Geek Review: IPPUDO x Les Trois Chocolats Collaboration Brings Exquisite Hakata Flavour To The Table

Individually, ramen eatery IPPUDO and Les Trois Chocolats are already a force to be reckoned with. While the latter might not have a presence on local shores like the ramen heavyweight, it has successfully captured the hearts of many in Hakata and Paris, and established itself as a favourite among foodies. Bring the two well-loved juggernauts together, and an exquisite Hakata dining experience awaits.

On August 17 and 18, 2019, the cosy premises of IPPUDO’s Tanjong Pagar outlet is set to welcome the first-ever IPPUDO x Les Trois Chocolats collaboration, with the addition of a specially-crafted menu. The collective brainchild of IPPUDO’s founder Shigemi Kawahara and third-generation owner of Les Troi Chocolats, Emiko Sano, the menu includes handcrafted appetisers, a special dashi ramen, and various artisanal chocolate desserts – born out of a shared passion to bring the flavors of Hakata to the world. 

First on the list is a glass of welcome champagne and a light snack in the form of Cheese Senbei. Sporting the combination of Hakata mentaiko and caviar, it adds a flavourful touch to the crisply-baked starter that comes nicely tucked on top of a bamboo box. The light golden-brown shade makes for increased appeal, although it does seem to bring along a slightly strong burnt taste that some may frown at. Thankfully, that’s finely balanced out with the serving of dried noodles in the container, which also helps to reduce the cloying sensation typical of cheese-based dishes. There’s none here, to much delight. 

Next, the appetisers. The Salmon Roll with Wasabi Yuzu Sauce, Beef Tataki with Consomme Jelly, Deep-Fried Snow Crab, Zucchini with Soy Sauce Powder, Crispy Spring Roll with Balsamic Sauce, and Fresh Figs and Proscuitto are freshly plated around the Japanese Cold Corn Soup. The eating order is reminiscent of Paradise Dynasty’s concept with their flavoured xiaolongbao, in which the diner is encouraged to start from the lighter palates to the heavier ones. 

In this case, the salmon rolls are the designated starting point, set to be followed up by the sauce-ladled spring rolls, and finished off with the corn soup-dipped noodles. Indeed, the dishes grew increasingly heavy-flavoured, and each one went down well enough – very well, in fact. The one that stood out in particular was the Beef Tataki with Consomme Jelly: the meat was just the right amount of tender, dissolving nicely in the mouth, and allowing for ease in swallowing. 

The Crispy Spring Roll with Balsamic Sauce, meanwhile, is a little underwhelming compared to the rest. While the two ingredients are more than complementary, none of that flavour is strongly brought out, resulting in a respectable-but-hardly-memorable experience. Fans of maize will be glad to know that the Japanese Cold Corn Soup boasts a pleasant sweetness, especially with the noodles soaking up the broth. Despite the balance, the starchy taste of corn may still be too overpowering for some. 

Accompanying the above would be the Summer Vegetables with Gazpacho Sherbet that packs in natural sweetness. Topped with colorful, finely-diced vegetables, it presents an appetising aesthetic, and does a good job at mixing in all the flavours. The recommended eating method is to bite into it all at once to prevent the saccharine tang from bordering on cloying territory, but sweet-toothed individuals may just appreciate that honeyed punch. As the base is soft, it can be rather difficult to handle it with utensils, so the best way would perhaps be to eat it in one mouthful. 

But it’s not IPPUDO without ramen and the main delicacy takes the form of the IPPUDO Special Dashi Ramen, with a special, pleasant twist in tow – instead of using one standard base, the dish combines two different kinds of dashi stock. Porcini and shiitake mushrooms are brought into the mix together with kelp, and this vegetable-based medley will later blend into the meat combination of beef and chicken. 

The result is a silky-smooth, delectable broth bursting with great flavour. Despite its richness, there’s nary a hint of saltiness detected beyond the bare minimum, which will certainly fall in flavour favour with diners of the lighter palate. Bid farewell the unpleasant, scratching experience in the throat that comes with the consumption of sodium. The piping hot meal will be served with the usual toppings as well, from the staple ajitsuke tamago and bamboo shoots to chashu and leek.

Unlike most ramen, this one doesn’t serve pork chashu. Instead, it’s swapped out for chicken chashu pieces, prepared to the perfect tenderness. With its multifaceted taste, the ramen is indeed an impressive little dish. 

Rounding up the menu would be the dessert selection of Ringo Exotic, and the Le Trio Chocolats trio – Cacao, Bon Bon Chocolats, and Lime Meringue. Featuring the citrus, herbaceous notes of apple, yuzu, ginger, basil, mango, and passionfruit, the first entry bears a primarily sour tang, which is balanced out by the fine serving of vanilla ice-cream on top. It’s recommended that to have the whole dessert together, simply because sinking your teeth into the Ringo Exotic after having the ice-cream separately will give rise to a painfully sour experience. 

An observation that’s worth of note is the freshness of the mango. It may be more sour than it’s sweet, but the firm texture gives off a very refreshing, welcome taste in the mouth. 

The Les Trois Chocolats set, meanwhile, sports a refined, interesting arrangement. Lined up beside one another, the Cacao, Bon Bon Chocolats, and Lime Meringue introduce a layered texture to the dessert, blending in the contrasting flavours of bitterness (Cacao), sourness (Lime Meringue), and chocolatey sweetness (Bon Bon Chocolats). The best part of it all? This is the only opportunity for diners to savour them outside of France and Hakata.

Depending on the eating order, one will most probably be stronger-tasting than the others, but the fact remains that the palates are surprisingly complementary, and most certainly go down the throat nicely. Once the plate is cleared, diners will just have to drink the accompanying cup of clear tea to cleanse their palates. Though the taste comes across as a little strange, its refreshing nature is most certainly welcome.

Priced at S$70++, the exclusive IPPUDO x Les Trois Chocolats dining experience is only available for a limited-time run on August 17 and 18, 2019. Seats are limited to 24 per session, with 4 seatings per day at 12pm, 2pm, 5pm, and 7pm, and interested parties are to purchase their tickets beforehand. As of now, however, all of them have already been sold – hardly surprising, considering the sheer prestige and potential of this team-up. 

As it turns out, the two brands have more than done their diners justice. It’s exquisite Hakata flavour in the house, y’all.