Bowls of ramen that are infinitely customisable and mouthwateringly memorable.
I still don’t know if this place is big in Japan or something because from the day it opened, Kanbe at Mont Kiara’s 163 Retail Park has seen unprecedented crowds. The hordes of ramen lovers stand diligently in front of its curtained entrance, the queue sometimes snaking to the coffee house across the corridor. We had been biding our time to try this place, determined to jump in if we ever saw less than five people in the queue. Finally, we got our shot during CNY when the city was dead.
Ambience & Amenities
The inside of Kanbe looks very utilitarian. Aside from some Japanese plaques on the wall, there’s no overt design choice. This is the kind of place that emphasises eating your noodles and leaving, not hanging out for hours. There are some basic tables against the wall while the seats at the counter look directly into the open kitchen.
Down the centre of the restaurant are some interesting tables that show how many singles endure the queue to enjoy a bowl of Kanbe ramen. Wooden dividers stand in the middle of the table so guests dining alone have privacy and don’t have to look at the person across from them unattractively slurping up noodles. Genius! If you come as a couple or group, the dividers can easily be moved so everyone can see each other.
It’s clear that the restaurant does not like dawdlers and would highly prefer it if you knew exactly what you want to order before you even sit down. Since we got a seat immediately and had zero time to look over the menu, we had to tell three different servers that we needed a couple more minutes to decide. They smiled warmly and offered suggestions, but we noticed their impatient drumming fingers on the counter.
There is no toilet inside Kanbe, so don’t go wandering through that doorway with the curtain covering it – that’s the restaurant’s storage area. The nearest washroom is in the mall just across the way. Go over the bridge and down the corridor behind Whisk Coffee.
While you’re in the queue to get in, you’ll have plenty of time to look over Kanbe’s menu. The menu will usually be accompanied by a slip where you circle all of the preferred options for your ramen. The main choice diners will have to make boils down to two: regular ramen or tsukemen ramen. Tsukemen is the kind where you dip your noodles into a separate bowl filled with broth. Both will have a “Kakuni” option, which is braised pork. After that, the ramen combinations are endless. There are eight different flavours of broth, five levels of spiciness and a bunch of extra ingredients you can add for an additional fee.
Click on menu pictures to enlarge
Rounding out the rest of the Kanbe menu are nibbles like chicken karaage, shumai or small plates of veggies. These items are not on the order slip, so you’ll have to inform the server directly if you want to order one of these. To drink, there’s beer, soda and a mysterious Japanese drink that I can only guess is an isotonic beverage. I’m not sure about filtered water but black oolong tea, hot or cold, is free.
Every dine-in guest will have access to a smorgasbord of complimentary side dishes and toppings. These are unlimited and all you can eat. There’s spicy pickled mustard leaf (karashi takana), garlic bean sprouts (karashi moyashi), spicy miso paste, soy sauce, spicy salt and fried onions. A more detailed description of the first three items is on the first page of the menu.
I chose the Sakura Ramen (RM31.20). As you can see from my order sheet above, I more or less chose the default option for each customisation. The most noteworthy distinction was that Mark added a “flavor egg”, a beige hard-boiled egg infused with soy flavour. Both bowls of ramen we ordered had almost identical ingredients so I’ll mostly go into detail about my bowl.
Even with forgoing all the costly extras, the standard bowl of ramen at Kanbe comes with more than enough ingredients. There were two very thick and hearty slices of pork, a handful of green onions, a sheet of seaweed and enough black fungus to last the entire bowl. The pork was lean on the bottom with a cap of fat on top. It was savoury and tender without falling apart, easy to bite through in between slurps of noodles.
The shrimp in the broth was so fragrant I could smell it as it was being placed in front of me. The rich sakura broth was more creamy looking and opaque than Mark’s Kohaku bowl. The shrimp flavours are more dominant, but the pork bone is still apparent as a background note. After tasting Mark’s “normal” soup, I definitely think that I am only going to choose the “rich” option for my soup base from now on, no matter the flavour.
I like firm ramen, but I chose normal firmness to get a sense of Kanbe’s baseline bowl of noodles. I was pleased to feel that the noodles were just the right level of hardness when I began eating. They got slightly softer by the bottom of the bowl, though not to an unpleasant level. The noodles are thinner than I’ve had in ramen, but still had a satisfying texture when I had a mouthful of them.
This is undeniably a great bowl of ramen. You don’t get ginormous queues like Kanbe does if the food isn’t extraordinary. Every bowl is crafted by the person ordering it. The other ramen shops I’ve been to only allow you to choose what type of flavoured oil you want, and most times there are only about four options! Kanbe, however, allows for all sorts of adjustments, many of which do not require an extra surcharge. I love the additional freebies, like the bottomless veggies and tea. The tea is a small touch but makes a difference. Drinking plain water with ramen just doesn’t taste as good.
The price is a bit high, but you will be satiated after a bowl of Kanbe ramen. The portions are quite large and the free side dishes should fill the belly of any guest. As much as I’m craving a bowl right now, this won’t be a regular place for us as I loathe the long queues involved. I’ll have to be content with visiting on the four days of the year when Kanbe is actually quiet enough to walk in without much waiting.
Price for 2 Pax: RM65.40
Ramen Kohaku: RM31.20
Additional Flavour Egg for Ramen Kohaku: RM3.00
Ramen Sakura: RM31.20
Address: Lot GF-08 (Ground floor, next to Brew House), 163 Retail Park, No. 8 Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara 50480, Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am – 9pm
Alcohol Served: Yes