When Chef Tan-san dishes out his Tonkatsu to us at Hajime, we knew this place special. 25 years ago, this Singaporean chef was training in Japan to master the art of Tonkatsu. He eventually completed his training, and came back to Singapore in the 90s to helm the kitchen of the very first Tonkichi, making him the Nation’s First Tonkatsu Chef.
However, he was not done yet. Chef Tan took up another challenge, helming the kitchen of the first Tampopo restaurant, building it from ground up. In his tenure as Pioneer Chef of Tampopo, he invented numerous famous dishes, like the now-popular Tonkatsu Ramen and Kurobuta Tonkatsu.
His passion for Japanese cuisine led him to start his own restaurant Hajime Tonkatsu & Ramen at myVillage @ Serangoon Gardens. “Hajime” is the Japanese word for “beginning” and the short form for “Hajimemashite”, which means “nice to meet you”. He wants to spread his philosophy of going back to the food’s beginning and welcoming all customers warmly.
Bringing over 25 years of experience to the kitchen, the Premium Pork Loin (S$21.90nett) is a premium cut of Japanese Air Flown Sangenton Pork, chosen for its exquisite juiciness and tenderness. Each piece of loin is tenderised and breaded upon customer’s order. To bring out the freshness and quality of the pork, there is no pre-seasoning or marination done.
It is dunked in fresh breadcrumbs for that extra crunch and accompanied by the crunchy and refreshing cabbage, which goes very well with Tonkatsu. The timing for when to remove it from the oil is something learned from the owner’s many years of experience. We visited the kitchen and saw how Chef Tan uses a special technique to drain off the oil from all Katsu as much as possible to rid the greasiness.
When served, you should first grind their premium roasted sesame seeds with Tonkatsu sauce before dipping your pork in it to enhance its flavours. The crunchy cabbage is freshly sliced and washed multiple times with ice water to rid the raw taste. Our meal is complete with the Niigata rice, grown in pristine waters from melting snow, then milled locally to lock in freshness. All Tonkatsu sets come with FREE FLOW of rice and cabbage.
New in the menu is Ebi Fry Ramen (S$16.90nett). The Tonkotsu Base Broth is simmered in-house for 12 hours and infused with a secret Sakura Ebi Paste made in house for the extra oomph. No added MSG is added, it’s all natural goodness. Hajime uses Nama Noodles which is produced by a Japanese Company using Japan Flour right here in Singapore to ensure the freshness.
The Ebi Fry is not pre-breaded but only breaded and fried upon order. Fresh bread crumbs are used for the extra crunchiness. Tasted exceptionally well with our home-made tartar sauce. Added into the ramen is their Loin Rib Chashu, marinated in-house using a special recipe sauce. It is topped off with bamboo shoots imported from Japan, bean sprouts, a dash of Japanese chilli oil and a generous sprinkle of crispy Sakura Ebi.
We also tried the Tonkatsu Ramen ($14.90), with a tasty egg added at a price of $2. The ramen was flavourful and comforting but not impressive. The deep-fried pork is ordinary – it was still crispy but its meat, was not as tender and juicy. I would gladly chose the Premium Pork Loin over this.
Another recommendation was Nagoya Miso Fillet (S$19.50nett). The highlight here will be the Miso which they curated from Nagoya, Japan. The recipe is bolstered with red wine and tonkotsu broth. Deep fried till perfection, the fillet is done just right with a touch of pink in the middle, thus ensuring the tenderness by not over-cooking it.
Curry lovers can go for Chicken Katsu Curry (S$16.90nett). Chef Tan-San used 3 types of curry paste for his version of curry blend. Using our 12hours simmered Tonkotsu Broth as the base, the curry has a rich & flavorful taste to it, pairs well with the fluffy Niigata Rice. The chicken katsu is prepared the same way as their famous Tonkatsu, resulting in a tender and juicy in the inside while light & crispy on the outside. The set is served a side of cabbage drizzled in home-made sesame sauce and watermelon.
Besides their best-selling Tonkatsu and Ramen, Hajime also serves a variety of side dishes, Donburi, curry dishes and desserts. Chef Tan-San give a slight twist to this all-time favourite Katsu Don (S$13.90nett). Instead of cooking the Pork Fillet Katsu with the sauce & egg, they have the katsu laid over the Niigata rice with Nori (seaweed) pieces in between them. Then they added the runny eggs, which has been cooked together with caramelised onions & home-made Donburi sauce, laid over the katsu. While some of the sauce will flow through into the rice blending well, the crunchiness of the katsu will remain.
We also enjoyed their Gyoza ($6.90) where savoury fillings are enveloped within their thin gyoza skin and fried to a golden brown.
Located at Serangoon Gardens, this unpretentious eatery is an ideal spot to enjoy Tonkatsu. There was one particular waitress who was friendly and very helpful, taking their service standards up a notch. There are so many Japanese establishments popping up in Singapore recently but how do you know which is worth your money and calories? Well, for a start, Hajime Tonkatsu and Ramen may be a good choice!
P/S THERE IS NO SERVICE CHARGE HERE!
Hajime Tonkatsu & Ramen
Address: #02-07/8/9, myVillage@Serangoon Gardens, 1 Maju Avenue, Singapore 556679
Phone: 6509 9952
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11.30am to 3pm (lunch) and 6pm to 10pm (dinner). Sat, Sun & PH 11.30am to 3pm (lunch) and 5pm to 10pm (dinner).
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