Most people will have heard of Butao Ramen and its ridiculous hour-long queues for a very simple bowl of Japanese ramen noodles. I haven’t actually been myself because I’m not sure I see the point in queuing for hours for a very simple bowl of ramen. Unless I had snacks to keep me going, there would be no way of shutting up my grumbling stomach and I’m sure it would disturb the other customers. Actually maybe this would be a good idea – scare off the customers with my growling stomach and head straight to the front of the queue.
However, when there is Hide-Chan Ramen, on Wellington Street, there is no need to put this experiment to the test. We went for lunch after the mad rush, at around 1.30, walked straight in and were seated immediately. This was somewhat surprising, seeing as this particular link of the Hide-Chan Ramen chain with other restaurants in Tokyo and New York, only opened its doors a mere two weeks ago.
We were presented with three sheets of paper and three pencils, resulting in three very confused expressions. When I’ve ordered ramen before, there has never been so much choice – you have your standard ramen with beef or pork or vegetables etc. and that’s that. In Hide-Chan Ramen, however, you have a choice of what kind of soup base you’d like: Hakata Original Ramen, White Hide (apparently has lots of collagen in it(?)), Black Hide (with a charred garlic taste) or Red Hide (with an added touch of Korean sweet chilli sauce). The HCR team pride themselves on the fact that they use selected pork legs and boil them for a minimum of 24 hours to create their stock – all MSG-free! You can then choose the level of spiciness you would like: low, medium or high; what consistency you would like your noodles: soft, medium or hard; if you would like any extra garlic (I found this absolutely hilarious as they give you a small bowl filled with about six garlic cloves and a garlic crusher – never seen anything like it before in a restaurant!); and what part of the pig you would like your pork to have come from: shoulder, belly or neck (if you’re a vegetarian you can skip the pork, but there doesn’t seem to be an option for any non-vegetarians who are against eating pigs). In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, you use your little pencil to tick the box next to your selection. You then have the choice of adding extras such as bean sprouts, soft-boiled egg, dumplings, more pig, and a variety of sauces – I have no idea what these sauces are as they are just called “black sauce” or “red sauce” but I’m sure they are delicious. If you’re feeling extra hungry you can even tick the box for “noodle refills!” All of these extras come at an added cost but nothing to get your knickers in a twist over.
I selected Black Hide, medium spicy (I was told the Black Hide was not allowed to be spicy but I pleaded and was brought a small dish of spicy sauce on the side), medium consistency noodles, pork shoulder with soft-boiled egg and bean sprouts. I was having a bit of an off-day – part post-7s sickness, part mid-week blues – so this was the perfect comfort food and definitely brought my spirits up. For me, there’s always something about soup noodles that makes you feel like you’re being given a great big cuddle and all is well with the world. Is that weird?!
There is also the option of adding a side dish of 10 pan-seared Hakata dumplings, which we were unable to turn down. Guess what’s in the dumplings…. pork of course! To complement your dumplings, you may choose a range of rather strange toppings: cheese (really?!), cheese mayonnaise (excuse me?!), Tarako mayonnaise or (our selection) green onion mayonnaise which I promise tastes much better than it sounds. I could probably live off those dumplings. Although obviously I would need chocolate too.
Total bill was just over $100 each not including drinks, so a little bit pricier than somewhere like Misocool but as you can completely customise your meal without someone saying “no, cannot,” it’s definitely worth that little bit extra. I’d like to try Butao Ramen as a comparison but not until they see to their lunchtime traffic problem.
Upper Ground Floor
33 Wellington Street
Tel: +852 2522 5990
Date visited: Thursday 31st March 2011