A friend of mine avoids the hipsters’ area. To name a few – Tiong Bahru, Ann Siang, Duxton, and Keong Saik. To quote her, it’s where “pretentious people hang out and drink”. To each her own.
Whether is a hipster/wannabe/fashionable/trendy area, it’s undeniable that Keong Saik is that one street which transformed from a former red-light district flanked with brothels, to a dining strip with a range of offerings from tapas joint, casual bars, Thai style Mookata to awesome zhi char.
New on the list is ramen bar and izakaya Mariko’s, well named after a fictional manga Japanese prostitute. Perhaps paying tribute to Keong Saik’s past.
I really scaled the island for ramen, and find myself in this stylistic bar, almost empty except 4 or 5 customers on the weekday night. Mariko’s is the brainchild of the people behind Bartini at Club Street and British grub restaurant Retrospective just steps away.
The idea of the décor is to recreate the feeling of walking down a back alley in Japan. While I don’t exactly get that impression, the visual impact is every strong as you are presented with an entirely different mood at every corner of such a small space. Full marks for the interior design. Gorgeous and makes you feel you are in a different space and land.
Food is limited to mainly ramen, tempura and yakitoris, helmed by local chef Desmond Lim with more than 30 years of Japanese cuisine experience. My Tempura Moriawase ($22) of prawn, fish and vegetable tempura was crisp and great, though felt a tad pricey for its portion.
I had both the Tonkotsu Ramen ($16) and Gyunyu Miso Ramen ($16) with chicken char siew and fish broth. The entire bowl feels like a modern and Western interpretation to the traditional Japanese style of ramen, and reminds me of the Wagamama chains overseas.
The broth, while a lot thinner than usual, is still flavoursome. If you are used to the thick salty Keisuke and Menya Musashi, then this is quite the opposite. A pity the noodles were cooked too long and did not have a bouncy bite.
Mariko’s could do with more Japanese style bar bites to go with its entire theme. It’s a lovely place, but would I come back here again for ramen? I am obviously not the target customer. I admit, I am so not a hipster.
4 Jiak Chuan Road (diagonal to Keong Saik Street), Tel:+65 6221 8262
Hours: 12pm-midnight (Mon-Thu), 12pm-1am (Fri-Sat)
Other Ramen Entries
Keisuke Tonkotsu King Four Seasons (Bugis Village)
Daruma Ramen House (TripleOne Somerset)
Menya Sanji (Orchid Hotel, Tanjong Pagar)
Uma Uma Ramen (Forum Galleria)
Kitakata Rahmen Tamakichi (Orchard Plaza)