[SG] Sanpoutei Ramen | taste of authenticity from Niigata, Japan

Monday, June 09, 2014

The ramen wave continues to see an influx of ramen speciality stores popping up at all corners around Singapore. When there is so much competition in the market, diners usually end up to be the beneficiaries since we become spoilt for choice! The next question then is, who serves the best ramen in Singapore?

Being quite a huge fan of ramen myself, I have since grown sceptical about the trend when many fail to impress. Having walked past Sanpoutei Ramen, located along the stretch of shophouses at Holland Village, on numerous occasions, I finally had the chance to let my tastebuds do the judging!

Founded in 1967 by Mr Yukihiro Kaneko, Sanpoutei is defined by its offering of authentic Niigata-style ramen, a shoyu-ramen in a clear fish stock-based broth. This contrasts with the more popular Tonkotsu (pork-bone broth) version such as that offered by Ippudo, Ramen Bar Suzuki or even Ichiran.

We were extremely privileged to have the presence of Mr Hironobu Kaneko, son of the founder and now CEO of the Sanpou Group based in Japan. Sanpoutei started a year after Kaneko-san was given birth and he shared the tenacity of his father who worked religiously towards perfecting the creation of his dishes. Having worked in a hotel before starting Sanpoutei, Mr Yukihiro had a fine palate and was extremely demanding on the quality of his food. It was no wonder that he spent six years to improve the taste of his ramen!

Mr Hironobu Kaneko specially brought this fine bottle of sake from Japan for the sharing session!

So, what is so special about Sanpoutei's ramen?
  • Premium ingredients are used in all dishes, e.g. niboshi or dried sardines are specially imported from Japan to ensure consistency in broth served in Niigata and Singapore.

  • Fresh ramen made daily in-house with imported top quality flour from Niigata, the rice capital of Japan. Limited to just 200 portions a day!
  • Each strand of noodle is crimped instead of straight or wavy with a light gold hue.
  • Specially customised double-walled bowls produced in Tsubamesanjo, Niigata, to help retain heat within the bowl with a cool exterior.
Photo credit: Sanpoutei Ramen 

Let the tastebuds do the judging now!

Niigata Shoyu Ramen (S$14/++)
Photo credit: Sanpoutei Ramen

The signature dish at Sanpoutei, this ramen surely did not disappoint as it checked all aspects of unami flavours. With a proprietary recipe from Japan, the savoury broth was rather intense as it had been simmered for six hours, comprising chicken, pork, mushrooms and two premium niboshi (dried sardines). The flavours were harmonious and the balance was spot-on for me.

Apart from the al dente ramen which gave a desired springy yet firm texture, the aburi chasu was the star. The carefully chosen cut had a nice marbling and was beautifully torched to give a caramelised-smoky flavour to make this dish truly oishi! My only complaint was that my flavoured soft-boiled egg was mildly overcooked but there is no better compliment to the chef than an empty bowl!

While the menu does not have a check-list for you to choose how you would like your noodles done, diners are encouraged to make known their preferences when placing orders such as adjusting the amount of oil to be added or even the texture of your noodles.

An interesting titbit picked up while conversing with Kaneko-san was that the culture of refilling one's ramen bowl with noodles was a practice common in the Southern-region of Japan such as Kyushu. As such, Sanpoutei does not have the practice of offering diners the option to add noodles.

Other specialty ramens
Top to bottom left (clockwise): Rich Tori & Miso Ramen, Rich Tori & Spicy Miso Ramen and W Soup Tonkotsu Ramen

Rich Tori & Miso Ramen (S$16/++)

With seven types of miso blended with the chicken-based stock and simmered for eight hours, this would appeal to those with a hearty and savoury palate. Flavours were intense and you could taste the essence of the premium ingredients used.

Rich Tori & Spicy Miso Ramen (S$17/++)
Similar to the miso version, the chicken-based broth was packed with an unique blend of chillies. While it packed quite a punch in flavours and heat, hardcore chilli lovers might need a stronger kick.

