Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (花月嵐拉麵)

July 4, 2012 in Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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.

Mo-Mo Paradise (Taipei)

December 11, 2011 in Best Of, Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

Inside the Mo-Mo Paradise at Bistro 98

Hot pots have started to grow on me recently, and after my latest experience at Mo-Mo Paradise, a popular Japanese shabu shabu chain, I must say I’m falling in love.

There are a couple of things that make Mo-Mo Paradise special.

First of all, they offer what is referred to in Japanese as “tabeihodai” (食べ放題), which means “all you can eat.”  Here, you can order as much meat and vegetables as you want within the 90 minute time limit they set you.  There’s a large variety of meats (beef and pork) and an even larger variety of vegetables and mushrooms, which mitigates the fact that they offer no chicken or seafood.

Secondly, Mo-Mo Paradise offers four types of hot pots.  There is the original shabu shabu soup (clear), which comes with two different condiments — a sweet sesame sauce and a sour vinegary sauce.  There is the sukiyaki type, which is a thicker, sweet soy soup that works almost like a marinade.  There’s also the tonkotsu (pork bone) type, a flavoursome soup which some fans of ramen might be familiar with (and comes with an chilli olive oil dipping sauce).  And finally there is the spicy miso type, for those who like a bit of spice (and comes with a special sauce).

A placemat detailing the types of soups on offer and how to enjoy them

[For winter there is also apparently a curry soup!]

The best part is that you can choose up to three of the four soup bases to cook your unlimited meats and vegetables (of course, the more soup bases you choose, the more expensive it will be, but I’ll get to prices later).  The catch is that every person in the same party has to pay the same amount (which is fair, considering people share).  They have split pots, which allows you to put two types of soups in one pot, making choosing multiple soups very easy.

You can split the pot in two!

Most people are happy with one, but on this occasion we chose two, the original shabu shabu and the sukiyaki.

I’ll get straight to it.  Both were sublime.  The meats were sliced incredibly thin so you didn’t feel like you were eating too much with each bite.  The vegetables were fresh and there were so many — my favourites were the cabbage, the abalone mushrooms and the broccoli, and I also enjoyed adding rice cakes.

The shabu shabu soup is lighter so the cooked meat and vegetables don’t have a lot of taste, but that’s why they have the two dipping sauces which you can mix yourself with additional spring onions, garlic, radish and chilli oil.  The sukiyaki soup acts like a sweet soy marinade which makes the meat and vegetables nice and flavoursome, and if the taste gets too strong you can always add more water to dilute it.

Everyone starts with this plate, but you can top it up with whatever you want as often as you want

With a split pot, we were able to eat from one side while allowing the other side to cook, and then switch back and forth, enjoying one soup type at a time.

The waiters would keep coming around to ask if you wanted more meat, which they would promptly top up, and they also pushed these trolleys around with stacks of vegetables which they can stack onto a plate on demand.  Other luxuries included white or brown Japanese rice and tea and coffee, all of which are unlimited refill.  It was indeed paradise.

The vegetable carts!

Mmm...brown rice...

I can’t wait to try the other two soup bases next time!

9 out of 10!


Mo-Mo Paradise

Website: http://www.humaxasia.com.tw/momo/index.html


Lunch Monday to Friday — 90 minutes all you can eat — enter between 11:30am and 4pm — per person: NT$329 (one soup type), NT$379 (two soup types), NT$429 (three soup times)

Dinner and Weekends/Holidays — 90 minutes all you can eat — per person: NT$399 (one soup type), NT$449 (two soup types), NT$499 (three soup types)

(Special late night rates apply at certain stores)

Locations (Taipei only):

Fuxing Store: No. 42, Section 1, Fùxīng South Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei (across from Breeze Center)
Nearest MRT: Zhongxiao Fuxing

Bistro 98 Store: Level 5, No. 98, Section 4, Zhōngxiào East Rd, Daan District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Zhongxiao Fuxing

KMall Store: Level 5, No. 50, Section 1, Zhōngxiào West Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Taipei Main Station

National Taiwan University Store: Level 3, No. 68, Section 4, Roosevelt Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Gongguan

Neo 19 Store: Level 2, No. 22, Sōngshòu Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Taipei City Hall

Zhongshan Store: No. 6, Nánjīng West Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Zhongshan

Q Square Store: Level 4, No. 1, Section 1, Chéngdé Rd, Datong District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Taipei Main Station

Global Mall Store: Level 4, No. 122, Section 3, Zhōngshān Rd, Zhonghe District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: Fuzhong
(02) 8228-7191

Ramen Kagetsu Arashi (Taipei)

November 24, 2011 in Best Of, Food, Reviews, Taiwan, Travel

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)
(02) 2389-1998

Xinyi Vieshow
2nd Floor of Vieshow Cinemas food court at Xinyi district (closest MRT: Taipei City Hall)
(02) 2729-2128

Eslite (Dunhua)
B1 Floor food court of Eslite at 245 Dunhua South Road (closest MRT: Zhongxiao Dunhua)
(02) 2778-5777

Hankyu Department Store
B2 Floor food court of Hankyu Department Store (closest MRT: Taipei City Hall)
(02) 8789-3030

Nanxi Shin Kong Mitsukoshi
B1 Floor of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store Hall 2 at 14 Nanjing West Road (closest MRT: Zhongshan)
(02) 2562-0011