There are two things in this world that are truly impossible to resist once you’ve been caught by their gravitational pull. The first, you learn in physics class, and it’s called the “black hole”. The second, you learn in the outside world, and it’s called “your favorite restaurant”.
We recently found a new phenomenon exhibiting this strong gravitational pull, and it goes by the name “Ramen Bar”. They now have two outlets, one in Eastwood City at Libis, and the other one at the Venice Piazza in McKinley Hill. Both branches leave no guessing that they have a Japanese theme, and even though the interiors don’t necessarily scream “kampai!”, there is an undeniable “Zen” going on in them.
All that “Zen” also extends to the menu, which is as clean and simple as any menu can get. You get 8 Small Plates (or appetizers in common parlance), 7 varieties of ramen (or Big Bowls as they call it), 3 varieties of rice toppings (which they call Big Plates), 3 additional optional toppings, and a list of drinks…that’s it. Delightfully, refreshingly simple, and I absolutely adore short, simple, uncluttered menus.
You might say the variety is too short, but that wouldn’t be a problem. You could probably order the same ramen 10 times, and your tenth will be just as good as the first. It-is-that-good, and you can’t find many places that can match the quality of their ramen, except probably if you’ll brave the Nihongo menus in Makati’s Little Tokyo.
I have already been to the Ramen Bar thrice in a span of a few months – twice in Eastwood and once in McKinley. The first time I tried them, we had the Shoyu Ramen and the Kakuni Buns (both not pictured here). “Shoyu” basically means a soy-based soup, and the ramen came with tonkotsu (or pork stock, not to be confused with tonkatsu which is breaded pork), tamago, naruto (or fish sticks, not to be confused with the anime character), plus a few other ingredients of Japanese origin. The Kakuni Buns meanwhile were made of tender pieces of pork sandwiched in small white buns, not unlike the “cuapao” of the Chinese. Both dishes were an instant hit for my wife and I. The ramen bowl was also plenty enough for the two of us to share, and aided by the buns, made for a light and satisfying dinner.
The second time around, we had the Super Chasyu Ramen, and the Yakiniku Beef Rice Topping. The Super Chasyu, despite the tacky adverb, was also worthy of all praises. It’s basically the same as the Shoyu Ramen, down to the soy soup base, but with added chasyu (or grilled pork). The beef rice topping though was overshadowed by the ramen, but this more a testament to the superiority of their ramen, rather any inferiority with the rice topping. It was also good, but such is the goodness of their ramen that the beef rice topping was left looking like the 12th man in a basketball team, who only gets to play in the last 2 minutes of a lost game. It would suffice to say though that, unless you have a weird aversion to noodles, you should stick to the ramens, to make the most out of the experience.
The third time around, I tried the Spicy Karaage Ramen while some in our group had the Seafood Ramen. We then had the Fried Tempura Ice Cream for dessert. The Spicy Karaage Ramen was spicy alright (it is not just mildly spicy, it IS spicy), and would not be for those who can’t stand the heat from chili. However, if you can enjoy the spiciness, then you would welcome the very nicely done karaage (fried, breaded chicken slices). The chicken was very tender and fried to a perfect golden brown, and the taste complemented the soup very well.
The Seafood Ramen was also good, as some in our group said, however there’s some unexpected bit of spiciness in it, courtesy of the dried chili that’s part of the ingredients. Not a problem if you can handle mild spiciness, but it’s not for those who can’t stand spice at all. The Fried Tempura Ice Cream was another very interesting surprise. I never thought tempura batter and ice cream would go so well together, until my first bite. It’s one of those unexpected surprises that would make you go Wow!
Among all the ramen we have tried, I still consider the Super Chasyu as the best of the bunch, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back time and again, for a bowl.
The Ramen Bar is certainly a must try for everyone, even for those who are not usually enthusiastic about Japanese fare. One sip of their soup, and you might just witness the warping of space and time (ano raw?).
* Photos 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8-3.5. Photos 2, 7, 8 and 9 taken with Sony DSC-T300.