marutama ra-men {まる玉 らーめん}

12:43 PM sians 0 Comments

ask me what type of japanese ramen i love most and my answer is almost reflex-like.

-- tonkotsu broth ramen.
hands down. period.

not to be mistaken with tonkatsu which is also a japanese dish but is instead a deep fried panko breaded pork cutlet, tonkotsu is best described by mr j.kenji of food labs at serious eats.

"made with an intensely porky, opaque pale broth with a sticky-lipped intensity and the rich, buttery texture of light cream, there's no smell more warming on a cold day than a big hot bowl of tonkotsu ramen set before you. it is the ultimate comfort-meal-in-a-bowl."

thank you, mr kenji because it's like you've read my mind and put them into words most exquisitely. 

so when someone at work recommended marutama ra-men {まる玉 らーめん}, which is one of his top favorites for ramen places (btw, his other half is japanese), i was intrigued but i wasn't sure what to expect of it. after the popular ramen trend took the local food scene by storm a couple of years ago, marutama stood out from the rest of the porcine-based counterparts by being the pioneer of chicken soup for ramen in japan. 

nestled in a hidden corner on the first floor of fahrenheit 88 mall in bukit bintang, the petite noodle joint mimicked the simplistic japanese decor of its sister franchises in japan, indonesia, thailand and hong kong. it took a bolder approach with the focus walls painted in my favorite hue of red that contrasted yet complimented the other grey and white walls as well as dark & light brown furniture. as the sun set, the last of the evening sunlight streamed in through the ceiling-high windows that faces the back roads of bukit bintang.

i picked a spot by the window to enjoy what was left of dusk before the night rolled over. the restaurant was quiet that evening with me being the sole diner, granted it was still pretty early for dinner.  

the compact menu was filled with the choices in the combination of either spicy/non-spicy broth and toppings of chashu, pork belly or ajitsuke tamago. in fact, if you're feeling hungry, why not all three? or you can even order the toppings (or their other offerings) as a side to be shared with others if variety is what you're looking for.

ajitsuke tamago ra-men | chicken soup ra-men with a slice of roast pork, seaweed, spring onion and a seasoned egg (choice spicy or non spicy) (rm 21) 

as much as i love spicy versions, the best way to savor the nuances and notes in its stock will be in its most natural and basic version of the non-spicy.

being the only diner at the restaurant meant that the bowl of goodness got to me really quickly. the broth was warm and i inhaled its fragrance when i tasted my first sip. 

as the warm soup trickled down my throat, it sung a couple of the same notes as my favorite tonkotsu broth but on a milder, subtler tune. the stock almost had the similar sticky lipped richness and light creaminess in a flavorful disposition.. a lighter version, if you will but seasoned just nicely. the soup is cooked for five hours daily over high heat using the freshest ingredients and that it takes one whole chicken to make two bowls of soup to achieve that level of flavor intensity. plus, marutama boasts of no added preservatives nor msg.

the handmade noodles were fresh as it was coated lovingly by the thick broth. i've always liked my ramen's texture to be cooked el dente for that firm, springy bite with each chew but this was slightly overdone, thus making it a little softer than i'd like.

one of my favorite ingredients in the bowl has got to be the understated and unassuming imported river bed seaweed from japan that gave another layer of flavor that somewhat cut through the richness of the stock. i would call it the secret (although not-that-secret) ingredient that made this bowl of noodles whole.

the slice of roast pork loin with its great lean to fat ratio was cooked to its tenderly satisfying texture. flavor-wise, pretty good but it didn't stand out as memorable.

and finally, a must have with every bowl of japanese ramen -- the ajitsuke tamago. very mild flavors of soy and mirin infused into the marinated soft boiled egg, done using almost textbook perfect techniques (although i've definitely tasted better ones). as i pierced the egg with my chopsticks to split it open, the runny yolk streamed some of its golden richness into the stock to accentuate the flavors.

don't miss out on the fried garlic flakes on the table and you can even have a second experience with that same bowl of ramen with the addition of their signature condiment. perhaps first half without and the second half with. ;)

the fried garlic flakes gave a slight earthy, sweetness mingled with a bitter undertone from the garlic itself to give a more robust punch of flavor with the occasional crunch of the fried flakes. don't forget to try it for yourself to figure out if you prefer it with or without.

