Friday, September 3, 2010

Ginza Bairin

Since its appearance at the food hall of ION Orchard in July 2009, readers should be familar with Ginza Bairin. And for those who are still pondering what it is, Ginza Bairin is a Tonkatsu specialty restaurant from Japan.


A brief history; Ginza Bairin was the very first Tonkatsu restaurant in Ginza and has been established since 1927. It got popular with its unique home-made Tonkatsu sauce and Tonkatsu recipes created by founder Nobukatsu Shibuya. Today, Masaya Shibuya, Nobukatu-san’s great grandson (i.e. third generation owner of Ginza Bairin) continues to innovate and introduce new dishes to reward Tonkatsu lovers as well as fans of the 83-year-old restaurant. Although the local outlet is managed by a Singaporean, rest assured that the owner has received training from Chef Masaya Shibuya in Japan.

Note that this is an invited food tasting from Ate Consulting for us to try Ginza Bairin’s expanded menu which now includes Special Black Pig (Kurobuta Pork), cute mini-katsu burger, ramen, etc and that this is not our first visit to Ginza Bairin.

Char Siew Ramen

We were quite surprised that this tonkatsu outlet does serve very good Tonkotsu Char Siew Ramen ($15.90). According to Danielle from Ate Consulting, the owner of the Singapore branch is a fan of ramen and makes it a point to perfect his very own array of ramen served at Ginza Bairin.

The cloudy white coloured broth is very creamy and rich in taste. The sweetness from boiling pork bones, fat and collagen over high heat for many hours make the soup very addictive that a non-soup drinker like Yuan cleans up the bowl. Since we have not visited Japan, our impression of most tonkotsu soup (we had) in Singapore are very salty and we are quite surprised how Ginza Bairin's soup base turns out.

Char Siew Ramen 2

The sliced pork (Chashu) are generally thicker than most we have come across and are tender, well braised with a sweet aftertaste. The ramen also comes with a hard-boiled soy sauce egg with a soft yolk. To be frank, I was alittle disappointed as the yolk wasn't runny and is closed to a 80% cooked egg. Like the Chashu, it is also on the sweeter side, probably due to the soy sauce used. Asked me about these "lava" eggs, my preference is inclined towards the ones served at Bishamon Sapporo Ramen.


Yuan has always been a fan of eggs and hence, his regular order at Ginza Bairin has always been the Special Katsudon, served with a sunny-side up. For some reasons, we have been ordering the regular Katsudon and it was until last week's tasting that we get to try Ginza Bairin's Special Black Pig Katsudon ($17.90 for a set).

Each Tonkatsu set is served with Tsukimono or pickled vegetables, Ginza Bairin’s special Tonkatsu sauce and their Tonjiru Miso Soup (a soup with filled with pieces of pork, radish and miso).

Black Pig is always described to be especially fragrant and tender; and that this specially sourced pork retains the moisture and juiciness of the meat even after being dipped into panko batter and deep fried. To us, the cutlet is clearly juicier and slightly more chewy (due to the fats) but what makes this Special Katsudon stands out is the sauce and egg used in the preparation. In other words, we are pretty fine with the cheaper Special Katsudon ($15.90).


Cheese Croquette ($3.00 per pc), is another signature dish of Ginza Bairin and the winning factor is not the melted cheese but rather the crunchiness of the panko and the soft texture of the potato.


Since this is a dessert blog, we have requested to try Ginza Bairin's desserts so that we can fit an entry for Ginza Bairin. Desserts are pretty limited in Ginza Bairin, as their specialty is Tonkatsu. Nevertheless, there are still Kurogoma (Black Sesame), Macha (Green tea) or Vanilla ice-cream served with either Shiratama (Japanese dumplings) or Warabimochi (a jelly-like confection made from bracken starch and covered with kinako (sweet toasted soybean flour)) ($5.90).

The Shiratama, Warabimochi and red bean sauce that comes with the ice-cream are good but the ice-cream is quite hard and frozen, thereby lacking the smooth, creamy texture that we are looking for.

Despite our previous visits to Ginza Bairin, we were quite surprised by the dishes we had during last week tasting. To be frank, we would not have thought of trying the ramen at Ginza Bairin, considering their specialty is Tonkatsu. Definitely looking forward to our next visit to Ginza Bairin to try their mini burgers and tonkatsu sandwiches.

Lastly, we would like to thank Jillyan and Xiaomin for the food tasting session and Danielle's recommendations and time to explain the dishes to us.

Ginza Bairin
ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn
Singapore 238801
Tel: 6509 8101

P.S. We did return to Ginza Bairin for a second round of Tonkotsu Char Siew Ramen and it seems that the noodle was overcooked, making its overall texture sticky. Apart from the small hiccup, the soup and Char Siew are consistently yummy.

The mini burgers were good for its crisp panko batter and tender pork cutlet. The bread is soft and the entire combination goes very well with a thin slice of tomato and Ginza Bairin’s special Tonkatsu sauce. However, we felt that it is quite pricey for just 3 bite-sized burgers ($6.50).

Pork Katsu sandwiches ($9.00) are clearly a better bet over the mini burgers for a bigger serving. The soft white bread seems to be a good alternative to rice.


Daniel said...

I got a friend who tried their hard boiled egg and told me he loved how the yolk hinted of sake sweetness. Not sure if he's imagining things. lolx

foodaholic said...

love the sandwiches, agree it's a better bet over the mini burgers. Wish we had more space for dessert!

Fen said...

Daniel, the egg is sweet but I am not sure about the sake part. Yuan credit it to the soya sauce used and frankly speaking, I prefer salty eggs over sweet eggs =)

Phoebe, the desserts are alittle disappointing though. I saw a couple of food tasting reviews on Ginza Bairin and I wonder how come everybody seems to have so much stomach space. We were so full after the Tonkatsu and ramen...

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