From Tokyo with love
PETALING JAYA, May 23 — The perfect bowl of ramen eluded me for many years, solely because nothing in Kuala Lumpur could compare to the ones found on the tiny streets of Tokyo nor the one manned by a Japanese at Perth’s Fremantle Market. Hearty, scrumptious and flavourful.
My criteria for a good bowl of ramen is not that high, but somehow, I found the standard of ramen lacking in most places in KL. They weren’t bad, it was just not the same. Until Menya Musashi arrived.
In February, The Malaysian Insider stumbled upon Menya Musashi’s pop-up stall at Isetan KLCC’s Food Market. Available for only 10 days, there was a limited 100-bowl-per-day sold at the temporary stall.
Curiosity got a hold of me and I found myself fighting through rush hour just to see and taste “the best ramen chain in Tokyo” as described by some bloggers. And boy, was I in for the treat of my life! They only had the chicken and vegetable version but it was wonderful!
A few months later, I found out that Menya Musashi has now opened in Isetan One Utama’s Eat Paradise. Here, there is a larger selection of noodles and they also had some sides such as gyoza and Chashu Gohan (Japanese version of char siew rice). Menya Musashi in Isetan One Utama serves non-halal versions of the ramen.
I couldn’t wait to relive the wonderful experience I had at their pop-up store. Within the first few days of opening, I had the Shiro (onion oil) ramen and I brought my family to try the Kuro (fried shallots and garlic oil) and I had a spoonful of Aka (chili oil).
A bit about the history of Menya Musashi: The name of the famous ramen shop was inspired by a popular Edo-era samurai Miyamoto Musashi who wrote a book of martial arts entitled “Gorin No Syo” (“The Book of 5 Rings”). To create the perfect ramen, the Musashi chefs employ five ramen principles: CHI (basic), SUI (idea), HI (reason), KAZE (analysis) and KU (truthfulness).
We’re really lucky that the Master Chef of the original Shinjuku branch in Tokyo, Daisuke Yamaguchi, is based permanently at Isetan One Utama’s Eat Paradise. With 11 stores in Japan, one in Singapore, Hong Kong and one in Malaysia, it is fast becoming an international chain of delectable ramen.
It was lunchtime on a weekday and as usual, the chefs at Menya Musashi greeted every customer with enthusiasm. While preparing the ramen, it is never quiet in the kitchen because you will hear the chefs shouting — and giving positive energy to the restaurant — as they work.
While waiting to interview Daisuke Yamaguchi, I sat down at the corner of the restaurant, admiring the samurai-inspired decor and warm ambience it created. A Japanese woman walked in and I eavesdropped as she talked to the Master Chef about how delicious the ramen was, that she was happy that Menya Musashi was in Malaysia and that usually in Tokyo, you can’t get a seat because it is just too crowded.
I ordered a Shiro ramen and a Tsukemen while waiting. Tsukemen is similar to Cha Soba (cold noodles) where the ramen is separated from the soup and you dip the al dente noodles into the tasty broth.
“The soup in Menya Musashi ramen is the same — only the oil is different,” explained Daisuke Yamaguchi after serving some customers. I asked him about the special flavours in Menya Musashi Japan such as the Cheese Ramen.
“We will have more shops opening in the future and maybe we might introduce different flavours at different outlets. In Japan, all of the outlets serve different flavours. We’ll see how it goes here, and if there is a market for it, we will introduce special flavours like the Cheese Ramen.”
Daisuke Yamaguchi told me that the reason why Menya Musashi Malaysia have the current flavours is so that Malaysians can enjoy something new and fun every day, having the three types of ramen Shiro, Kuro and Aka, five different types of Tsukemen such as Tsukemen, Musashi Tsukemen, Ajitama Tsukemen, Chashu Tsukemen and Ajitama Chashu Tsukemen. If you truly enjoy the Tsukemen, you have the option to add more soup for RM10 or choose from four serving sizes: 1 to 2.5 servings at no extra charge.
According to Daisuke Yamaguchi, Kuro is the most popular hot ramen option while Musashi Tsukemen is a favourite among customers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Personally, I love Shiro the best; the springy ramen swimming in pork broth and onion oil, topped with generous amounts of pork belly pieces, herbal egg and bamboo shoots. The first time I had it, I finished the whole bowl, slurping every bit of the soup till my bowl was “clean.” It may be a little salty for some people but with the ocha (green tea), it is perfect.
Generally, ocha in Malaysia is preferred with a hot bowl of ramen so I wondered why Menya Musashi only served iced ocha. Daisuke Yamaguchi said that in Japan, a hot dish is usually served with a cold drink to balance it off. And in the summer, Cha Soba (cold noodles) is preferred.
I’m really thrilled that Menya Musashi is here. It’s hard to get a good bowl of ramen that satisfy my Tokyo cravings and to have one of the best in Japan right here at home is absolutely a blessing.
Check out Menya Musashi at Level 2, Isetan One Utama’s Eat Paradise. Prices start from RM26 onwards for a bowl of Musashi Ramen.