Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen
Volcanic ramen, what could possibly go wrong?
Straight off, this Osaka chain specializing in “volcanic” ramen probably won’t appeal to purists. But as its expansion into Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok (with two branches in Asoke and Patpong) attests, Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen is doing something very right.
The gimmick helps, of course. While the specialty is obviously ramen, things are a bit different here. Their signature variety comes served in a hefty earthenware bowl, which not only keeps your soup hot for longer but also provides for some fun meal-time entertainment. Ordering the staple Kazan shoyu ramen (B220/270) will see a member of staff deliver to your table a large, piping hot bowl filled with noodles, veggies and chashu pork. After pouring in the thick, pork bone broth, the waiter will cover the bowl with a volcano-shaped lid, through which steam will start to blow. After a few minutes of excitement, the cover is removed and you’re left with a steaming, bubbling bowl of ramen—just beware, you’re given that bib for a reason!
This dining smoke and mirrors, so very Osakan, is complemented in the Patpong branch by a colorful, Amazon-evoking setting— fake trees, plush animals—that’s strangely family-friendly for somewhere so close to Patpong night market. (Sadly, the Asoke branch is a more sedate mall affair.) Adding to the enjoyment, the ramen’s pretty solid, with a broth that’s creamy yet noticeably less fatty than many of the big tonkotsu specialists in town. The juicy and tender chashu, especially, seems to benefit from the steaming process. With its dense, chewy noodles, as well as sliced cabbage, carrot and peppers, there’s even a hint of yakisoba flavoring about this bowl.
The menu does also comprise regular bowls of ramen, of which the tonkotsu karamiso (B150/180) is another decent option. The miso paste makes for a spicier broth, which tastes light and, dare we say, almost healthy. Elsewhere, there are serviceable selections like karaage (B150) and gyoza (B90), both of which are crisp and well-portioned. The same can be said of the prawns that come with the Japanese curry hot stone (B190), however as a whole the curry lacks kick and becomes a sticky mess in your bowl far too quickly. Dessert keeps things on theme with mountainous ice monstrosities (B190) in various toppings. A general word on portions: everything’s massive, including lunch sets (starting at B199) you should probably skip breakfast for. Tonkotsu Kazan Ramen makes for good, honest Japanese junk food in a kitschy setting.