Since it exploded in Manila in the early 2010s, the Japanese ramen has become a favorite comfort food for many Filipinos. One only needs to check out the number of ramen restaurants all over the country to figure that out.
Husband and wife Ronald and Katz Kwok, both self-confessed ramen fans, go to great lengths to try out the new, the popular, and the obscure ramen places around town. And among the ramen varieties, they’ve observed that tonkotsu is the standard ramen of choice for many local diners. It’s a safe choice, they say. One can’t go wrong with its flavorful, milky soup, which typically comes with melt-in-your mouth fatty slices of roasted or braised pork or chashu.
But the Kwoks, always on the hunt for the best ramen joints—both in the Philippines and in Japan—say we’re missing out a lot by sticking to our default choices of ramen, or ramen spot. The couple suggests trying out unique and unpopular ramen variants, as well as under-the-radar ramen establishments.
Ronald, who used to write a lot of food reviews for the now defunct Looloo app, got in touch with us after reading our recent list of favorite ramen places. How about putting the spotlight on the lesser-known joints, he said, but which serve ramen that are just as good, if not better than the popular ones, and with friendlier prices? “I want them to earn and keep their places alive so we can enjoy them longer,” he said.
How can we not agree? And so below, the Kwoks generously share with us their personal tried-and-tested list of under the-radar ramen recommendations.
Where it is: Lamp Quarters, Mayor Gil Fernando Avenue Centro De Buenviaje Sto. Nino, Marikina
Call: 0917-1794718 or visit https://www.facebook.com/tongararamenphilippines/
What’s to love: What this ten-seater joint serves is not your usual tonkotsu, says Ronald. “Their broth is a mixture of pork, fish, and chicken. So when you taste the ramen, there’s a deeper flavor to it.”
Where it is: Unit 3, 308 P. Guevarra St, corner Sea View, San Juan
Call: 09757934237 or visit https://www.facebook.com/OyasumiRamen
What’s to love: It’s the La Paz ramen (P370) that stands out in the Oyasumi menu, says Ronald, who’s ordered this variant one too many times. As the name suggests, it’s a fusion of the regular tonkotsu ramen and Iloilo’s famous La Paz batchoy. What makes all the difference, says the ramen fan, is the presence of liver which makes the soup richer and tastier. “Best eaten with more chicharon bits,” he adds.
Where it is: 999, 1807 J. P. Rizal St, Marikina City
Call: 09164179021 or visit https://www.facebook.com/ramenwave
What’s to love: This hole-in-the-wall dining spot offers only two kinds of ramen—tonkotsu (P320) and tantanmen (P380). Katz, who runs the microblog site @kklifestyleph on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, highly recommends the tantanmen to those who want their ramen super spicy. “There’s something different about their broth. For us, it’s comparable to Mendokoro. Ganun kalasa ang broth niya,” says Katz. “Normally, I don’t get to finish all the soup in my ramen because it’s rich, oily and sinful. But with this ramen, I finished the broth up to the last drop,” adds Ronald.
Tsuke-men at The Grid
Where it is: R2 Level, Powerplant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City
What’s to love: Ronald is a huge fan of its soup-less ramen or the Yuzu Abura Soba (P350), which is shoyu-based stir-fry noodles that’s topped with chashu, negi, aji tamago, nori and lime. “Typically, you get the flavor from the broth. But with this one, the noodles are already very flavorful such that you don’t even need the soup,” he says. This ramen is a welcome choice for hot days.
Surugin Ramen House
Where it is: Sulsugin, Alfonso
Call: 0956-5617845 or visit https://www.facebook.com/suruginramenhouse/
What’s to love: Location is really what makes this Cavite ramen shop special. It just heightens the overall ramen experience, say the Kwoks. “It’s the closest in ambiance to the old rustic ramen shops in Fukuoka,” says Ronald. The restaurant, built mostly of wood, seats about 15 to 20 people and is located in the middle of a pristine garden. Another plus: the shop benefits from the cold Tagaytay breeze.
Where it is: Engineer’s Hill, G/F Rancho Guillermo Building, North Dr, Baguio, 2600 Benguet
Call: 0945-1039857 or visit https://www.facebook.com/AgaraRamen
What’s to love: This is another hole-in-the-wall spot worth the long drive. The place showcases theater-style cooking, so you’ll get to see your ramen being prepared right in front of you. The Kwoks tried the tsukemen, which is cold ramen noodles served with a separate bowl of flavorful broth for dipping. The restaurant seats about 8 to 10 people at a time.
Ohayo Maki and Ramen Bar
Where it is: 30 Granada Avenue, Villa Ortigas II, Brgy. Valencia, Quezon City
Call: 282809657 or visit https://www.facebook.com/ohayomakiandramenbar
What’s to love: Their unique offering is the beef and tendon ramen. “They made the classic beef and tendon pares into a ramen broth that won’t kill you with the salt,” says Ronald. He adds that the beef and tendon are so soft and juicy they literally melt in your mouth.
Shinjuku Home of Authentic Ramen
Where it is: Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Ave, Pasong Tamo Corner Amorsolo Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City; ETON Square Ortigas, Ortigas Avenue, San Juan
What’s to love: One of the original ramen shops in the country, this ramen joint got famous for their manten (P410), which is ramen with a thick savory soup brimming with a variety of seafoods and vegetables.
[Photos courtesy of Ronald and Katz Kwok]