Friday, September 30, 2016


The only ramen restaurant in the world with a Michelin star is opening in Singapore next month.

Tsuta, a nine-seat eatery in Sugamo, Tokyo, will open an 18-seat restaurant on the ground floor of Pacific Plaza in Scotts Road. It will be the second Tsuta in the world. The launch date is not confirmed.

The restaurant will be a partnership with investment company Hersing Corporation, which is also behind Tim Ho Wan and Kam's Roast Goose, that will also open at the mall, in November.

Tsuta chef-owner Yuki Onishi says in Japanese via a translator that he was persuaded to open the 1,000 sq ft Singapore outlet because of the sincerity of Mr Brian Chua, Hersing's vice-president.

One day after Tsuta received its one Michelin star on Dec 1 last year, Mr Chua contacted him via Facebook to open a branch in Singapore.

The following week, Mr Chua, 35, flew to Japan to try the ramen at Tsuta, where he waited in line with other customers.

On accepting Mr Chua's offer over the many other opportunities to open branches overseas, Mr Onishi, 37, says: "Others only contacted me by mail and just wanted to talk business. I don't know if they came to queue and try the ramen."

Mr Chua says jokingly: "The key difference is that he needs to know you ate the ramen. After Tsuta got its Michelin star, we didn't want to waste any time getting in touch."

Mr Onishi visited Singapore in January - his first time here - and the deal was sealed in February.

He is back this week to train the team here. He will also be based in Singapore for three months when Tsuta opens and plans to return every few months.

The Singapore menu will feature Tsuta's signature shoyu and shio ramen. Miso ramen and tsukemen (ramen served with dipping soup) - which are on the menu in Japan - may be introduced later.

The shoyu ramen is made with shoyu (soya sauce) from a factory in the Wakayama prefecture and blended with two other types of shoyu and a dashi made with beef, vegetables, clams and other ingredients. It is topped with black truffle sauce.

The shio ramen is made with chicken-seafood broth, rock salt, red wine and rosemary.

Interestingly, the eatery's full name is Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta, but Mr Onishi explains that he uses the word "soba" as the noodles are "typical of Japanese food culture and held at a higher standard than the more common ramen".

Soba is commonly made with buckwheat flour, but the ramen at Tsuta is made with a blend of four wholewheat flours. The noodles served in Singapore will be made here using the same ingredients.

Mr Onishi gave up his five-year career as an importer in the fashion industry to learn the ramen business from his father, who started a traditional ramen restaurant called Mejiro 19 years ago.

During his travels to the United States for work, Mr Onishi realised that food was always served with a sauce. "I felt it would be interesting to introduce ramen, where the focus is on the dashi stock instead."

After training for seven years with his father, he opened Tsuta in 2012, serving his ramen with a modern spin by adding Western ingredients.

Tsuta means "ivy" in Japanese and is his family's "symbol", he says. The shop is meant to carry on the family name, says the father of a four-year-old daughter. His 40- year-old wife manages the company's accounts.

In Singapore, he has tried ramen from ramen chain Ramen Champion, Ramen Bar Suzuki in Circular Road and Daikokuya in Robertson Quay.

He says: "The ramen I've tried so far is different from what I expected. The broth does not have many ingredients."

He notes that, in Japan, tonkotsu ramen is not as popular anymore and that shoyu ramen is making a comeback. His Michelin accolade has also spawned many copycats that add black truffle oil to their ramen too.

But he is unfazed by the competition. "I don't think I have the perfect ramen. I will keep studying and experimenting. As I improve in my life, so will my ramen."
Tsuta opens next month at Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road. 
For updates, go to www. 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Michelin-starred Tsuta to open at Pacific Plaza'.

If you have eaten the Yellow Chicken Stew by Yang Ming Yu (楊銘宇黃悶雞米飯) in Singapore, you must try the outlet in Hangzhou.

A franchise-chain, this brand is available in many places in China. When you make an order, you could also request to add other sides - more green vegetables, golden mushrooms and more. I added the beancurd skin to complement the stew. You are also

Address: 100 Wulin Rd, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Price: $
Rating: 3.5/5
Stuffness Level (How full you are): 4/5
Recommended Dishes: Chicken with Golden Mushrooms

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


The Ramen Brand - Chabuton has been popular in Thailand and Japan, founded by Mr Yasuji Morizumi, the world's first Michelin-Starred Ramen Chef. He was also crown the King of Ramen by a TV programme in Japan. 

