Episode 101: Of Cravings, Large Servings, and Ramen Shokudo

Satisfying a craving for ramen is quite easy nowadays, with the dozens of Japanese restaurants popping out in the metro for the past few years. But sometimes, just grabbing the nearest bowl of ramen within reach isn’t enough. If you’re going to eat ramen, you might as well get the most satisfying noodles that you can, right?

The invitation that day was a bit sudden: Maiya was craving for ramen, and she wanted to try out Ramen Shokudo, a new Japanese ramen restaurant in Quezon City. Being the ramen fan that I always am, I agreed to accompany her to dinner.

I found out later that Ramen Shokudo was a relatively new place. The restaurant opened last February 2017, and it boasts of serving authentic Yokohama-style ramen, made with 100 percent natural ingredients and no MSG. That’s quite a tall order.

To add to the authenticity of the restaurant, the dining area is set up in a cozy bar-style with a grand view of the action in the kitchen, similar to ramen bars in Japan. The area can accommodate about 22 people, which also means you may have to fall in line before you can get seated. Just like in Japan.

First off on our meal was their gyoza, the traditional ramen side dish. The gyoza had a crispy, salty, oily feel in it, complimented by the spicy kick of their gyoza sauce.

Along with the gyoza came the curry cheese roll, their best-selling appetizer, which is basically deep-fried gooey cheese rolls with curry drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise. The taste of the savory cheese and the spicy curry blended well, especially while it was hot.

Finally, it was time for the ramen.

Ramen Shokudo’s best-selling tantanmen is a bowl of thick, dense noodles resting on a rich broth and topped with a slice of juicy chasyu, ajitama, and minced pork. The result is a rush of spicy, creamy, meaty, oily, peanut-like flavors bursting in your palate.

Maiya ordered the shoyu ramen, noodles with a mix of pork and chicken broth in a savory soy sauce base and topped with menma, scallions, and ajitama. This variety is light and mildly salty, and is recommended for those who like simple, subtle flavors in their ramen.

The servings were large and quite heavy, but we still slurped our way through the noodles like it’s the biggest thing we’ve had in life. I’ve eaten tantanmen in a lo of places, but this has been the best and the most satisfying bowl I’ve had in years.

As for Maiya, judging by her reactions, it looks like eating at Ramen Shokudo satisfied her cravings in many ways. In the end, though, she could only finish three-fourths of her ramen, and she was so full by the time we left. Yup, the ramen must have been that heavy.  Not for me though, since I finished off mine with ease, but my stomach is a different story altogether.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Ramen Shokudo didn’t have dessert; otherwise our stomachs and waistlines would have been busted afterwards… except she started asking about that crepe shop I casually mentioned on the way home. Maybe next time.

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Ramen Shokudo
401 Banawe St., Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City
Tel. No.: (02) 247 7873

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P.S. It’s been months since I last blogged about food. Sure, I get to post on Instagram about my latest food adventures, but I’ve never had the time to write here. Looks like this latest assignment is my wake-up call to start eating – and writing – again.

Episode 61: So Much To Eat, So Little Time to Write About Them

Despite 2013 being an exciting year for foodies, with Filipino food in the spotlight and all the trends coming around, I haven’t been too active as far as my food writing is concerned. That’s because I had very little time to work on the blog since I was quite preoccupied with a lot of things, like straight hours at work, household chores, and battling Asgardians, among others.

Admittedly, life for me has been “work first, errands afterwards” for the past few months. I’m lucky enough to be able to spend some time during weekend afternoons for my blog, though lately, I‘ve devoted more time to the books I’m writing.

This doesn’t mean I stopped doing food raids. In fact, throughout the year, I was able to visit several new food spots, but I never got around posting about them.

1. Dimsum Break – This place at SM City North EDSA Annex became the source of my quick fix for my dimsum cravings. My favorites were the spiced eggs and the various steamed dumplings. I’m interested in the fact that dimsum is now being marketed not only as a side dish or an accompaniment to wine, but as a main course.  Unfortunately, I got too busy that I forgot.

2. Shawarma Snack Center – One of the favorite Middle-Eastern cuisine restaurants in the Malate area, Shawarma Snack Center (which opened in 1985) claims to be the first to introduce the shawarma to the Filipino market. I’ve tried only the shawarma, but I hope to dine there again and try their other dishes, if I can figure out how to make time to go to Manila first.

3. Mister Kebab – This is where I had my first encounter with Persian food. I frequently ordered the lamb biryani. Unfortunately, something happened (I came and went and nobody bothered to give me a menu for over fifteen minutes) and I stopped eating there until recently. Again, I will need more time to work on this post.

