I have declared my love for ramen in this blog a number of times. Last year’s trip to Japan sealed my devotion to the Japanese noodle dish with my very first authentic ramen encounter in Tokyo. Because of this love for ramen, my husband and I find ourselves trying a different ramen restaurant every time we can manage to squeeze it in during the weekend, when we feel like indulging a bit (ramen is not really the healthiest dish out there), or when we have the budget for it (most good bowls of ramen go for PHP200 to PHP300, around 400 to 600 Yen, cheap in Japan standards, not that cheap here in the Philippines).
The past two weekends, P and I were able to try two new ramen restaurants in Metro Manila. One in Makati and the other in our neighborhood in Quezon City.
Nomama Artisanal Ramen. Ever since I tasted Chef Him Uy de Baron’s food in one magazine event (he’s also a consultant for popular Pinoy restaurant Max’s), I knew I liked the way the man cooked. There are always layers of flavors and something pleasantly unexpected about his food. When I interviewed him for Yummy magazine back in February and he mentioned that he wanted to open a ramen restaurant, I made a mental note. Another bowl of ramen to look forward to in Manila.
It finally opened this month; right across Max’s Restaurant and parallel to busy Tomas Morato. Immediately, I loved the interiors. Bare cement walls, simple black and white furniture, and a wooden bar facing the open kitchen (look up at the ceiling for the clever hooks and lights). But enough about the interiors, we came for the food.
Judging from the menu, this is not solely a ramen-ya. It has quite a number of appetizers, salads, and main dishes. Some are straightforward Japanese (want some gyoza?), but most take generous inspiration from Japanese flavors and ingredients while also infused with other familiar Asian components.
The Seafood Kilawin ala Japonaise has fresh tanigue and prawns in ginger, finger chili and a coconut citrus dressing. It doesn’t scream Japanese; it actually made me think of food from my mom’s hometown in Bicol where gata (coconut milk) is a major component in cooking.
The Beef Tataki with Chips is a popular starter. Scoop out some seared and hand-chopped Wagyu sirloin onto a sweet potato chip for a wonderful bite of textures.
Now about their ramen.
Nomama has only three kinds of ramen. The inventiveness of Chef Him with the rest of the menu is also apparent in his ramen. No simple and straightforward, shio (salt based), shoyu (soya sauce based), miso or tonkotsu (pork based) ramen on the menu as what I’ve been used to in ramen restos here helmed by Japanese chefs or the neighborhood ramen-yas in Tokyo, which usually specialized in only one kind of ramen.
You’ve got Nomama Ramen, which is made of its house pork stock, special miso-sesame blend, and topped with slices of chashu or simmered pork belly and egg; Ox Tongue and Chili Tofu, which also has the house pork stock as its base and braised ox tongue and chili tofu sauce; and the one which we didn’t get to taste yet, Thai Green Curry Ramen, which is made of green curry paste in coconut broth and has seared chicken fillet, bokchoy and peas.
The Nomama Ramen has this thick cloud of sweet, almost garlicky and nutty pork broth. I love the soup as much as the juicy slices of chashu and that gorgeous soft-boiled egg (ajitsuke tamago)–with the thick, soupy yolk cradled in the gelatinous whites. (I was given a “recipe” if you can call it that, on how to make this Japanese soft-boiled egg so I shall try it one of these days.) Slurping my way through that bowl of ramen did not transport me back to one of the neighborhood ramen counters in Tokyo. It didn’t taste like any Japanese ramen I’ve tasted. And if the chef’s aim was to have his own interpretation of a satisfying Japanese ramen all his own, well he did it. And it’s something I’ll go back for.
P had the Ox Tongue Ramen. He recommends mixing the chili tofu into the broth before slurping to taste its spicy components. For him the ox tongue was perfectly cooked. We want to drop by again to taste the Green Curry Ramen and the soft-shell crab starter. A meal costs around PHP400 to PHP600 per person. So maybe the next visit will be on the next paycheck.
Nomama Artisanal Ramen G/F FSS Bldg 2, Scout Tuason corner Scout Castor Streets, Quezon City; phone: (63) 917-5228272, (632) 5422558
Raku Hokkaido. I heard about this Makati restaurant from my sister after a friend who lived nearby took her there for dinner. P and I went one Saturday, a little before lunch. We walked from the Ayala Triangle Park, took the underpass to cross Paseo de Roxas, and walked along Valero Street to find it. Far from the malls, the street where it was located was almost empty. I excitedly pointed the resto to P when I saw it. (Something about walking and finding what you’re searching for gets me easily excited. Reminds me of being in another city, traveling. Or maybe just the fact that I was going to taste ramen.)
The place is pretty small (unlike the very spacious and loft-like interiors of Nomama), but it’s very Japanese in design in a way that it’s quite tightly packed. The space has a very intimate vibe…or maybe because at 11:30 a.m. we were the first customers for lunch.
Tonkotsu and miso-based ramen are my favorites, so I ordered the pork-based ramen. It didn’t have that thick, almost milky broth to it that I’ve come to associate tonkotsu ramen with and it was a bit salty for my taste. P, however liked the saltiness and happily finished my bowl. He ordered the Seafood Ramen, which we were told was a bestseller. I liked how light the broth was. You’d think we would exchange ramen, but no. We stuck to our bowls and made a pact to return and order another type of ramen. Because honestly, you cannot judge a ramen-ya with just a bowl or two of ramen. There’s so much ramen goodness to try.
I do dream about going to Hokkaido to see the lavender fields in Furano and having a bowl of ramen there. But for now, there are still many, many bowls of hot, tasty ramen in Manila to slurp.
Raku Hokkaido Le Grand Condominium 130 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City; phone: (632) 5336635