[#protip] while you can't add more stock, you can always have an additional order of ramen (rm 3) if you would like extras to slurp up all that chicken stock with. 

oh, and if you are wondering whether the green tea is refillable, it's a yes ;)

marutama ra-men has a tall order to fill especially when i've always advocated tonkotsu broth. i'd definitely commend its chef for the care and technique in achieving the flavor intensity to rival their pork-based counterparts though it had not swayed the latter from its pedestal. an enjoyable bowl of comforting, hearty bowl of japanese ramen with a lighter twist in its chicken stock. go forth with an open mind/stomach/taste buds and who knows? you might find a different kind of ramen joint to be added to your favorites list.

p.s. marutama {まる玉} translates from japanese into 'round ball'....which totally explains its logo!

marutama ra-men | location
f1.27.01. first floor
jalan bukit bintang
55100 kuala lumpur
{open daily: 11am - 10pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


village park nasi lemak

1:25 AM sians 0 Comments

"breakfast, lunch, dinner;
'creamy' rice, spicy sambal;

village park restaurant nasi lemak

this place needs no introduction. 
the proof is in the constant crowd inside and outside the restaurant throughout the day although i can only really vouch for weekend mornings. 

in fact, it is one of the top searches for the argubly best nasi lemak in klang valley. 

i've got to admit that i was a little very late to the party and yes, i finally had my plateful a few weeks ago to try for myself what draws the malaysian crowd back for many years. trust me, malaysians are huge on nasi lemak - they take the art of this delicious local favorite very seriously!

i was lucky on both visits - i managed to get a table in under five minutes, granted you have to be a little quick to snap up a table as diners leave. or perhaps be willing to share the table with strangers - a necessitated communal dining experience, if you will ;)

although village park restaurant seems synonymous to nasi lemak, there are other offerings as well ranging from noodles, kaya-butter toasts and rice with dishes for your choosing. but why not try their most popular signature dish especially if it was my first time there. and yes, this entry will be dedicated to just that one dish.

15 - 20 minutes of after watching many plates of nasi lemak whizzed past us (and not without me staring at the staff expectantly, hoping it was ours), it was finally here - the moment of truth. village park is famous for its nasi lemak but their speciality lies in the nasi lemak ayam goreng (rm 9) or literally translated 'fatty rice with fried chicken'. for variety sake, we also tried the rendang daging ('beef rendang') (rm 8.50) rendition.

all the fixin's made their appearances - the chili sambal, the fragrant rice, half a hard boiled egg, a handful of crunchy fresh ground nuts and cripsy, salty anchovies, a couple slices of fresh cucumber and of course the huge piece of dark meat, leg quarter, all strewn almost in an organized haphazard manner.

one of the main stars that makes it nasi lemak is the chili sambal (chili paste with blended onion). my personal preference is a fiery spiciness balanced with the slight sweetness mingled with the onions. unfortunately, village park's had a milder disposition that was decent but not memorable. it was one that i didn't find myself reaching for with every spoonful of rice.

speaking of which, the essence of a great nasi lemak is the rice itself, which only a handful has mastered that skill in the many different nasi lemaks i've tried. soft, fluffy yet you can taste each grain of rice with the fragrance of pandan and ginger whispering its presence softly in the midst the subtle creaminess of the coconut milk, finished with salt to bring out its flavors. the rice was yummy that i would have happily wolfed down the rice on its own although i wouldn't have mind a bit more decadence of the coconut milk.

the signature of the nasi lemak ayam goreng - a generous portion of the leg quarter, fried in secret blend of spices. warm, succulent and juicy meat encased in a golden brown shell of a skin seasoned and marinated generously with spices which i detected notes of tumeric, garlic, ginger and perhaps lemongrass.

i loved the little, runaway, savory crispy bits of batter that gave it that occasional punch of salty in between bites of the mildly seasoned meat.  yum.

the beef rendang was definitely overshadowed by the fried chicken. while the flavors had the makings of a great rendang, my mom thought the kaffir lime leaves would have elevated the fragrance and added another dimension of mild tangy-ness to the dish. on the other hand, i thought the parts of the beef pieces were a tad chewy, overcooked and borderline dry. sad face.

the plain nasi lemak had most of the foundation right while the fried chicken takes it to another level. the serving size is huge that it held me over breakfast and lunch. [#protip] if you are a smaller eater, one option is to share one piece of chicken (rm6) between two plates of plain nasi lemak (rm3) oh, take away here also means queueing up in the very long line to get your orders and then moving into another line at the payment counter. so be prepared to wait even if you were here to get a to go meal.

my parents opined village park restaurant serves above average nasi lemak but they've had better and my parents has had their fair share of nasi lemak. i'd concur with them since there were some room for improvement but so far this is one of the better ones i've tasted. (my next project is to try out the nasi lemak my parents love!) however, there was probably added msg in the dishes since we were gulping down glasses of water to quench the thirst after our meal there.

a good plate of nasi lemak this is, definitely worth a visit to try it for yourself if you are willing to wait for just a bit..

village park restaurant | location
5, jalan ss21/37,
damansara utama,
47400 petaling jaya
{open mondays to saturdays: 7am - 8pm;
 sundays: 7am-6pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.