Ramen Nagi has come a long way since its hole-in- the-wall days. Back then, the team invented a different ramen every day for a year to gain customer attention. The gamble paid off when they won the ultra-otaku 2012 Tokyo Ramen of the Year award by the eponymous magazine. They’ve since expanded to more than 50 outlets around Asia, landing at Suntec City with a cheery, colourfully decked out 60-seater behind the Tower 2 taxi stand.
But it also seems like the Singapore outpost has also come a long way since the Tokyo heyday, because the broths are shockingly one-dimensional. Instead of the legendary Niboshi ramen that’s distilled from dried sardines, we get four tonkotsu-based flavours: The original Butao King ($13.90), Red King ($15.90), Black King ($15.90) and Green King ($15.90). Mind you, every bowl lands at the table with tantalising aromas. But as the aromas fade, the flaws emerge – everything is too sweet. The meats are teriyaki-esque saccharine, Black King is dark from blackened garlic and squid ink, but tastes only of the latter, and there’s nary a hint of spice in Red King although it’s advertised as the fieriest. Green King promises fresh basil, olive oil and grated parmesan but the herbs overwhelm and Butao King is so rich and cloying we cannot bear to have a second spoonful.
It’s a shame because the fixings are on-point: perfectly springy noodles; yakibuta and chashu that are lean yet tender and truly molten-centred ramen eggs ($2 each). But then again, every other ramen joint makes decent fixings. Ultimately, eating ramen is about seeking soupy, umami comfort. And the broths here leave us exasperated.
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