4. Chakra Café (The Third Eye Wellness Center) – Finding Chakra Café was accidental. I came to The Third Eye Wellness Center at Bonifacio Global City to try out one of their free healing sessions. It took me an hour or so of driving under the rain to find the place, so being able to dine there was a relief. I ordered their mushroom lasagna (supposedly good for the root and solar plexus chakras), and raw juice (root and heart) for lunch, which somehow made me feel like my healing abilities increased or something. Incidentally, the healer who tended to me said that if I get drowsy any time after my session, it means God is using His healing powers on me. I’m glad that God is working on healing me, except I wish He didn’t do it while I was driving in the middle of EDSA! 

5. King Katsu – This place follows a long line of katsu establishments in the metropolis. The food here is more affordable. They serve one of those Japanese Kirin Beers. Also, the mascot kinda reminds me of Gilgamesh from Fate/Zero. 

6. Yumi’s Taiyaki – This would be the first time I would try taiyaki, that fish-shaped Japanese sweet snack. At P40 a piece, it’s quite filling (I got three of them). 

7. Roku – Discovering this restaurant was accidental too. I was visiting Gelene, an online friend and fellow writer, when I spotted it. She sort of recommended the place, so off we went to have dinner there. I ordered their basic signature miso ramen, while she got a katsudon. I promised her that I’ll be back for a second raid, but driving from Novaliches to Diliman had become too strenuous for me.

I intend to make a proper food review again probably this January. The thing is, I also promised to work on writing my book full-time. So does this mean you’ll be seeing less of Unlimited Grub Grabs? Nah.

Episode 45: Sidewalk Ramen

Since I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, I took the time to stroll around Malate, Manila again on the weekend after. I didn’t really feel like hanging out or even drinking (I haven’t had alcohol for about three months now), so I just walked. I find it therapeutic somehow.
I’ve been planning to look for some hole-in-the-wall establishments in Malate. There are a lot of new dining spots and bars in the area, but I was hoping I could investigate the old favorites, and probably discover popular but hidden ones. At the moment, I have neither clues nor funds, but I thought I’d press my luck.
As always, Malate is lively, noisy, and crowded. Even with its modern restaurants, bars, and other tourist establishments, the district remains to be a melting pot of sights, sounds, cultures and social strata.
A small ramen stall at the sidewalk caught my attention as I walked along Adriatico Street. It was built as an annex of sorts of one of the nondescript bars in the area.
This watering hole sells cheap liquor (read: affordable even with the new sin tax) and local beer mates. There’s a TV that shows sports programs or music videos while disco music plays in the background. Most of the customers are foreigners with their Filipina wives or girlfriends. Sometimes, walking vendors enter the bar, selling cigarettes, wallets, or belts.
But back to that ramen stand. The stall reminds me of one of those traveling ramen bars in anime and manga, except it doesn’t have wheels. It’s surrounded by small tables (presumably the bar’s). In the stall are the ingredients, neatly arranged – the piping hot broth in a drum, the bundles of cooked egg noodles, and small containers of meat, spices, eggs, and menma (bamboo shoots).
The ramen stand sells freshly cooked and surprisingly cheap noodles. Each bowl costs P60, and they’re served either plain or spicy. Add P10 and you get half a boiled egg; add another P10 and you get a few small slices of chasyu; and yet another P10 and you get a few pieces of menma. In short, a full ramen bowl is worth P90!
It’s been a while since I had ramen, and since I don’t have the cash to visit one of the bigger Japanese restaurants in the area, I decided to get one.

The serving’s actually small, about half the usual bowl you see in most ramen bars. Despite that, the hot broth enhances the spiciness, and the noodles are firm and tasty. The extra ingredients are also prepared just fine. Cheap ramen is cheap, but I find this one to my liking.

Which reminds me, what makes a good ramen? Is it the broth? The noodles? The meat and vegetables? Is it the spices that have melted into the main ingredients? Is it the way everything is cooked? I’ve asked those questions many times, but never took the time to ponder them seriously.
A long time ago, I wanted to seek out some of the best ramen in Metro Manila. Of course other blogs have done something like that, but I just felt like doing one myself. Someday.
In any case, it’s good to find a new place to try out in Malate. It will take a while before I could visit, much more discover other good places – and other great ramen. For now, I intend to enjoy every sip and slurp of this sidewalk ramen.

Episode 19: Tweetup at Ramen Bar! Opening up to society, and then some!


tweetup (plural tweetups)
Noun – A real-life meeting organised on the social networking site Twitter.



Tweetups are great places to meet people you encounter over the Internet. It’s nice to interact face to face with people whom you only know through usernames and talk to through Twitter posts. Nothing beats making new connections at a personal level.


Believe it or not, I’m a newbie at going to tweetups and gatherings like these. Maybe it’s because I go out alone most of the time, or I don’t get invitations, or when I do I end up being out of place or “alone in a crowd”, so to speak. Call me socially inept, but that’s how it is.

