Welcome to my first ever capsule review! Realizing that I DO NOT have to go so deep into a restaurant and write some voluminous review, I’ve come up with this - thus enabling me to put more content on this little blog (hehehe!). I’ve divided it into three parts: The Good, The Bad, and The Swangit.I promise to be concise and meaty. Just like me. :P
I am in agreement with C that the interiors of this place are easily in the top three of all the new wave of ramen joints. It’s classy looking and modern - very Japanese - and I for one am quite the fan of Japanese aesthetics.
The service was good too – the wait staff were attentive without hovering around you, and the orders came really quickly. You can go in and out of here in an hour or even less.
I ordered some Black Garlic Tonkotsu ramen, essentially their house specialty tonkotsu (pork stock) broth with a lashing of roasted garlic oil. Some people don’t get this, and may even find it “bitter”, but I guess it’s a base to base casis. :) I thought it was interesting – tasty even – and was content with it. An extra order of ajitama (soft boiled egg) was sweetish, custardy and properly made, and was a nice contrast to the broth.
Our companion ordered a Spicy Tobanjan Tonkotsu – a tonkotsu base with tobanjan paste, which added an appealing zing of spice and even some acidity. If I ever found myself here again, that’s an order I’d consider.
Their gyoza was a bit of a revelation – it was actually dribbling juices as you munched on it (much like a Shanghainese xiao long bao), as I think excellent gyoza should be. Not too garlic heavy, and crispy skinned, it’s a recommended side to your ramen.
Tori karaage (aka Japanese fried chicken), with a splash of lemon, was relatively grease free, crispy and tender even. I can imagine coming here just for this and some rice.
We also had an order of teriyaki chicken wings. In fairness to the waitress, she confessed they were on the smaller side.
When they arrived, I had to snicker – they were a bit beyond small. They looked like fried toothpicks!
I’m guessing they lopped off most of the meat to make some karaage or whatever other uses for chicken the kitchen had – but still. It wasn’t annoying, really.. it was FUNNY!
And to top if all off – it didn’t taste bad either.
Dual purpose food: teriyaki wing appetizers/toothpicks. There’s an idea for you!
Well, to be honest the house tonkotsu broth on it’s own was kinda blah. It didn’t have a big punch, considering it was a pork stock that was supposed to be boiled for hours. There was a fishy taste to it (though I do understand that each broth is a different creature, and some do use fish bones or dried shrimp or whatever else to add flavor), which I don’t usually mind, but all in all it just didn’t do it for me (nor for the other two in my table that ordered it.. wrinkly noses and all.) With added seasonings like the roasted garlic oil or the tobanjan paste it amped up, but of course it would be better if the base were already kick ass on its own.
The ugliest thing here, for me, was the noodles. All these new ramen joints are going out of their way to ensure a top notch carb experience – a lot even importing expensive machines just to produce the good stuff. Now I don’t mind if you’re not that hardcore and use packaged noodles or you buy your noodles from elsewhere – as always it’s about managing expectations.
The thing with this place was they bothered to specifically asked you how you wanted your noodles. Immediately I chimed in: “firm please. Al dente.” As did everyone in our table. When the bowls showed up and us hungry peeps started slurping, it was soft and mushy – across the board. I ain’t gonna hate on ‘em for this – maybe it was a mistake.. whatever – but I won’t lie: it’s disappointing, especially since this is supposed to be some Japanese chain who knows their stuff, coming into town at a time when ramen is the hot shit dish of the year. If they continue on like this, they will get left behind. And I would never want that for anyone – it’s a huge undertaking to open a restaurant, much more a specialty restaurant like this.
I would like to root for them to have a steady crowd, but they have stuff going against them. Already I’ve heard many grumblings about their broth and their noodles ---- which to me essentially IS ramen. So, powers that be, please please do something – the ball is in your court.
SM Aura Premier Branch:
McKinley Hill, Taguig
Shangri La Mall Branch:
5th Level, Shangri-la Plaza Mall Shaw Blvd. cor. EDSA, Mandaluyong
Phone Number (+63 2) 477-8333