6 minutes wait, I got a seat at the very end of the shop.
This place was a lot less crowded than ButaO. They had about 6-7 bar seats at the counter and about 2-3 tables for 4. The air-conditioning was a lot better than most ramen shop as well. I think it's because the kitchen and the eating area were separated by a huge glass, as you could see from the following photo:
Well, I suppose you wouldn't be able to see the glass anyway.
The restaurant was so much more insulated (somewhat similar to Ippeian at Mirama, TST) and was quite cool. This is crucial when the weather is hot. The interior was actually similar to the shop front, which was the Japanese European fusion - the "Showa" style (昭和: 1926 - 1989). I quite like this nostalgic design.
火藥玉 = 炸彈
火藥玉 = 炸彈...
Without doubt, I choose the "Super Spicy Bomb Pork Bone Ramen". I choose normal noodle, spring onions with an extra portion of grilled char siu.
After a short wait, which was about 5 minutes only, the ramen, char siu and a red coloured dish arrived.
I'm quite pleased that the "Bomb" (with a section of a spring onion or chive as the "fuse") was served separately from the pork bone broth. This was good because you could try their signature pork bone broth alone and control how spicy you wished your ramen to be.
First, about the broth, this was just the normal pork bone flavour but it was already quite strong. Definitely stronger than ButaO, Ippudo, Tatsuya and most ramen shops. "Hide-chan Ramen" comes the closest. One way to imagine the taste might be this: it's similar to the thickest pork bone broth you get at a Cantonese style hotpot, after the meal, times two.
I thought the taste of the broth was quite interesting but wasn't extremely excited by it. I think I prefer a less overwhelming taste than this.
As you could see, the size of the noodle was quite small for the price:
I could almost put the whole noodle cake on my spoon. This could not be compared with the hearty sizes of Ippeian, Hide-chan, ButaO and, particularly, Hakodate. The noodles themselves were the Kyushu style noodle and made by Kureha. The texture was quite chewy and harder than average, somewhat like a barely cooked egg noodle. It was not bad and matched well with the pork bone broth.
About the Char Siu, the Ramen came with two pieces of normal Char Siu. The normal Char Siu - not the grilled one- had quite a substantial bit of fat on the side and was about 1 cm think (I.e. quite substantial). I think the meat was not as tender as I'd like it to be and was not aromatic. However, this was still more tender than the two pieces of extra grilled char siu. I'd skip the Char Siu and order an additional noodle cake instead. The Char Siu at Buta O and Daruma were much much better.
Finally, I bombed my ramen with the "super spicy bomb". As with ButaO, this was a "NikuMiso", i.e. pork marinated with miso, soy sauce, mirin and/or honey. However, as stated in my review of ButaO, the NikuMiso at ButaO turned the pork ramen into a bowl of Dan Dan Mien, believe it or not. The niku miso here was not nutty and was marinated with a lot more dark soy sauce. It was more solid in general and almost tasted like the Taiwanese soy sauce marinated meat (Lou Yuk 魯肉) but with a lot of Korean "small" chilli powder, i.e. the finely grounded chilli powder that gives a strong but very short aftertaste. It's spicier and saltier than ButaO in general. However, it wasn't super spicy. Readers who are used to Korean cuisines will find it quite mild.
Service was fine. The staff were quite friendly and efficient. Nothing to complain about. The environment was quite cool, the temperature and the interior design. It's not too crowded (by ramen shop standards).
All in all, the nikumiso of Kureha mixed well with it's strong pork bone broth. Interesting but nothing spectacular. Perhaps spicy ramen made with nikumiso is just not my cup of tea. The quality of the ramen was quite good but too small given the price.
I'd give it a miss if you're into char siu or spicy ramen with a kick but may be worth a try for fans of strong pork bone broth.