What’s better than having ramen? Slurping ramen during a rainy day.
Manila and many parts of the country have been inundated by rain since last month and aside from slurping local favorites such as sinigang, batchoy, mami, champorado and arroz caldo, the Japanese noodle dish is gaining more following in the country.
While a few years back, Japanese restaurants serving good authentic ramen in Manila were not abundant, nowadays you could find one in most parts of the metro. Take Ramen Yushoken in Alabang.
Ramen Yushoken probably tops the list of ramen-ya these days. I know it tops my list. Before it opened, we were already hearing some buzz about it as restaurateur Elbert Cuenca had traveled to Tokyo to go and try bowls and bowls of ramen (lucky!). Months later he opened a ramen-ya serving ramen derived from Japan’s “Ramen God” Kazuo Yamagishi, inventor of the tsukemen (dipping noodles), proprietor of the legendary Taishoken ramen shop in Ikebukuro, and adorable-looking old man who regularly sits outside his restaurant. His successor (or “son of ramen god”) came to the country to make sure that the different varieties of ramen to be served in Yushoken are at par with ramen god’s champion ramen houses. What a build up, right?
Since a queue often forms outside the resto during lunch and dinner hours, we were there even before it opened at 11 am. Yushoken serves ramen in a rich, thick tonkotsu broth base (made from boiling pork bones over several hours). Being a fan of miso (soy bean paste), I stick to my favorite even if it’s described
as the most rich soup in the menu; the hubby got shoyu.
Understandably, expectations were high. It opened December last year and it didn’t disappoint as fellow ramen-loving friends kept singing it praises. Because it entailed a bit of a drive from where we lived, P and I only got around to trying it, five months after it opened. And it was worth the long drive, the gas and the toll fee that Saturday morning.
What I love about miso ramen is that it’s a hearty, bold soup with layers of flavors and Yushoken’s version piles it all on your palate without holding any punches. Soybean paste (Yushoken uses seven kinds, apparently), ginger, menma (bamboo shoots) and the sweet, savory pork broth with its fatty sheen on top almost provocative, they all come together for a heady ramen experience. And the noodles! They put up a bit of fight in every bite, just as how it should be.
Yushoken’s Shoyu (soy-sauce based) ramen has the same opaque, almost milky broth but the flavors are more subdued. It seems like a confident bowl of soup that doesn’t see the need to knock your taste buds out. While it has the same flavorful pork base, there’s a a straightforward salty component and a nutty sesame taste that I love. The bigger slices of chashu also helped. And while I was impressed with Yushoken’s miso ramen (it’s the best I’ve tasted among all the bowls of miso ramen I’ve tried here), its shoyu tonkotsu made me want to abandon my bowl. When I find myself in Yushoken again, I will have to go for the Shoyu.
Oh, and don’t forget to order a side of their aji tamago. I love egg. I should write a story entirely about egg. And among the many egg dishes around, ajitsuke tamago or marinated soft-boiled egg is the one I am most in awe of. Yushoken does a great aji tamago–a firm white but a soft and runny yolk. It’s egg heaven. And I savor every bite with a slurp of noodles and soup.
Yushoken address: Molito Lifestyle Mall, Madrigal Avenue cor. Commerce St., Alabang, Muntinlupa, phone: 808-7424
Because Yushoken is quite a drive from where we live, the next best thing (it’s just in the nearby mall) for another good bowl of ramen is at Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen.
In keeping with the trend of having popular Japanese ramen houses behind local ramen-ya, Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen is a new ramen player in the country, which is part of the Yamagoya Ramen and Y.S. Food Co. Ltd, helmed by Mananori Ogata, supposedly the “Ramen King of Japan.” So you’ve got your gods and royalty of ramen.
Ikkoryu has a more extensive menu (it has salads, appetizers, stir-fried dishes, deep-fried dishes, etc.), but it also serves ramen with a tonkotsu base. The soup is hearty but not as guilt-inducing as Yushoken’s. I got Ajitama Tonkotsu (the egg did me in) and P ordered the Black Garlic Tonkotsu. The latter is a bestseller with the roasted garlicky flavor, which cuts the rich pork broth flavor well.
In Ikkoryu, you can choose how you want your noodles–soft, normal or hard. (Unless you have trouble chewing, I suggest you steer clear of soft noddles in your ramen.) I was satisfied with my choice: the egg was lovely, the broth just the right salty, fatty flavor, but the noodles a bit thin from what I’m used to and the chashu forgettable, I still easily managed to finish my bowl .
While I prefer Yushoken’s shoyu ramen among all four (and even more than Ukokkei’s miso ramen), I’m happy to get my ramen fix in nearby Ikkoryu. And in this rainy weather, I wish I could have some ramen now.
Branches: Level 5, East Wing, Shangri-La Mall, Mandaluyong City, phone: 447-8333; Level 2 SM Aura Premier