RamenPlay: New Japanese Shabu-shabu hotpot experience

Like it's parent company, BreadTalk Group Limited, RamenPlay is always on the mode of reinvention in order to keep its diners interest piqued by fresh offerings and better menu options. Just a few weeks back, I was fortunate to be able to get taste of the latest debut of their Shabu Shabu set. But first, we take a tour of the unprecedented heavy weights on the menu. 

Crispy Dango (3pcs for $3.60) may look deceivingly like a takoyaki ball, but let me assure you that this is, not even in the same league and far more superior in taste and texture. Succulent meatballs are breaded and deep fried till a golden crispy sheen covers its entirety. These are then doused in plum sauce and drizzled with folds of mayonnaise to enhance its flavor. Extremely addictive in my books and value for money too, given the verdict passed that there weren't much fillers in the meatballs lending to its slightly firm texture.

Crispy Chicken Gyoza (3pcs for $3.60, 5pcs for $5.80) were good but not excellent, the golden crispy exterior beckoning for a more benevolent stuffing of chicken thigh mince.

Not to be missed is the Bamboo Chicken (1pcs for $3 and 2pcs for $5.80), chicken mince packed and steamed in a thin bamboo stick before being char grilled to a glistening bubbled up mess on the top. This treat is a delight to eat on its own, but even better when accompanied by a bowlful of pearly Niigata Koshihikari rice.

I admit to having prejudices against RamenPlay because of some bad reviews I've heard from a personal friend who hadn't enjoyed his experience much at the Holland Village branch (which has since closed down); but after my first mouthful of the Toriniku Uobushi Tonkotsu ramen [Pork Cheek Double Soup Ramen] ($11.80),  I was converted. Not to say that things are faultless, the firm Kyushu ramen, not my favourite, that bit of alkalinity in the mix expounding its roots of mass manufacture. However, the broth of smoked fish and pork bones is trippy tasty, and doesn't leave an oil slick in your mouth. Not forgetting the highlight of the dish, the seared pork cheek, unctuous pork with streamers of fat running though its flesh. Go ahead, make an upgrade to 5pcs (instead of the usual 3pcs) for an additional $3 only. Now that's a steal!

The Butariki Ishinabe ($13.80) runs rings around the ramen option. Served in a hot stone pot, this one bowl meal encompasses ribbons of barbecue pork, spring onions, seaweed, dollops of secret sauce and the magical self-saucing egg over the top. All of this sitting over a bed of fragrant Niigata Koshihikari rice. After a bit of tumble and cheer, you arrive at toppling heap of deliciousness, speckled with crusty bits of rice that we gregariously scraped from the sides of the bowl.

But you're here for the Shabu Shabu, so lets get down and dirty. The Shabu Shabu Pork/Beef set ($13.90/$14.90) may sound like something rather unorthodox to order, especially since you've stepped into a shop that blatantly spells out its speciality in its name. But here's me giving my two cents worth on the befuddlement - ditch the ramen plans and dive into the bubbling pot of shabu shabu. Firstly, you'll get an option for clear or kimchi soup base (my money's on the latter for something a little more robust to go with that bowl of plain rice, which you will proceed to devour happily); then of course you'll get to toss up between having the rice or thin udon as staples (you already know where my loyalties lie); lastly, it's a party as you fish out a generous portion of assorted veges, tofu and three types of mushrooms from the steaming broth. Swirl the paper thin slices of pork or beef through and reap the rewards of your labour with a good splash of goma sauce.

For something sweet to conclude the indulgent feast, get a load of the Warabi Kinako Matcha Mochi Ice Cream ($6.80 ala-carte/ $4.80 with any order of main course). Honestly, not the best in terms of overall matcha intensity but those accompanying soy bean mochi will knock your socks off.

Note that the Shabu Shabu set has been launched at four outlets of RamenPlay around Singapore, which includes BreadTalk IHQ (from 5pm onwards only), NEX, Jem and Velocity @ Novena Square.

BreadTalk IHQ
30 Tai Seng Street

Operating Hours:
Daily: 11am - 10pm

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