The latest kid on the Ramen block is Nantsuttei whose recent arrival was met with great expectation. Nantsuttei serves Kumamoto style Ramen which is also from the Kyushu region and is closely related to Hakata style ramen. If you find the broth of Hakata style ramen still not rich enough, then you are going to be even more disappointed with the Ramen at Nantsuttei. That because the broth here is lighter than Hakata style ramen but it is a little sweeter because of the addition of chicken bones. The noodles here are also slightly thicker than Hakata style Ramen. The most obvious difference in this style of Ramen is the pool of Kuro Mayu (garlic oil) that covers the whole bowl of Ramen like an oil slick.
That massive oil slick is also what makes Kumamoto Ramen so desirable. When you are presented with the noodles, the way to realize your full money’s worth is to take a nice slow whiff of the noodles and enjoy the aroma of the Kuro Mayu. This black oil was produced by slow frying garlic seven times and if you ask me, it sounds like it might well be a carcinogenic bomb. But heck, you don’t think about it when you eat a well charred steak, so just enjoy the moment.
Now, after you have had a good long sniff of the noodles and your mouth and stomach are screaming for the same attention, pick up the noodles with your chopsticks and slather the black oil all over it like you would suntan lotion. Then slurp it all in, taking care to stretch your neck well over the bowl so that you don’t get oil drops on your shirt.
You got to be quick to finish the bowl within 5 minutes or else the soup will get diluted by the generous handful of beansprouts. This is a bowl of Ramen is very much like a sprinter running the mile, it starts really well, but runs out of steam towards the end.
The charshu rice here is actually quite good and for $7, it is a nice side dish to order in case you have a big appetite. It isn’t the best bowl of chashu rice, but it is quite reasonable. We also tried their Curry Ramen which is basically their Ramen with a dollop of Japanese minced beef curry. Try it for the sake of trying it but everyone on the table agreed that there was no compelling reason to order it again.
Noodles 4/5, Soup 4.25/5, Charshu 4/5
Chashu Don: 4/5
Nantsuttei did not live up to the hype. In Japan, it is the current rage and its founder had recently won another Ramen competition. Even in Singapore, there is a queue outside the restaurant. I just went away with the feeling that it must be better in Tokyu. Its the same suspicion I had with Ippudo. Is it not possible to have the Ramen here as good as it is in Japan?
Here’s an excellent clip from Matt Gross of the NYTimes that talks about Ramen culture in Japan. The Japanese really get into things in a big way!