I confess: I am not a great fan of ramen, generally. I find that eating ramen (in many Japanese restaurants here) is akin to eating instant noodles. That’s why on any other day you won’t ever catch me in a ramen shop. Not much anyway. Not until I heard that Menya Musashi is opening right here in Petaling Jaya, right next to where I work.
Back in February this year, the good people from Menya Musashi Japan actually did a market test in Isetan KLCC by having a temporary kiosk in the food court. I heard there were huge crowds and the queues stretched over many corridors with people clamouring to grab a bowl of those ramen.
OK, so what’s the big deal here?
Well, Menya Musashi has just opened an outlet in Isetan’s Eat Paradise – that spanking new little food court on Level 2 of Isetan 1-Utama. It’s only about a few days old and slowly but surely, people are finding this out. Step into the outlet and you will be impressed by the very enthusiastic rigorous greetings from their crew, from the usher and cashier at the front right down to the kitchen crew. You can see they are all very energetic and happy doing their stuff! The decent-sized outlet is just so full of positive energy and that’s not surprising because their head honcho there is none other than Master Chef Daisuke Yamaguchi.
The uber cool-looking Master Chef Yamaguchi hails from their iconic Shinjuku outlet in Japan. Yes, they sent their best to start-up operations here in Malaysia. Since they opened in 1996, they have been voted as Japan’s best ramen store. So, still fairly young, what sets Menya Musashi apart from the thousands of other similar joints is that somehow they have concocted a very contemporary twist to their broth and ramen which appeals immensely to their customers, both young and old. According to the 29-year-old Master Chef Yamaguchi, the secret lies in their broth – known as “tonkotsu”, (not tonkatsu, ok!) which he explained is “boiled for many hours, 10-12 hours and pork belly and chicken feet are the main ingredients, seasoned with Japanese wine and shoyu”. But why chicken feet, I asked. Well, the good chef merely gave an enigmatic smile and said “ahhh… it’s good for the collagen!”. OK, so collagen is good for your skin and all… and also for ramen.
Meet Master Chef Daisuke Yamaguchi… yes, this is him!
Here… a clearer picture…
The name “Musashi” takes inspiration from Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary swordsman of double swords from the Edo-era who authored a book on kenjitsu – an ancient Japanese martial arts. Menya Musashi incorporates some of the values depicted in that book into their bowls of perfect ramen. And that also explains the various paintings of Japanese warriors you see decorating the walls of the restaurant in 1-Utama. Right at the entrance, you will also see a full-length painting of Master Chef Yamaguchi … so darn cool!
I had a bowl of their signature item – Kuro Musashi Ramen (RM26) and I’m sold. The ramen here is thicker than most you would find, and very springy, thanks to the eggs in the recipe. I love the al dente texture which didn’t soften even as the noodles were soaked in the soup for some time. There were 2 large pieces of cha siew (Japanese style) which are essentially slices of pork belly which had been braised in shoyu (they really melt in the mouth, as cliche’d as that may sound!); half an egg with soft wobbly yolk, some bamboo strips and a handful of chopped spring onions. The noodles were submerged in a layer of porky oil made more aromatic from ginger & shallots – yes, you get to choose the oil topping! I shook in some pepper and drops of chilli oil and I was in for an orgasmic ramen experience. Each slurp of the ramen was covered with a glistening sheen of tasty lardy goodness, I kid you not. The rich and earthy umami broth can be a bit overpowering if taken on its own, but slurp it with the springy chewy thick ramen and all is good. Comforting and good.
So, am I a ramen-convert now? Yes, but only for Menya Musashi, at the moment.
Despite the crazy hustle-bustle pace during lunch time, Master Chef Yamaguchi took some minutes, sat down with me and chatted, with some help from an interpreter. He told me the ramen that I was slurping just minutes ago came directly from Japan and we share the same ramen as their customers in Japan.
Besides Malaysia, they have outlets in Singapore and Hongkong but the ramen for these 2 countries are from a different source. And what’s even better news is that Menya Musashi plans to open up more outlets here in Malaysia this year!
Yes, exciting ramen times ahead, people!
Level 2, Eat Paradise
Isetan @ 1-Utama
Bandar Utama City Centre