Saboten: Finally a Contender for Tonkichi’s Title

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I was thwarted yet again by the long queue outside the tonkotsu ramen place at Parco Marina Bay and opted to give Saboten a go instead. This chain from Shinjuku seems like a slighter more upmarket version of Tonkichi. Bizarrely enough, its name means “cactus” and it was chosen to represent vitality of all things. Go figure.

Anyhow, the free flow of finely shredded cabbage and yummy salad dressing made me very happy from the beginning. The cabbage was fresh and the two dressings so yummy I couldn’t quite decide which was better. The black stuff was soy, vinegar and yuzu dressing and the creamy brown one a sesame-based one. I ended up mixing the two so the salty soy-yuzu one was ameliorated by the creamy sesame. What a promising start!


I went for the curry loin. The loin came with an immense amount of rice and curry sauce. Just too bad that the curry sauce was very authentically Japanese because it was a bit too sweet for my taste. Thankfully, DC was there to save the day and he appreciatively slurped up quite a bit of it on my behalf. Now the loin was very tasty, made from fresh pork and fried to perfection. I liked how the fried panko crumb bits had some heft to it, matching the pork nicely. This is not a dish for dieters as the loin was rimmed with a fairly substantial layer of fat. It gave the meat an interesting gradation from meltingly tender near the fat to substantial and almost tough towards the outer part. All good in my book!


DC had the oyako don and he liked it. In his words, it was sticky and sweet. The meat was tender and flavourful, just too bad that the panko crumbs were a bit soft by the time it got to him. Special mention has to be made at this point for the pickles. While they don’t come free flow, the freshness and quality really shone through. I finished them in a flash and was dismayed when the waiter apologetically told us that they had to charge for extra if we wanted more. Oh well.


At least there was dessert to compensate: green tea ice cream in nicely chilled bowls. Not bad, though we were there for the tonkatsu, not the ice cream!


#P3-01 Parco Marina Bay, Millenia Walk
Tel: 6333 3432

Keisuke Ramen

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Level 3 of the newly opened Parco Marina Bay has half a floor of Japanese restaurants, with two ramen shops, a tonkatsu place, Japanese Western (that’s Ma Maison), a regular diner and a sushi deli. DC and I chose the ramen shop with no queue: Keisuke Ramen. It’s quite an interesting proposition, having prawn-based broth instead of regular tonkotsu (pork bone) stuff. Everything on the menu was prawn-something, even down to the salad. Go only if you like prawn.

The first thing DC noticed were the special chopsticks. Notice how they’re pentagonal, presumably to help hold on to the noodles better.


On further inspection of the chopsticks, we noticed that there was a special rough finish to the bottom part, again helping to grip the noodles better. This place certainly is very serious about its noodles!


Another special touch was the distinctive shape of the bowls. The opening is slanted, making for an oddly private viewing of the diner’s progress of the meal.


Ordering any “special” ramen would involve the extra toppings coming on a side plate. There was pleasantly briny pickled lettuce, rather disappointingly hard-boiled egg and chilled boiled chicken. They all went decently with the ramen but did nothing to steal the show.


Now the ramen itself is quite different. Check out the dramatic presentation, complete with pretty deep-fried chilli shreds. Aside from the regular toppings, there was also prawn wanton in the special ramen and yuzu bits. I quite liked this version, it was a vaguely Japanese yuzu-y twist on your typical hawker haemee broth. The noodles were very decent, not quite al dente but still chewy. I liked them.


I felt that the miso prawn broth was something else altogether. The creaminess of the miso gave the broth quite a different dimension. That, added to the  special garlic oil, yuzu and earthy burdock bits, made it all quite complex and at times a bit confusing to the palate. On the other hand, it made for many changes in taste as I progressed to the bottom of the bowl.


Keisuke Ramen
P3-02 Parco Marina Bay, Millenia Walk
Tel: 6337 7919

A Night Where the Eating was Incidental

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It was one of those nights that happens when too many winos and people possessing wine turn up and all alcoholic hell breaks loose. While the food was great, it was incidental, only serving as a foil for the wine. Here’s what we had:

First up was the rather pompously named Flonheimer Bingerberg Bacchus Kabinett (2007) from the Rheinhessen region in Germany. It was pale yellow with a nose of honeysuckle, peach and soft fruit. Mid-sweet and pleasing, it wasn’t very complex and made for easy drinking. Rating: 3/5

Next was the Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz (2005) from the Barossa Valley in Australia. It was red-purple with lots of mulberry nose, boasting big fruit and soft tannins. A straight forward and again not very complex wine, it’d do great for barbecues. A typical outdoor Aussie barbie comes to mind. To our surprise, it also went beautifully with dark chocolate cupcakes. Not a lot of wines can handle chocolate, so extra points for that. Rating: 4/5

There was another red in between but I narrowly missed out, watching in vain as the resident wino casually poured out the last of the bottle. Mental note: must act faster next time. No matter, the dessert wines that followed more than made up for it.

The Trentham Noble Taminga (2005) from New South Wales, Australia was a golden amber brew with a heady melon and honey nose. It was rather syrupy and sweet but also very refreshing because it isn’t sticky like most dessert wines. In a word, luscious. Strangely enough, having some kiwi fruit with it brought out the citrus notes.Rating: 3.5/5

Up next was a non-vintage Italian Vin Santo, Il Santo Giglio di Firenze from Tuscany. Such a deep amber it was almost brown, giving off nutty toffee and raisin notes. It was sweet, extremely syrupy and viscous, a great digestif. Rating: 4/5

Last of all was yuzu liquor from Japan. We should have drunk it as an aperitif because it was light and fresh. The slightly medicinal citrus whiff of yuzu went well on the rocks. It’s also sweet, making it a good ladies’ drink. Think umeshu and the like. Rating: 3.5/5

After all the eating and mainly drinking, there were red faces all round. It didn’t stop us from playing wii and that got us even more red-faced and merry.

Key to ratings:

0 Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole
1 I’d rather drink beer
2 If there’s nothing better
3 Just one glass is fine
4 More, please!
5 Where can I get a case?