There’s nothing like the warm hug of a hot bowl of ramen. And there’s nothing like a picture of a steaming bowl of this Japanese staple to make one forget one’s long-held Omicron fears and drive to the nearest ramen joint.
If your Insta feeds have been dripping ramen snaps the past few weeks, blame it on two major ramen-related events. The OG Ramen Ron finally moved to a restaurant set-up (it’s now at Rockwell Center and is open daily starting at 11AM) after offering only a take-out option from their White Space, Makati commissary since coming back to life in November 2020.
And then there’s the recent opening of Marudori, from the same group that gave Manila the esteemed Mendokoro Ramenba and Yushoken. Located also in Rockwell, Marudori specializes in chicken ramen, where all the parts of the chicken are used to make a soul-soothing, delicious broth.
Since ramen has been the steaming hot topic food-wise the past few days, we decided to ask some of our favorite food fans, whose opinion on food we trust and respect, what their favorite ramens are in Manila and why. From their answers, here are two things we found out: One—that while many were hard-pressed to name just one favorite, each ramen go-to mentioned seems to have a special reason why it’s on their shortlist. Two—that while there are days we keep hearing of and seeing the same ramen places, there are still spots out there that remain largely unexplored.
So let this feature be the guide to your next ramen-seeking adventure—which if it did it’s job right will be anytime soon.
Elbert Cuenca, restaurateur, Metronome, Elbert’s Steak Room
Ramen Keisuke Tori King is my current favorite. It’s made with a very rich and creamy chicken broth that doesn’t feel fatty. Their homemade noodles have the right amount of elasticity and firmness. The ramen is topped with a succulent roasted quarter leg of chicken that falls off the bone when poked with chopsticks. My go-to dish is the black spicy version with tamago. The restaurant design is unassuming and reminds me of a typical alleyway ramen-ya you’d find in Japan. The best part of all is that there is no queue to get in (at least for now).
Alicia Sy, food writer
I’ve always been a big fan of Ramen Yushoken and Mendokoro Ramenba. Whenever I’m dining there with friends, I always let the others order first because I’m always hard-pressed to choose my bowl. Will it be the popular shoyu tonkotsu with a slice of extra chashu or an equally amazing bowl of the maze shoyu soba, a dry noodle dish served with minced pork and other toppings? Then, of course, there’s my third option: a spicy karai tokusei tsukemen made with the rich tonkotsu Mendokoro is known for but with additional flavors of the sea. A side of pork gyoza is always essential.
Recently, however, my favorite ramen spot has been Ramen Marudori, the newly- opened ramen shop at 8 Rockwell from the people behind Mendokoro. It specializes in tori paitan ramen, or chicken ramen. My current favorites are the simple shio tori paitan ramen with its tender pieces of chicken breast, and the tantanmen, a spicy sesame flavored ramen with a special tomato jam. Whatever you do, don’t forget to start your meal with an order of the juicy chicken gyoza and the delectable grilled tsukune.
JJ Yulo, food writer
Some of my current favorite ramens:
Mendokoro—always on top of my list mainly because I can taste their attention to detail. From their stock, down to the noodles.
Ippudo—I think their ramen is pretty solid, but my favorite is their vegetarian mushroom ramen.
Ramen Keisuke Tori King—They have this very deeply flavored chicken ramen which is excellent.
Menya Kokoro—I love mazemen (a soupless ramen) and this is what they specialize in.
Kuranosoke —This is something I stumbled on lately. For the spice lovers, check out their Tantanmen.
Kerwin Go, chef, Blackbird, People’s Palace
Ramen Ron. Even before it’s reincarnation, we would visit the Pasay Road shop at least once a week for ramen. The broth is what makes me go back, it’s flavorful without it being cloying with oil. However, I’m excited to try the Tori Paitan of Ramen Marudori because one of our favorite ramen shops in Tokyo (Ginza Kagari) serves the same ramen style.
Dom Hernandez, owner, Mokja Korean House, Chino
Tokyo Market’s Tonkotsu Ramen. Aside from good value for money and ease in preparation, the flavor is balanced for my taste: not too rich, not too bland. Always comforting to have after a long day of Zoom meetings.
[Dom is @chadominic on Instagram.]
Miguel Nacianceno, photographer
Mendokoro is still my baseline. I love their miso or tantanmen. I like the Mendokoro/Yushoken chain because even their gyoza and karaage are great.
I also like the tantanmen or gyokai (which is their dipping ramen, if I recall correctly) from Tsukumen, which I can get from The Grid in Power Plant or Poison in Karrivin. Their karaage is also good.
Lately, for two weeks in a row, I’ve had the hiyashi (cold noodles) from Ramen Ron. Love that also. Mitsuyado in Jupiter Street is good also. I like the miso there but I haven’t been back in years!
Masarap Ba?, food influencer
Hiyashi goma ramen ng ramen ron kasi very refreshing.
Jake Aycardo, owner, Kodawari
I’d say Mendokoro. It’s excellent overall. But Poison does a good bowl too. I usually get tantanmen everywhere I go. And I had Tamagoya (Antipolo) on the way home from Masungi a few months ago. That’s pretty sentimental. I remember having it way back pa. I’d say its like the first real resto ramen I ever had. It was around even before the ramen craze.
Enrico Suarez, designer
Ramen Keisuke in BGC is probably my favorite because they serve Tori Paitan or Chicken Ramen which is so hard to come by in Manila. Their ramen has the warmth of Chicken Soup but with every ingredient done masterfully! While it is not a common thing to do, I recommend bringing wasabi and adding a little of it on the meat or some noodles when you slurp. For the more straight up, no frills ramen I would go for Yamazaki Grocery in Little Tokyo—super classic and clean tasting ramen. And, of course, Ramen Ron, it being an institution and holds a lot of nostalgia for me! (Ed: Suarez, who lived in Japan as a designer for five years, designed the Ramen Ron staff tee.)
JC Cailles Lo, @JC_TheFoodie on Instagram, owner of JC Wines
Now I am biased towards ramen with chicken broth. I think this will be the next big thing. The flavor is more delicate, still creamy and full of umami. I have two favorites: the Black Spicy Ramen of Ramen Keisuke, made with creamy chicken broth, black sichuan peppercorn and sesame oil. The quarter chicken, boiled then grilled, is so tender. So good! For Marudori, their Shio Tori Paitan is light and creamy, and the three pieces of sous-vide cooked chicken breast as topping is a winner.