Tucked behind shops peddling garish, sequined tees and leg warmers, Kakurega’s cramped quarters look more like an impromptu storage room than a bona fide restaurant. The dingy eatery seats just 17 on short stools crafted from plastic soda crates. It’s not much to look at, but the space does churn out awesome noodles, which are kneaded, shaped and cut on-site every morning. It’s a meticulous, time consuming process, which is why the chef only does 50 bowls for lunch (starting from 11am) and another 50 for dinner (from 6pm). Yes, you know what that means – get here early and expect to queue up.
If it all feels a little familiar, it’s because Kakurega’s owner Meter Chan used this formula before on his wildly successful first venture Butao King. While Butao popularised Hakata-style ramen, Kakurega dedicates itself to Tokyo-borne tsukemen with noodles served separately from its soup in a dip-it-yourself fashion.
Tsukemen noodles come with a thick, flat body that’s designed to hold up its broth. At Kakurega, the al dente ribbons are garnished with a half-boiled egg, scallions, bamboo shoots, fat-swirled slices of chasu pork and a film of dried seaweed. This same set-up accompanies any one of the three soup bases, which are all built upon a deeply concentrated tonkotsu broth laced with sprouts and scallions. Don’t be put off by the lukewarm temperature. Tsukemen is designed that way so diners can plunge into their meal immediately.
From the menu, the Kakurega white ($78) is an easy favourite – a viscous tonkotsu heaped with bonito powder and a dollop of chilli-spiked miso. It’s umami, pork-fuelled goodness punctuated with a slight, fishy flavour from the oily skipjack tuna. This is potent stuff that stands up well against the heavy noodles. It’s a similar situation with the Kakurega black ($88), which gets its name from the black garlic oil that’s splashed across the surface. Finally, there’s the Kakurega red ($98), a brightly coloured broth studded with bits of tomato pulp. It’s the mildest but also sweetest of the three and is further enhanced with a gentle touch of chilli oil.
When all the noodles are finished, ask the staff to pour extra broth into whatever’s left in your soup bowl. It’s a ritualistic step that dilutes the mixture enough for drinking. Toss it back and savour the intricate flavours because the next time you come back, the queue will be much, much longer. Dorothy So
Unit 7083, 7/F, Dragon Ctr, 37 Yen Chow St, Sham Shui Po, 3487 0989. Tue-Sun 11am-3pm & 6pm-9pm. Closed Mon. Dinner for two: around $200.
|Venue name:||Kakurega Ramen Factory|
Unit 7083, 7/F, Dragon Ctr, 37 Yen Chow St, Sham Shui Po