The Meh Files: Ramen Butcher

Tonkotsu tasty,

Potential not converted
At Ramen Butcher.
Consumer behavior is a field that is studied to no end.  Its correct analysis leads to profitable product launches and continued success. 
So how would one read the behavior of consumers when a product receives an 80% approval rating during a promotional period but then see its approval rating drop to 60% when the price promotion is removed?
This was the conundrum I was trying to sort out about Ramen Butcher.  

I figured it was either:
  • Ramen Butcher makes a good bowl of noodle but people were outraged that the regular price is about $10 per portion.      


~ OR ~ 
  • The noodles are average but consumers loved the discounted price.  (I’m scared of these people to be honest – will eat & love anything as long as it’s cheap enough)


~ OR ~ 
  • The drop in approval has nothing to do with the product and more a backlash to the hype and buzz generated by Ramen Butcher. 


I trekked out to Ramen Butcher to seek a solution.  On my first visit, as soon as I saw the menu from my spot in the line-up, I knew there maybe some issues.


Instead of seeing original creations unique to Ramen Butcher, I saw copies / homages of signature items from Ramen Jinya, Marutama, and even Gyoza Bar + Ramen.  There wasn’t a signature dish on the menu that Ramen Butcher could call its own.


I selected the Black ramen and original gyoza.  The Black Ramen is similar to Ramen Jinya’s Tonkotsu Black ramen with the inclusion of black garlic oil and crispy garlic chips.  To complete the noodle bowl, half an ajitsuke egg, pickled ginger, wood ear fungus, green onions and aburi cha-su (I always select the fatty cut) were included. 
Despite my reservations, the cloudy tonkotsu broth was real, real good.  It is rich, full bodied and complex.  Unlike Santouka’s smooth tonkotsu, one could detect bone, fat and collagen notes in the soup. 


Like Santouka, the noodles are wispy.  I didn’t think they worked with the robust broth – not enough bite or taste.  In addition, due to their thinness, the texture of the noodles became mushier and mushier as I continued eating.
(Oddly on my second visit, a dining companion took the restaurant up on their offer of a free refill of noodles.  Those free noodles were executed better and were much firmer.)


The noodles got lost in the bowl and so was the garlic oil.  In fact, it was kind of missing in action.  At Jinya, the black slick is in your face aromatic and attacks your palate.  In comparison, I could barely detect the garlic oil in my Black ramen.
As a whole, the Black ramen was not up to par and paled in comparison to Jinya’s edition.  In contrast, the original gyozas were much tastier and better executed. 


The pork filling was moist and just had a hint of ginger.  The dumplings were nicely fried up.  More importantly they weren’t glued together and could be easily picked out of the bunch without damaging the skin of gyoza.
The Chinatown ramen shop nailed the tonkotsu broth, which is half the battle when trying to produce a superior bowl of noodle.  For that reason alone, I was willing to give Ramen Butcher another shot and paid them a second visit, even though I felt my 1stmeal was underwhelming.


Upon my return, I went with their Tori Ramen, which is their chicken broth based menu entry.  To my surprise, this ramen came with a thicker, chewier and more kansui added noodle.  I like the noodle as it fared better holding its firm texture throughout my meal and added another component to my experience.


The clear broth itself was bit salty for my liking but it did have noticeable chicken flavour.  All the toppings, half an ajitsuke egg, bamboo, green onions, seaweed and aburi pork cha-su, were nicely executed.


To round out my meal I went with the kookiest gyoza option, cheese.  Upon a closer inspection of the 4 types of gyozas offered, I realized it’s not really 4 different types of gyoza with a distinct filling for each.  It’s simply the same pork gyoza with various toppings.


The cheese topping was a fail.  It was not detectable in some bites and in others it just added a fatty taste that wasn’t all that pleasant. 
To answer my consumer behavior question, I think it is simply a combination of people initially loving the discounted price and a slight backlash at the hype and buzz.
Although I liked my Tori ramen more than the Black ramen, I felt my second visit wasn’t an improvement on my first.  There’s nothing at Ramen Butcher that compels me to return.
Considering how near a lot of the ramen-yas are to one another, I really feel that if I want:


It’s not that Ramen Butcher offers horrible food; in fact I like its tonkotsu broth. There’s just nothing unique about the place that beckons me to come back for another meal.  

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I like your conclusion! Well said! 🙂 that's how I feel too


  2. grayelf says:

    I agree as well — the pork broth is excellent. The lean chashu was meh, the fatty a bit better. The black garlic was MIA. Our noodles were done properly, having ordered them “hard” in bad Japanese ;-). Nothing unique here, and it's really loud.


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