It was early autumn of 2003 when my colleague brought me to a ramen shop in Osaka. He told me that the shop was part of a famous chain which originated from Hakata, Fukuoka. The high influx of patrons was overwhelming and it took us about 15 minutes to secure a few adjacent seats at the large, lacquered communal table which looked rather synthetic. If it was made of timber, the tree must have been really old, judging from the number of annual rings accumulated on the truncated surface. On it were sets of condiments to go with the ramen like pickled ginger and sesame seeds.
Definitely love at first taste, that bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The milky white broth, which was boiled for hours (causing the pork bones, fat and collagen to literally melt), was rich and wonderfully flavoursome. Garnished with simple yet aromatic ingredients like scallion and sesame seeds/oil, it was completeness at its best. For a little contrast, takana or pickled mustard greens was added. Some fat cuts of char siew complemented the rich broth really well.
Since then, I have not found a credible competition. Miharu at Gallery Hotel was a local favourite of mine as the soup was dense and had a really nice fried garlic flavour. But that itself was a miso-tonkotsu hybrid, not the authentic Hakata version. The rest were simply exaggerated with a high level of salt and/or MSG.
Yoshimaru is not the name of that memorable ramen shop in Osaka but apparently, another famous ramen chain from Japan. We’ve been showered with imported ramen chains in this part of the world recently. And that’s good news, of course.
The word bar itself suggests a more contemporary approach towards ramen appreciation but to the hardcore ramen fans, the only thing that matters is the taste. So, bring on the signature dish already!
I had the Moridakusan Ramen which was basically topped with almost every ingredient that Yoshimaru offers, including soft boiled egg, cloud ear mushroom or kikurage, mentaiko, takana, nori sheets and char siew. The broth was tad mild in taste but very satisfying, nevertheless. Oh, and not much MSG too. I would have called this Kiasu Ramen instead because there were just too many toppings and some I deemed, were rather unnecessary. The mentaiko, for example. Its fresh, briny taste didn't help in accentuating the overall taste of the broth. In fact, the lump of red eggs got tragically drowned in it instead. And I never found nori sheets any helpful in a bowl of ramen, to be honest. The ramen was cooked just right and rather smooth, so that was good.
While the genial Mentaiko Mayo Prawn Burger was delicious despite the smaller-than-my-fist size, I thought the gyoza could do better with a more generous filling and seasoning. Back to the burger, now this is how mentaiko should be applied. Slightly salty, the cream-dressed roes went really well with the crispy batter and greens.
Check out the menu and be fascinated by the attractive presentation and variety of ramen and mini burgers. That itself will guarantee a subsequent visit. Let's not forget the tonkotsu ramen (sans all the irrelevant toppings) as well because it's simply good and that's rare in this part of town, I think.
As we slurped the ramen loudly in that tiny ramen shop in Osaka, I was told that besides Hakata and its infamous tonkotsu ramen, the Fukuoka prefecture is also famous for its musical talents. Like Ayumi Hamasaki. That got us going on and on about J-Pop and personal favourites. After finishing the last drop of that orgasmic potion, we helped ourselves to another pint of Asahi before calling it a night.
I've lost contact with that colleague of mine since I changed my job. And most unfortunately, I've also lost the name of that ramen shop that perhaps will always remain as my favourite tonkotsu ramen of all time. One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life, for sure!
Yoshimaru Ramen Bar
31 Lorong Liput
Tel: (+65) 6463 3132