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To Queue Or Not To Queue For Michelin-Star Ramen?

Want to drop by Kam's Roast, Hawker Chan or Tsuta Singapore now that the initial hype has cooled down? Here's our guide to the current waiting time and what to order. (A version of this story first appeared in Issue 1369, Jan 9, 2017.)

To Queue Or Not To Queue For Michelin-Star Ramen?

If you've been patiently biding your time for the crowds to subside at Michelin star eateries Tsuta, Kam's Roast and Hawker Chan, now is your chance to try the food there. Read on to find out what's worth ordering once you get a hard-won seat.

1. Kam’s Roast

#01-04 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Rd, S228210. Tel: 6836-7788. Open daily 11am-10pm. Last orders at 9.30pm.

Claim to fame: This eatery boasts one Michelin star in its native Hongkong, where it’s famous for its roast goose. Alas, that golden goose isn’t sold at its Singapore outlet, ’cos the birds they offer aren’t AVA-approved. Instead, this more spacious 68-seater at Pacific Plaza offers roast duck, char siew and more. Even though their famous oozy century eggs is on the menu, you can’t order it yet, again ’cos of AVA regulations. The head chef here is a Hongkonger who used to work at Hongkong roast goose institution Yung Kee (now run by the uncle of Hardy Kam, the towkay of Kam’s Roast).

Opened: November 2016

Initial waiting time: Two hours

Current waiting time: About 30 minutes to an hour, if you avoid the lunchtime and dinnertime crush. Tip: go between 3pm-6pm. You can also now skip the queue and reserve a table via reservation website Chope (but you can only order the $75 set menu with three types of meat, noodles and a dessert per pax. Only about 17 seats a day are available for reservation per sitting).

Roast Duck, $29.80 for half

The Malaysian duck here is soft and succulent, but its skin is slightly soggy, as is Kam’s style, even on its famous HK roast goose. Also, the faintly fatty meat lacks the addictive saltiness of its HK counterpart. Best to douse it in the accompanying flavourful barbecue sauce, which includes hoisin sauce, sesame paste and peanut sauce. Order the more tender leg if you’re not getting at least half a bird.

Toro Char Siu, $22.80 for regular size, feeds two.

Sublime barbecued Japanese pork belly. Tender meat with a slightly crispy, smoke-kissed exterior draped in a caramelly glaze of malt sugar and honey. Enjoy with a side of springy egg noodles.

Crispy Roast Pork, $14.80 for regular; feeds two.

Compared to the other luscious dishes, the roast pork here is disappointingly dry. Skip.

BOTTOM LINE: More than decent roast meats we’re happy to munch on if we didn’t have to wait beyond 10 minutes for it. We’ll probably only endure a slightly longer wait when Kam’s signature roast goose is finally served here. $ - $$

2. Hawker Chan

78 Smith St, S058972. Tel: 6272-2000. Open daily except Wed, 10am-9pm. Last orders at 8.30pm.

Claim to fame: The air-conditioned quick-service restaurant offshoot of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (where the queue is just as long) in Chinatown. The latter was only one of two hawker stalls awarded a Michelin star in Singapore’s inaugural guide last year. But the line at this snazzier 80-seater moves faster. PR-savvy chef-owner Chan Hon Meng, 51, has made it to famous American food website, Eater, and has been touted by other foreign media as the man who offers “the world’s cheapest Michelin star meal”. Not bad for a previously unknown hawker.

Opened: November 2016

Initial waiting time: Two hours

Current waiting time: About 10 minutes, but only if you go just before the restaurant opens at 10am. Otherwise, be prepared to queue between one to two hours during lunch and dinner hours along with a gaggle of tourists.

Combination Platter, $6 for two types of meat; $10 for three types

We chose the char siew and roasted pork combination. Interestingly, the roasted pork is juicier and more shiok than the one at Kam’s, with a well-salted layer of crackly skin. Also good: the thick, sumptuous slices of lean char siew with just a hint of fat. Mop up the savoury, meaty juices with some springy egg noodles.

Hawker Chan Soy Sauce Chicken

Soy Sauce Chicken, from $12 for half a chicken

Ironically, we aren’t super fond of the famous soya sauce chicken here. Maybe our expectations were inflated due to the hype, but we found the insipid soy sauce unmemorable and the bird only passably tender.

BOTTOM LINE: To us, the best dish here is — surprise, surprise — not the soy sauce chicken that won over the Michelin Guide inspectors, but the toothsome char siew and roast pork. Go only in the unlikely event that there’s a short queue here. $

3. Tsuta Singapore

Tsuta Singapore, #01-01/02/03, Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Rd, S228210. Tel: 6734-4886. Open daily 11am-10pm. Last orders at 9.30pm.

Claim to fame: This Tokyo import, originally a tiny nine-seat joint in its quiet Japanese neighbourhood, was awarded its first Michelin star in 2015. It’s the only ramen restaurant in the world to boast a star. Tsuta’s owner-chef, Yuki Onishi, 37, worked as a fashion importer before picking up ramen-making from his father, who ran a now-defunct ramen joint before. Although Tsuta is a ramen shop, its noodles are called ‘soba’ on the menu as the term is sometimes used interchangeably with noodles in Japan, and Yuki offers slightly more refined stuff as his noodles are stone-ground from four types of wheat, and the soups are lightly influenced by French consommes. Oh, and it’s located just beside Kam’s Roast as they’re owned by sister companies.

Opened: October 2016

Initial waiting time: An eye-watering two to three hours, with lines snaking far outside Pacific Plaza.

Current waiting time: From 30 minutes during off-peak hours to an hour and a half during the mealtime rush. The best time to go is between 3pm to 5pm.

Ajitama Shoyu Soba, $16.80

There are just two types of broth available, with eight choices of topping: shoyu (soy sauce) or shio (salt-based). The shoyu one is superior, in our opinion. It’s like a cross between a French consommé and Japanese clear dashi. Umami clams are boiled with dashi stock, chicken and veggies. It’s then dolloped with black truffle paste mixed with truffle oil for a posh, heady accent. Delicious with the al dente skinny straight noodles and oozy-yolked soy-marinated egg. The chashu — roasted here instead of traditionally braised like at other ramen shops — is rather dry, though.

Ro-su Meshi, $6

We quite like this small side dish of fluffy Japanese rice topped with melt-in-your-mouth roasted pork shoulder, and drizzled with a savoury butter-soy sauce. However, our colleague found the meat dry and the sauce too salty on a separate visit.

Ajitama Shio Soba, $16.80

This broth is simmered with clams, chicken, Okinawan sea salt and Mongolian rock salt, but the sweetness of the shellfish is lost because of the strong-tasting green olive with truffle paste plopped onto each bowl. So you get briny, slightly tangy soup faintly reminiscent of tapenade. The flavours are sophisticated, just somewhat jarring in a bowl of ramen. Our colleague also found the noodles overcooked on a separate visit.

BOTTOM LINE: Elegant, delicate, yet flavourful bowls of ramen with broth that’s closer to French-style consommé. Don’t expect the richness of tonkotsu broth and you won’t be disappointed. Worth a try if you go during teatime to avoid the crowd. $



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