Saturday, 11 May 2013

Food Review: Ramen Bari Uma

I first heard of Bari Uma over Class 95, and I must say that DJ Yasminne Cheng's exhortations sounded really convincing. However, my usual habit is to ignore radio ads, and it wasn't until one of my Facebook friends raved about this joint that I decided to give it a try.

I must say they lived up to these promises, at 3pm on a Friday afternoon.
First impressions

The picture above sums it up quite nicely, though I can't imagine the cacophony at peak lunch hour with their "big & cheerful" greetings. I guess that's why I prefer to visit any restaurant at off peak hours, when my schedule and stomach allow.

Their selection is extremely limited, which correlates to what I remember from the C95 radio ad. The highlights on the menu are ramen (obviously!), as well as char siew and gyoza. All ramen options include char siew, and we chose Ajitama-Uma (ajitama: flavoured egg) for the 'thick soup' and Kara-Uma for the spiciness. Other options included Yakitori and char siew fried rice, which we didn't have space for.
Ajitama-Uma (top), and Kara-Uma (bottom)

The munch

The real draw to this place must be the super thick and delicious ramen soup. Not so much thick as in "viscous", but thick with flavour. A complained that it was way too salty, but I countered that the flavour profile was caused by the umami of the concentrated pork stock and shoyu (soy sauce). Comparing this with Ajisen Ramen, I would say that it's a lot more robust and has a whole lot more mouth feel. Ajisen isn't bad, but it tastes like most of the oomph is contributed by MSG than by tender loving boiling of pork bones over low heat.

The char siew (sweet barbecued pork) is superb, but not completely melt-in-your-mouth. Still, it's quite possibly the best I've ever tasted. It's in a different league from those slightly charred char siew that's so common at chicken rice stalls in that it's juicy and tender throughout. Weight watchers beware, the velvety texture can be attributed to the thick vein of fat that ran through the two slices we had.

Both Kara-Uma and Ajitama-Uma's soups were wonderful. In Kara-Uma the saltiness and umami were tempered by the high level of spice. Avoid if you have a weak stomach or low tolerance. Still, it was my overall favourite of the two. Ajitama-Uma was a veritable "mouthgasm", with a pure pork stock umami blast that my words will never be able to do justice to. With the sheer intensity of flavour, it does mean that one might miss the subtlety of the char siew.

My recommendation? It doesn't really matter which ramen you order, but start with the ingredients (including the pleasant, if nondescript ajitama) first and finish off with the soup and ramen.

The ramen noodle itself tastes quite ordinary. Almost disappointing when held to the brilliance of the soup and the meat. Nevertheless, I would consider ordering one portion of ramen with an extra serving of noodles, if eating with a partner, which brings me to...

The crunch

You pay handsomely for what you get. The price of two portions of ramen with no extras or drinks? $36! I guess location has to play a part too, but "value-for-money" and Bari-Uma wouldn't be heard often in the same sentence.

Still, we were both very full after our late lunch, which considering our initial famished state, bodes well for their serving sizes.

I'd share a ramen + Kaedama ($2 for an extra serving of noodles) with A if I return, and order an extra serving of that oh-so-delicious char siew ($9). I reckon that might give much more bang for the buck.

I'm not sure how crowded this place gets, but the last I've heard, it's still somewhat of a "hidden find". In any case, it's impossible to tell for sure at 3pm.  Do give it a try before it gets "discovered"!

Topmost condiment dish thoughtfully wrapped for hygiene reasons

Empty at 3pm. Just the way we like it
Delicious roast garlic chips! A must.

- S

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