Last Updated: June 10, 2018
Located along Pickering Street, Sumo-Ya 相扑屋 is a four-month-old establishment owned by Chef Zhan Qiang and his wife, Claudia.
Japanese restaurants and eateries are aplenty in the CBD area, but the chef’s fairly innovative creations and its affordability (no GST or Service Charge!) set this one apart.
The ceiling is lined with bunting and vintage-looking posters flanking the walls to create a cosy atmosphere, be prepared to hustle with the lunch crowd for a seat in this 29-seater Japanese restaurant.
If you’re indecisive like we are, and can’t decide among the Tori Ball Ramen ($12.90), Chashu Ramen ($13.90) or the Shabu Buta Ramen ($13.90), why not get the Sumo Zenbu Ramen ($17.90)?
All their ramens are served in Tori Paitan, which literally means “chicken white broth”, a collagen-rich broth made from chicken bones and vegetables that have been boiled for over six hours.
Their secret to the thick and creamy golden broth? Chicken feet. For those put off by the idea of consuming chicken feet, you’ll be pleased to hear that the broth tastes nothing like it. Unlike the usual collagen-rich broth made with pork and pork bones, the chicken broth is sweeter and less oily.
As Chef Zhan Qiang sat down to chat with us, he told us that what makes the broth of each ramen stall different, is their unique concoction of the shio tare (salt flavouring). For his version, his secret ingredient is the Himalayan pink salt.
This huge bowl of ramen came with three pieces of chashu, shabu pork, three handmade chicken balls, a flavoured soft boil egg and black fungus. The one that particularly stood out to us was the chashu. After braising the pork for hours, it is then flame-torched before it’s served, to give it a slightly charred taste.
Just when we thought it could not get better, chef brought out his latest creation, the Buta Negi Ramen (new on the menu, price to be updated on their Facebook).
This piping hot bowl of ramen is a combination of a pork and spring onion-based soup with stir-fried shabu pork, onions and a wedge of lemon. Yes, you heard me right, lemon.
Seeing that we left the wedge of lemon untouched, the lady boss encouraged us to give it a go. She went on to explain that a squeeze of lemon would bring out the flavours of the soup. Albeit a little apprehensive initially, we decided to try it out.
The level of umami was indeed intensified! It was unlike any ramen broths we had tasted before. The refreshing zing of lemon balanced out the sweetness of the marinated stir-fried shabu pork and saltiness of the broth.
If you want to take it up a notch and zhng your broth, you can even request for a small bowl and try mixing the ramen with the different condiments available. I would recommend trying out the shallot or garlic oil, as they introduce another dimension to the already flavourful soup.
Finally, we had the Chashu Curry ($10.90). Sumo-Ya’s Kuro (black) curry base is a unique blend of fruits, spices and dark chocolate that have been simmered together over low fire for several hours.
Chef Zhan Qiang told us that the sweetness of the curry comes solely from the fruits as no sugar was added to it.
The outcome? Imagine mixing a dollop of apple pie fillings into your Japanese curry. That was the resultant taste. To fully enjoy the taste of the curry, you’ll have to put aside every stereotype of what Japanese curry should be.
We felt that the hint of the sweet-tart taste from apples in the curry was more of an acquired taste. However, after a few mouthfuls, the fruity note of the curry began to grow on me and I actually finished all the chashu coated in the thick gravy.
Claudia told us, “We named it Sumo-Ya, in hopes that the fairly big, sumo-sized portions will fill up our customers’ stomachs and they can leave feeling contented.”
And true enough, we left the humble eatery with our bellies satisfied. Do keep a lookout for new ramen and donburi dishes releasing soon.
Expected Damage: $10 – $18 per pax