Last Updated: March 30, 2020
Tanjong Pagar is teeming with Japanese and Korean nooks, alongside a plethora of bars and watering holes. The latest addition to the neighbourhood is Torasho Ramen & Charcoal Bar. Preliminary research led me to discover that its menu highlights include a signature tsukemen and its kitchen crew is led by ex-Executive Chef of Hide Yamamoto, Chef Sho Naganuma.
Together with restaurateur, Tora Widjaja, Torasho serves up Japanese bites that also have influences from other parts of Asia.
The open kitchen greets you as you step into the restaurant, and it sits behind a long bar which spans across the length of the restaurant. I would say, it’s a comfortable space that won’t get overwhelmingly noisy during peak dining hours, nor will diners find the space too expansive and intimidating.
Don’t expect sushi rolls and hand-roll temaki to be dished out here; the dishes here are mostly served hot, and go against the stereotype that Japanese cuisine centres around light, delicate dishes.
I was so excited to start picking at their Wagyu Chips (S$8), thinly-sliced potatoes fried to a crisp in wagyu beef fat. I mean… can you really say no to that? I always favour hand-sliced potato crisps over factory-made ones, simply due to the beauty of their uneven nature.
They certainly tasted “heavier” than regular crisps, and could easily serve as a carb substitute to any protein dish on the menu. Move aside, Japanese rice.
The Uni Pillow (S$15 per piece) instantly evokes a sense of airiness and fluff, to which it translates on the palate just beautifully. My advice is to consume it whole, given the delicate nature of uni as well as the medley of flavours one is meant to experience with this appetiser.
Take a pinch of karaage crumbs and sprinkle them atop the uni before taking a big bite, and you’ll be greeted with an explosion of umami, brininess, saltiness, and even a dash of sweetness. I’m not one to get my panties in a bunch over uni, but I have to commend this most-likely-to-be-underestimated starter for getting me hopeful for the courses to come.
If you’re really fickle about what appetiser to order at Torasho Ramen & Charcoal Bar, one of them has to be the Ikura Nachos (S$12). It’s a no-brainer collaboration, employing pappadum, homemade mentaiko mayo, and heaps of ikura.
You’ve got the ikura and mentaiko mayo to thank for the heavy-handed saltiness to pair wonderfully with the thin and crisp pappadum. I appreciated the switch; using an Indian snack in place of commonly used nacho chips or potato chips. However, be sure to not let this sit out for too long, as the mentaiko mayo will ultimately cause the pappadum to turn soggy.
Pappadum is once again utilised, this time in Unagi Tacos (S$15), and as someone who adores unagi, I knew no matter what, I couldn’t allow this dish to go unfinished.
Tiny morsels of unagi are deep-fried and set on top of pappadum squares, and finished with green papaya for a touch of sourness. Once again, it’s highly recommended that you pop it in your mouth at one go, so you’ll get the fattiness, coupled with tang and crunch. More than the flavours themselves, the mouthfeel is really what’ll get you quickly addicted to this dish.
Brighten up your order with Noble Scallops (S$27)—a rainbow in a bowl, I say! These naturally colourful scallops aren’t dyed if that’s a concern of yours; they are colourful due to their varied mineral composition and were amazingly sweet.
The sake-soy butter nage (a stock typically used to poach seafood, especially fish) was edging on silky, and was immensely rich with just the right hit of sake punch that left a comforting warmth in our belly. We set this dish aside as we continued on with the rest of the meal, but we repeatedly came back to the bowl to slurp up the broth till not a tiny drop was left.
There are several ramen options to try at Torasho Ramen & Charcoal Bar, but we wanted to go for something as unusual as possible. As such, we went with a Dipping Ramen, where the broth is separated from the noodles and as the name suggests, one is supposed to dip the noodles into the broth.
We ordered the Tsukemen “Singapore Best” Dipping Ramen (S$14), which is tagged at a very wallet-friendly price-point (in comparison to many ramen shops out there). It’s served with charcoal pork, bamboo shoots, and nori (that’s printed with an animal graphic using egg white). The broth’s abundant with flavours using seafood and tonkatsu, although I detected a mild sourness that was actually a pleasant contrast to the rich, savoury broth.
Needless to say, the charcoal pork was fork-tender and had a hint of smokiness that made it exceptionally fragrant on every bite. This proved to be a memorable contrast to the al dente ramen noodles, making this a great one-bowl meal for anyone stopping by for solo dining.
For a place that’s in great competition for many a-recommended restaurants in Tanjong Pagar, Torasho Ramen & Charcoal Bar failed to leave a searing mark on my tastebuds. Although most of the small bites were scrumptious, given the already saturated area, it would be hard for me to proclaim this as ‘a must-visit place in Tanjong Pagar’.
However, if you’re still curious, it’s still an ideal place for a few small bites while having a few rounds of sake or Japanese beer.
Expected Damage: S$25 – S$40 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 3 / 5
Torasho Ramen & Charcoal Bar
32 Tras Street, Singapore 078972
32 Tras Street, Singapore 078972