I am no stranger to ramen, and it’s been a personal mission of mine to try out all the best ramen places in Taipei. One that supposedly places very high on many ramen rankings is Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (花月嵐拉麵), a popular Japanese chain that I had strangely not heard of during my time in Japan.
Nonetheless, about 6 months ago I decided to check it out (yes, that’s how behind I am in my posts). The one we went to is in the Hankyu Department Store near Taipei City Hall MR Station, adjacent to the marvellous Eslite bookstore (in my opinion the best in Taiwan).
The problem with this ramen joint is that it is packed to the rafters if you attempt to visit during normal meal hours (by this I mean from about 11am to 2pm or 5pm to 8pm), and almost always guarantees a length wait. On this occasion, I jotted down my details and went off to Eslite to do some light reading, and returned about an hour and 15 minutes later, which was about right.
Arashi is famous for its garlic knuckle ramen (ninniku genkotsu) , which essentially contains a soup base made from pork knuckle bone and lots and lots of garlic (just how I like it). There is the “standard” version, which uses soy sauce, a “white” version that uses salt, and a “miso” version that uses…well, miso. For first timers I would recommend the standard, unless you like your soups light, in which case I would go with the white.
For those who like to stink, there’s even fresh garlic you can crush yourself and chuck into the soup. I of course did.
There were also a few temporary “specials” that I ignored. I mean, if it’s so good, it would be in the permanent menu.
We ended up going for a standard ninniku genkotsu and a butter fried rice (which reminds me of another Jap chain, Pepper Lunch). Basically just fried rice cooked on a hot plate with loads of butter.
Now for the photos and my verdict.
I like my ramen soup thick and opaque, which usually means it has a lot of flavour. This one is, with what appears to be either fat or garlic pieces floating on top. However, I have to say the soup was a lot saltier than I had anticipated, which is not too bad for a little while but can have you feeling awful by the end of it (and after). To be honest I was totally parched for hours after this meal. In short, I liked it but it’s more suited for those who like their ramen soups salty. I seriously could not believe how some people added more condiments to the soup, including soy sauce.
The meat was quite scarce (only a couple of slices) but it was good — the melt in your mouth kind. The ramen noodles themselves were pretty good as well, certainly better than places that use instant noodles.
As for the fried rice…it was decent, but nothing special. Pepper Lunch is probably better.
Pour the sauce on and stir away. I liked the texture of the rice because you can gauge how cooked or overcooked you’d like it to be. Personally, I liked it a little hard around the edges. It smelled great, but at the end when you see how much grease is on the plate it can make you regret having it.
On the whole, Ramen Kagetsu Arashi is one of the better, but not one of the top ramen places in Taiwan. I enjoyed it but it’s not the type of place I would go back to on a regular basis because the flavours are so strong. Nonetheless, there must be a reason why the franchise has lots of stores around Taiwan now and still attracts massive lines every day, so perhaps it is more a reflection of my personal preferences.
7.5 out of 10
Taiwan website: http://www.gbj-tw.com/
Locations: http://www.gbj-tw.com/shop/map.html#shop07 (Chinese with addresses, maps and opening hours; will need Google translate for English) — there are apparently 9 stores in Taiwan, with one near Taipei Main Station and 2 near Taipei City Hall.
Price: around NT$200 per head; there is a 10% service charge.