So when I came across this invitation to a tweetup, I was eager to sign up. While joining a tweetup is a nice experience for an adventurer like me, there was actually another reason I was motivated into attending it.

The tweetup was to be held at Ramen Bar, a newly opened Japanese restaurant at the ground floor of Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City. Okay, so it’s newly opened but foodies in Metro Manila are already raving about this place and its food.

(Now if it’s ramen, and if it is authentic as they say, I am SO there.) 


Ramen Bar is owned by Charles Paw (also the owner of Digital Hub), Japanese chef Masa Ishikawa, and his friend Yoshi Kadowaki. As the name suggests, the place specializes in authentic ramen, the recipes of which are made by Chef Masa himself (who, I heard, has his own ramen bars in Nagoya, Japan).

There were other guests aside from the tweetup participants inside Ramen Bar; good thing there were chairs for those who were willing to wait for seats. The place is small with a fastfood feel in it; simple but a bit too plain for a specialty restaurant like this. The caricatures at the walls were funny though.

Before anything else, mealtime.

  

First stop is the R.B.S. #1 (Ramen Bar Special #1 – P380), a soy-infused tonkotsu ramen topped with tamago (soft-boiled egg), naruto (fish sticks), nori (dried seaweed), negi (spring onion), chasyu and kakuni (braised pork belly).

The kakuni is so soft and flavorful. The seaweed and fish sticks are tasty and go well with the broth. The broth itself has a hint of pepper and soy sauce in every sip. The noodles are al dente, they’re chewy, and every bite makes your palate aware of the other flavors in your ramen. I liked the RBS because there were so many flavors swimming in your mouth but they don’t overwhelm each other. My only problem with this is that the ramen cools down to room temperature quickly.

Shio Torigara Ramen (one of their specialty ramen), is, well, chicken soup with tamago, chasyu, nori, and naruto toppings. Think twice before you reconcile in your head that you’re having chicken soup with pork toppings. The flavors remain distinct, the broth tastes light, and the combination of toppings are as good despite looking like standard fare. Indeed, this variety is better than it sounds. Also, I’ve been told the Shio Torigara Ramen is just one of many varieties that Ramen Bar serves… which means, there’s a new flavor waiting for me everyday, or something to that effect.

I learned that Ramen Bar’s noodles are freshly made, and these can be enjoyed with either tonkotsu (pork bone) or ukokkei (chicken bone) broth. Given the tedious process undertaken to prepare ramen broth, I say Ramen Bar did its best to serve ramen that’s authentic as authentic can be.

Kakuni buns (P180 for 2 buns) are to ramen what siopao is to mami. The buns are stuffed with tender braised pork belly, lettuce, Japanese mayo, and special sauce. The buns look small but they actually taste great. This soft, meaty, filling side dish is a recommended must-have with your ramen.

The Tempura Ice Cream (P120) is made with vanilla ice cream coated with tempura batter and served with chocolate sauce. It’s an interesting dessert to end your meal; it’s refreshing, kinda tastes like a cream puff, and the ice cream goes well with the chocolate sauce.

Kevin Yapjoco (@kevinyapjoco), the organizer of the tweetup, was there by the door to greet the participants when I arrived. I heard that Kevin is an IT consultant, but he tweets and blogs about clothes, men’s fashion, and “living in style”.

Throughout the tweetup I was also able to meet Tweetmates from all walks of life. For example, there was Jeman (@orangemagtv), who owns an online magazine. With him were his friends Eunice (@yesyes_yo), a photographer, and Iya (@iyassantos). There was that girl they call Divasoria (@divasoria), Kiko (@nerveending), Fabian (@urbanfervor), among many others (there are too many of them to list down here).

The participants, especially the first timers, got to introduce themselves to the crowd. There were give-aways such as gift certificates, trinkets and other items, and even a trip to Cebu. The rest of the time was spent in loud, hearty conversation over sips and bites of ramen.

I won a bottle of perfume! Nice!

The participants were nice to talk with, they make you feel welcome, and they easily made quick, light and hearty talk and such. Sharing a good meal over talks about fashion, sports, and vacations is a great way to connect or blend in or jump into the fray with the others.

I learned a valuable lesson about myself here. Whether I’d think of myself as being “alone in a crowd” or not still depends on me. I could either approach people and engage in idle conversation or sulk on my seat and watch everyone group together . Then again, what if I really don’t have anything to say? Or what if I can’t genuinely relate? Judging by what happened to me at Ramen Bar, I hope I left a good impression to the people in this tweetup, or something.

In any case, if I get another opportunity to go to another tweetup by myself, I hope by that time I’d be more confident to be around crowds, to open up conversations with people I don’t know, and to make myself known. I’m certainly going to end up in another gathering where I know nobody, but I hope I’m ready.

Then again, when all else fails, there’s always Twitter.