Has the restaurant live up to its name? Is it that good? I took a trip down to the restaurant outlet at Star Vista.

The Kara Kara Tonkusen Miso Ramen, or spicy miso ramen, was pale in colour. The broth was thick and creamy. The noodles, on the other hand, could be more al dente. There was a generous portion of sesame seeds in the broth but did not boost the taste. The tender meat was very thinly sliced and small in portion. Coupled with the less chewier noodles, the broth was less rich, leading to an ordinary dining experience. (Food rating: 2.5/5)

I ordered a plate of gyoza to go with the ramen. The gyoza came with about eight pieces of flat dumplings filled with vegetables. The taste was very ordinary but delectable. Overall, I would not recommend this. (Food rating: 2.5/5)

Amongst the Japanese Ramen Restaurants I have tried in Singapore, I still prefer ramen from Santouka Hokkaido Ramen. This restaurant was recommended by The Straits Times (Singapore's local newspaper) as the best 3 raman, but it will not be my best 3 yet.

Address: 1 Vista Exchange Green, 01-41 The Star Vista, Singapore 138617
Price: $
Rating: 2.5/5
Stuffness level (How full you are): 4/5
Recommended dishes: Kara Kara Tonkusen Miso Ramen

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


A new service for rating restaurants has released its first results for New York City, and the winners are: Eleven Madison Park, Atera and a host of similar restaurants that often end up on such lists.

The system is called Renzell. Created by Bo Peabody, an entrepreneur who owns restaurants in Massachusetts, it claims to report the experience of high-end diners more accurately than professional critics, books like the Michelin Guides, collected ratings on Yelp and in the Zagat guides or rankings like the World’s 50 Best Restaurants do.

Renzell’s rating panel consists of more than 2,000 members, many of whom answered the company’s call for people who dine out frequently at upscale restaurants; word of mouth attracted many participants. They dine at a selected group of restaurants at their own expense, anonymously, then use an app to complete a lengthy questionnaire about the experience. The data they submit is run through an algorithm that the company has developed to determine the rankings.

Their top choice for overall quality is Eleven Madison Park, which also received the highest rating for design and for cocktails. Atera was named best for food and service. Betony won for hospitality; the NoMad delivered the most “vibe,” as the company put it; Momofuku Ko was the winner for “wine, sake and beer”; Contra was ranked best for value.

A list of rankings (the top 15 restaurants in each of nine categories) is at

Voters were given a list of about 70 New York restaurants that Renzell selected for various characteristics like atmosphere, reputation of the chef, other ratings and awards. The restaurants have to have been in business for at least two years and to be what Mr. Peabody says are of a certain caliber, offering “a complete dining experience with thoughtful food, beverage and design.”

They include Le Bernardin and Brooklyn spots like Traif and the Pines. The list does not include any steakhouses, which Mr. Peabody said were “too formulaic.”

“The world of data collection has taken over every industry except for restaurants,” said Mr. Peabody, who has a partner, Jacob Lewis, a former magazine editor, and other investors. “The audience we’re going after is dying for this information. We’re trying to root out subjectivity. What we’re doing is scientific.”

Or is it? Though Mr. Peabody contends that his system taps a more knowledgeable voting base than many other rankings, it’s based on subjective evaluations. Members are not routinely asked to submit bills to prove they ate at a restaurant, though Mr. Peabody said the company spot-checks with restaurants to verify that. To join, members must attest that they have no ties to the restaurant industry or the media; Renzell does not regularly question responses, but says it has rejected a few members.

“It’s not fraud-proof,” Mr. Peabody said, but he is confident that the volume of members minimizes any potential distortion.

In return for their help, members can receive perks like the use of Renzell’s concierge service, which makes reservations and arranges experiences like private tastings at restaurants such as Marea.

New rankings will be issued once a year, in September. Updates will also be posted every four months. Restaurants that subscribe to the service (for an annual fee of $499 to $1,499, depending on their size) are sent more-detailed data on their own and others’ rankings.

Renzell is compiling ratings for Chicago and San Francisco, to be released early next year.

By Florence Fabricant
A version of this article appears in print on September 14, 2016, on page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: A New Set of Ratings, From Well-Heeled Diners.

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