Kakurega Ramen Factory
Room 7083, 7/F, Dragon Centre, 37 Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po
Tel: 3487 0989
Open: 11am-3pm, 6pm-9pm, although they close early if they run out of noodles.
Cuisine: Japanese noodles, or to be specific, tsukemen - room temperature noodles served with the warm dipping broth on the side.
Price: less than HK$100 without drinks and the service charge.
Ambience: basic. The walls of this tiny shop that seats only about 25 look like unfinished, unpainted wooden hoarding. Tables are made of wooden boards propped up on plastic soft-drink crates, while diners sit on the same type of crates.
Pros: the menu is short, with only three choices for the dipping broth.
Cons: we had to wait 15 minutes beyond the opening time of 11am before they opened the doors. Free-spirited types might find the pictorial instructions on the proper way to eat tsukemen too dictatorial: you're not supposed to drink the broth at the beginning (it should be drunk at the end, after being diluted), and you shouldn't pour the broth over the noodles (the noodles should be dunked in the broth). We all disliked the 'red' dipping broth (HK$98), which, with the addition of the 'fireball' spicy meatballs (HK$15 each), tasted too much like room temperature spaghetti and meatballs.
Recommended dishes: the basics for the dishes were good. The noodles were toothsome. The pork - thinly sliced and tasting slightly cured - was tender, with just enough fat, and the soft-cooked egg had a gooey yolk and was well-seasoned. The 'white' broth (HK$78) had a large blob of finely grated bonito that needed to be stirred into the soup, and was as intense as it should be. With its mound of garlic puree and sliced chillies, the black version (HK$88) looked overwhelming, but the flavour was toned down when eaten with the noodles.
What else? When this place first opened, the queues were so long that people were turned away. The hype has died down, and by the time we left at about noon, there were still seats available. One visit was enough to satisfy our curiosity.