Last Updated: June 12, 2017
Ramen is a go-to option for me when I’m too lazy to decide on what to eat, there’s just something comforting about the broth and noodles that I can’t explain. Unfortunately, the ramen scene around the Hougang area is a little lacking, or was, until Gonpachi Ramen opened at the end of April 2017.
Most ramen stores price their bowls above $10, so I was mighty pleased to find out that Gonpachi Ramen’s most expensive ramen only costed $7.80, with most of the side dishes going for $4. Instead of sticking to the standard Japanese broth and recipe, this fusion restaurant incorporates Thai elements into the dishes.
Starting with the Green Tea Smoked Duck with Passionfruit Vinaigrette ($4), I was surprised at how well the dish turned out to be. The slices of duck was infused with a smoky flavour without being too gamey, and was accompanied with a nice spicy and sour sauce that had a strong garlic flavour.
The green tea used to smoke the duck couldn’t be discerned, but I’m letting that slide because I really enjoyed the passionfruit vinaigrette.
The Crisp-Fried Baby Squid ($4) was covered in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce, and was fried to perfection. It had just the right amount of sauce, so that even when I went back for another piece after letting it sit for awhile, the squid was still crisp and hadn’t turned soggy.
The Seven Wonder Ramen ($7.80) is possibly the ramen with the most obvious Thai influence — the name refers to the seven ingredients in the dish including corn, diced spicy chicken, black fungus, prawn, the ajitama egg, bamboo shoots and green hot sauce.
The first thing that caught my eye when the bowl was brought to the table was the spoonful of green paste that resembled something like a pesto. Upon trying it, I found that it was a green chilli paste that was sour and packed some serious heat. Mixing the paste into the soup did make the spice more tolerable.
The only broth available that day was the Pork and Chicken soup, which is the chef’s attempt at creating a lighter broth than most other tonkotsu bases. The soup was delicious, and easy on the palate such that I could finish the entire bowl of soup without feeling too jelak.
The spicy chicken was marinated with herbs including lemongrass, yet another Thai-inspired element, and was slightly more sour than spicy, pairing off nicely with the sweet and crunchy corn. The noodles were springy, but I would have preferred them to be a little firmer.
For a more traditional ramen, try the Miso Kakuni Ramen ($7.80) which was served with two thick slices of pork belly that was marinated over a few days before being steamed and torched right before leaving the kitchen. I felt that this was a much simpler ramen as compared to the Seven Wonder Ramen.
There was a nice char on the pork belly, along with a thick layer of fat that just melted in my mouth. The lightness of the soup made the dish less overwhelming as compared to the other ramen places with thick and rich broths.
Gonpachi Ramen’s concept is rather interesting with good ramen to boot, but being a new establishment, kitchen operations still need to be streamlined to reduce waiting time for customers. For those that came at 8.30pm, it took only 10 minutes for food to arrive, but others that came at 7pm had to wait double that time.
Once the waiting time is rectified, I think Gonpachi Ramen will fare pretty well against its competitors.
Expected damage: $8 – $15 per pax