W Soup Tonkotsu Ramen (S$16/++)

A familiar dish for most ramen-lovers, the collagen-rich pork-bone broth has been simmered for half a day at 12 hours. The savoury and unami flavours of the broth was beautifully delivered to everyone's palate. Leaving the bowl for less than five minutes while everyone was busy snapping photos saw the formation of a layer of grease which was a result of the fats and collagen within the broth. This also illustrated the quality ingredients that went into the making of the broth.

While Sanpoutei is famous for their ramen, they are equally lauded for their selection of rice dishes since Niigata's crystal clear water produce top quality Kurotori rice which offer an exquisite taste. Sanpoutei imports only unpolished rice from Niigata and the tedious polishing work is carried out in-house to ensure optimum preservation of the rice's innate sweetness and texture. It was really intriguing to learn how much attention was paid to intricate details as such to ensure that the diners enjoy the best bowl of rice dish.

Butariki Niigata Rice Mini Don (S$4/++)

Among the three rice dishes tried, this was a clear favourite among those at my table. Stirring in the raw egg yolk and tossed with the pan-fried shoyu-flavoured pork, the flavours were spot-on with the right balance of sweetness and savouriness with Sanpoutei's special sauce.

The Minced Chicken Niigata Rice Mini Don (S$4/++) was also a hit with its varied texture as the breadcrumb-like minced chicken and scrambled egg made this dish interesting.

We also tried the Sanpoutei Japanese Style Small Curry Rice (S$4/++) which I felt was slightly spicier and packed a stronger punch in flavours compared to most Japanese curry rice dishes available in the market. While it suited my palate, it was not a dish that went well with the other diners at my table.

Sanpoutei Deep Fried Spring Chicken with Oroshi Yuzu Ponzu Sauce (S$7.80/++)

If you are looking for some sides to share with your dining companions, be sure to give this a try as the crispy batter coating the succulent spring chicken had its flavours nicely lifted with the grated radish mixed with yuzu kosho flavour sauce. While I would have preferred the yuzu kosho flavours to come across stronger, it was nonetheless an enjoyable side which made this a must-try.

Crispy Tempura Shrimp Salad (S$12/++)

Drizzled with sweet chilli sauce and wasabi mayonnaise, it offered an interesting twist of Asian flavours to the otherwise simple Tempura dish. The prawns were fresh and succulent with a nice crisp batter which suggested clean deep-frying oil unlike some places which had that stale touch.

Mori Miso Cucumber (S$3/++)

Some chilled sides to pique the palate? This chilled crunchy Japanese cucumber topped with a mildly-spiced miso paste may look pleasing to the eye but the cucumber might be too raw for some.

Bamboo Shoots dressed with Spicy Miso served with leeks (S$3/++)

Do give this a try if you are looking for something to titillate your taste buds as the spicy miso would awake one's appetite.

Yuzu Sherbet, Matcha and Black Sesame Ice Cream (S$3/scoop)

I enjoyed the Yuzu Sherbet and Black Sesame most as the flavours were rich. While the Matcha ice cream was good and relatively creamy, it seemed rather pedestrian compared to the others.

Having tried countless ramen places in Singapore and the region, Sanpoutei certainly fits a spot in our must-try list. If you enjoy intense flavours in your ramen broth, this has to be one of the top three spots in Singapore.

While there are some tables on the left which offer more privacy, the seating in general is rather public and faces the open kitchen 
Open kitchen concept

We are looking forward to our next visit already!

Overall verdict: 8.0/10

Sanpoutei Ramen
253 Holland Avenue, #01-01
Singapore 278982
Tel: (+65) 6463 7277
Opening Hours: 1130 - 2300hrs daily

P.S: Special thanks to Shauna and Sanpoutei for the invitation and great hospitality!

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