Tokyo: Ippudo Ramen and Hoshino Coffee

When James and I first visited Japan two years ago, we pooh-poohed the idea of eating at any of the chain eateries that also had outlets in Singapore. Why come all the way to Japan to eat what we can get back home, we reasoned.

Silly us. We should have realised the folly of our ways when even the Starbucks pastries tasted better in Japan than anywhere else. And when we ate Chococro croissants from St Marc’s Cafe back in Singapore, it was simply not the same.

On this trip, we abandoned our earlier folly, and happily sought out the Ippudo Ramen outlet nearest our hotel on our first evening here. Let me first caveat that we eat at Ippudo at Mohammad Sultan and Mandarin Gallery back home quite frequently, so I figured we knew what to expect.

I was so glad to be proven wrong.

Here is my Shiromaru Classic Special. (“Special” = with the works.) The pork was tender and delicious. The noodles were perfect – none of the silliness of specifying how hard or soft you want them, they’re served Hakata-style consistently. And that soup had a complexity of flavour that’s somehow absent in the Singapore version of the exact same dish.

Now THIS is what I call an onsen tamago.

James ordered his usual as well, the Akamaru Modern Special. He had the same thoughts about the soup having that much more legs than it does back home.

Also, the “Special” option costs something like $22 in Singapore, so we were very happy to enjoy them at about half the price here.

For breakfast the next morning, I hauled James to Hoshino Coffee for pancakes. He’s not usually a fan of sweet breakfast foods, but I was fairly confident that these would hit the spot.

We were the first customers when the outlet opened its doors at 10 am, and we waited just under 20 minutes for our souffle pancakes to arrive. The waitress couldn’t speak a word of English and we know no useful Japanese, so it was fairly impressive how that didn’t (a) prevent her from enthusiastically repeating everything that we didn’t understand and (b) deter us from ordering and receiving exactly what we wanted.

My classic double stack. I wish I could explain exactly how these tasted better than the version in Singapore. The surface crispness was just a little more crisp, and the inside was just that much more fluffy.

James was most pleased with his chocolate banana pancake – he’d never eaten at Hoshino Coffee in Singapore, so unlike me he had no basis for comparison.

I have no argument with the drip coffee here. It’s very good.

So yes. The next time you feel like giggling at Singaporeans who go to other countries just to eat what they can easily find at home, remember that food in Japan is always an exception to the rule…

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