Shodai Keisuke at Shinatatsu Ramen Street
Cool. A number of ramen theme parks are around now, where a collection of different shops are set up right next to each other. "Theme Park" is a bit of a stretch though; this one underneath the train tracks on the southwest side of Shinagawa station was really just a collection of shops rather than the plasticky Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum. And they didn't seem to be offering mini bowls to allow one to taste from multiple shops (at least, not the one I went to). But I never really got a proper lunch today and was ready to faint, so food was definitely in order.
Interestingly, two of the shops here recently just set up shop in Singapore: specifically PARCO Marina Bay newcomers Nantsuttei and Keisuke. I naturally gave Nantsuttei a pass, but the Keisuke outlet here was technically Shodai Keisuke, featuring a different bowl than the shrimp head-based one that we get back in Singapore. This guy apparently picks one specialty for each of his shops, and I was curious to know how his other stuff tasted. I thus grabbed a bowl of his tontoro chashu kuro ramen, which was right at the top of the menu (or rather, the ticket vending machine).
It was awesome. Right when it came out, it smelled of freshly ground sansho (otherwise known as Sichuan peppercorns). The noodles were perfectly firm, which I gobbled up so happily that I took their suggestion of also getting a bowl of rice to dump into the remaining broth. This thereby collected a lot of the pieces at the bottom - most notably the potent sansho fragments, which left my tongue numb in the process. Thumbs up; I like this even better than that ebi ramen.
And that really leads to an interesting thought, if I might digress a bit here. If I read it correctly, this guy basically picked ebi ramen for his shop in Singapore because he figured it was a bit like local prawn noodles. But that is precisely the problem, as locals are so passionate about their favorite prawn noodle hawker that they can't help but make comparisons to it, most likely in a negative manner. It might have made sense for him to go the other direction: bringing something more unique like the bowl above. It would be much more distinguished than Nantsuttei, whose tonkotsu broth is blurring a bit in the shadow of Ippudo or even Santouka. Well, I still like his savory and fragrant ebi ramen, but hopefully the Singapore menu will get a bit of expansion after things settle in a bit.
Oh - and back to the Shinatatsu strip mall in Tokyo; no, I didn't try any of the other shops given that this was a full bowl (not to mention that extra bowl of rice as a closer). But the shop next door, Tetsu, was already getting a line forming at 4:30 PM, which made us wonder whether we should have also gone there to give the tsukemen a try. Well, maybe next time.