Sunday, 15 October 2017

Chef Ikuta Satoshi. Ramen KING Maker

Chef-Ikuta-Satoshi-Ramen-Nagi

Chef Ikuta Satoshi's response when I asked him "Which is your favourite ramen?" 😄

Ramen-Nagi

It's been only 11 years since Chef Ikuta opened the first Ramen Nagi restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan. He now has 22 outlets all over Japan and 28 in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and The Philippines. I met Chef Ikuta when he was in Singapore to open his first outpost on our sunny island at Suntec City Tower 2. (A USA outlet in Palo Alto is also in the pipeline.)


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Of course, Fukuoka is the birth place of tonkotsu ramen which is also known as Hakata ramen.

It's Chef Ikuta's favourite ramen which he calls the ORIGINAL KING.

Ramen-Nagi

The signature cloudy, milky, creamy broth is made by boiling pork bone, head, trotter, skin etc for hours until loads of collagen are melted into the stock. You can feel the blood in your arteries congeal just by looking at the broth. When the aroma reaches your nose, you fear your heart might stop 😱

Exaggeration, of course, but not by very much.

Your smitten heart skip a beat like when you see your dear one.

You have to be willing to die a little to wholeheartedly enjoy this artery plugging stock.

Chef-Ikuta-Satoshi-Ramen-Nagi

Chef Ikuta was just 30 years old when he started Ramen Nagi in his hometown, Fukuoka. Chef Ikuta learnt his trade at Ichiran Ramen where he worked for 4 years before striking out on his own. (You might discern a bit of Ichiran DNA in Ramen Nagi, if you are familiar with the former chain store.)

Chef Ikuta is a creative genius - in his humble little shop in Fukuoka where customers who survived the long queue have to sit knocking elbows, Chef Ikuta personally dished out a different flavour of ramen everyday, 365 days a year. Chef Ikuta's reputation soon reached far and wide, and the rest... you already know 😄



Ramen Nagi's first overseas venture was in Hong Kong in 2010 - a place known for notoriously fussy, opinionated food snobs. HK being his maiden overseas foray, Chef Ikuta did a lot of homework, conducting research and consulting local experts before launching his HK outlet.

Chef Ikuta was advised about a lot of things which Hong Kongers don't like - not too salty, too oily, too meaty, too spicy, the list of NOs went on and on.

When Ramen Niga launched with striped down versions of their ramen in Fukuoka, the response from Hong Kongers was lukewarm. Disappointed but determined, Chef Ikuta decided to pull down his shuttles for one month for a total revamp - he is not afraid to learn from mistakes and start all over again.

Ramen-Nagi

After much soul searching, Chef Ikuta relaunched his HK operation with a fresh approach. Instead of second guessing what his customers wanted, he let them tell him how they want their ramen.

The solution was the omotenashi (preference) sheet where customers can specify in detail how s/he wants his/her ramen. With the simple-to-use checklist, customers can state how they want their noodles, broth, add ons etc done. The omotenashi system was an instant success and is now implemented in all Ramen Nagi restaurants.

Chef-Ikuta-Satoshi-Ramen-Nagi

As it turn out, contrary to expert advice, from the omotenashi sheets customers want fat, oil, meat, spicy kick etc. They want full blown, no holds barred tonkotsu ramen Fukuoka style 😄

So, that is what you will get at all Ramen Nagi outlets.

If you can conquer Hong Kong... the world is at your feet... China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and The Philippines followed. Next stop, Singapore.

Chef Ikuta had his sights on The Red Dot way back in 2010 but managed to get a foothold only in 2017, in Suntec City Tower 2. Chef Ikuta has ambitious plans to have four Ramen Nagi outlets in Singapore.

For a start, Ramen Nagi at Suntec City is serving 👉

Ramen-Nagi-Singapore

ORIGINAL KING - S$13.90+ 
RED KING - S$15.90+ 
BLACK KING - S$15.90+ 
GREEN KING - S$15.90+

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The ORIGINAL KING is exactly what it is - the ramen purist's kind of tonkotsu ramen. I like it because the broth is creamy, slick with floating and suspended grease, infused with deep savoury, salty flavours that might overwhelm, if one is not accustomed to it.

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Pair it with house made noodles done al dente, I am in ramen heaven already.

I normally stick to ORIGINAL but here's the other ramen royalty for your reference 😄


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RED KING is the original king laced with garlic, chili oil and cayenne peppers.


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BLACK KING is the original king dressed with blackened garlic, squid ink, black sesame and black pepper.


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GREEN KING is the original topped with basil, olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

The Singapore outpost might not have the parent shop's full menu at the moment but it still sports the signature omotenashi sheets. Customers can personalise their ramen by specifying the broth's richness, amount of garlic, spiciness level, ramen doneness, and whether they want lean pork shoulder or fatty pork belly chashu.

Chef-Ikuta-Satoshi-Ramen-Nagi

Famous for serving a different ramen flavour every day at his original Fukuoko ramenya, Chef Ikuta hasn't let up one bit on his creative zeal. He has done whale, bear, lizard, worms, crickets etc.

What is he thinking of next?

In every overseas outpost, Chef Ikuta has a signature localised ramen that has elements of the "national" dish. Chef Ikuta doesn't see that as fusion but as his way of reaching out. There will be one for Singapore too - look out for it. Will it be inspired by bak chor mee which is Chef Ikuta's favourite Singapore dish or chicken rice?

I am thinking... why not original king dressed with sizzling aromatic ground ginger, finely chopped spring onion and salt scorched with boiling chicken oil 😉

Stretching it a bit - topped with two or three pieces of tender, juicy poached chicken.

What do you think? Will it work?

Chef-Ikuta-Satoshi-Ramen-Nagi

Restaurant name: Ramen Nagi

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Address: Suntec City Tower II, #01-512/513, Singapore (5 minutes walk from Promenade MRT station) 
GPS: 1°17'44.2"N 103°51'33.1"E 1.295599, 103.859191 
Tel: +65 6821 1601 Hours: 11:00am to 10:00pm  

Non Halal  

Date visited: 11 Oct 2017  

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