Be prepared to line up!
I love ramen. Did I mention I love ramen?
Unfortunately, having lived in Japan before, I have tasted the best this magnificent invention has to offer, and accordingly, everything else I have tasted outside of Japan pales in comparison.
However, I have heard good things about ramen in Taiwan, especially because a lot of the ramen restaurants are popular Japanese franchises. One of the best, apparently, is Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (らあめん花月嵐).
One busy evening, we went to the new Ramen Kagetsu Arashi store in the B2 food court of the new Hankyu Department Store in Taipei. The Hankyu Department Store is THE place to be right now because it’s connected directly with the Taipei City Hall MRT Station as well as the Eslite bookstore building, my favourite bookstore on the planet. And the food court there is one of the most amazing I have ever set foot in. I’ll be damned if I don’t get to try every single restaurant and piece of cake in that place!
The problem with Hankyu is that it is almost always guaranteed to be jam packed. We started lining up at around 5pm and got in at 5:30pm, and if you go after 6 chances are the wait will be an hour or more. You might have better luck at the foodcourt of the Vieshow cinemas nearby.
Anyway, the Arashi menu has four main types of ramen, all of which feature the “genkotsu” (pork fist bone) soup base, loads and loads of garlic and lard! Healthy! There is the regular type, which utilises soy; the spicy type, which of course has lots of chilli; the miso type, which uses miso instead of soy; and the white type, which uses natural salt for flavour. There are always some seasonal specials but I assumed if the specials were that good they’d be on the regular menu, so I passed.
The condiments, and the additions menu behind them
We went with the regular type ramen, which is supposedly the most popular. There are lots of additions you can pay for, such as extra spring onions, corn, egg, cabbage, sesame seeds and so fort. You can also get additional chashu (meat) because all ramen only come with two slices of pork, but that was enough for me. We also didn’t get the meal set, which is essentially a beverage and a small bowl of rice with fried garlic sauce for an additional charge.
Look at that soup!
The aroma from the garlic in the soup was so strong that it made me drool. On top of that they can also give you extra cloves of fresh garlic which you can crush and toss into the soup, if you want to stink even more. The size of the bowl is decent — big enough to fill you up but not too big so as to make you get sick of it.
Want more garlic? You got it!
On every table is a range of condiments you can add to enhance the flavour if you so desire — chilli oil, chilli powder, vinegar, soy, special sauce and spices, etc. For me, the flavour of the soup was strong enough.
So was the ramen good? Yes. Very good. The ramen soup is the key, and Arashi’s is sublime. The soup is so thick that it is opaque, and you can see the tiny blobs of fat floating in there, but I tell myself it’s just the garlic (some of it is). The meat is also quite good, soft but not quite to the extent where it melts in your mouth. The noodles are average because they are not hand made, but then again, most ramen stores don’t make their own noodles. In all, good enough to rival some of the ramen places I visited in Japan, but not quite in my “pantheon”. That said, it’s definitely good enough to warrant return visits, once you get the garlic smell out of your system.
But hang on, we didn’t just have the ramen. We also got a hot plate rice. This dish is much like the stuff they serve at “Pepper Lunch”, another Japanese franchise. Essentially, they give you a hot plate with fried rice and butter on it, which keeps cooking as you eat. We got, you guessed it, the garlic flavoured one. We figured if we were going to stink we might as well go all the way.
Garlic and butter -- an unbeatable combo
The rice was pretty nice — but then again, any time you mix garlic and butter it’s not going to taste too bad. It was, as expected, a little on the oily side, but still a nice complement to the ramen.
I have to try more ramen places in Taipei, but at the end of the day, I would be very surprised if Ramen Kagetsu Arashi is not one of the better ramen places in all of Taiwan.
8.5 out of 10!
Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (らあめん花月嵐)
Price: around NT$160-250 per person, depending on whether you get sets, additions or sides
Websites: Official — http://www.gone-grp.com/main.php; Japanese — http://www.gbj-tw.com/; Chinese blog — http://www.wretch.cc/blog/kagetsu
Stores (Taipei only):
Taipei Main Station
2nd Floor of Breeze food court at Taipei Main Station (closest MRT: Taipei Main Station)
2nd Floor of Vieshow Cinemas food court at Xinyi district (closest MRT: Taipei City Hall)
B1 Floor food court of Eslite at 245 Dunhua South Road (closest MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua)
Hankyu Department Store
B2 Floor food court of Hankyu Department Store (closest MRT: Taipei City Hall)
Nanxi Shin Kong Mitsukoshi
B1 Floor of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store Hall 2 at 14 Nanjing West Road (closest MRT: Zhongshan)