MANILA -- Sapporo ramen specialist Shiroi Dachi formally opened the doors of its first branch at the Bonifacio Global City on Wednesday.
Shiroi Daichi clearly respects its Sapporo roots. Its name, from the Japanese words for “white earth,” is inspired from the snow festival the city is known for.
The restaurant was born during an ASEAN business meeting in Sapporo where Takashi Nishiyama, founder of ramen ingredients supplier Nishiyama Sei-men, served his ramen. In that meeting was Feliciano Torres, president of car parts manufacturing giant Yazaki Torres, who had a keen taste for quality Japanese food from his many trips abroad. After trying it out, Torres immediately met Nishiyama hatching plans to bring Sapporo ramen to the Philippines.
Everything Shiroi Daichi uses in their ramen -- from their oils to the soup base to the noodles -- are supplied by Nishiyama. In fact, Shiroi Daichi is the first and only restaurant in Philippines supplied by Nishiyama.
“Our pleasure to serve you comes from not only from our ability to bring the taste of meat-based Sapporo-style noodles, but also authentic meatless vegetable ramen that caters to more ethically conscious foodies not yet offered anywhere else in Manila,” said Torres’s grandson, James Torres, who serves as chief operating officer and executive chef of Shiroi Daichi.
There is a distinctly clean Japanese feel to the restaurant. A mural adorns one wall and origami cranes are scattered all throughout the interiors. On one side is a bar that serves Sapporo beer and sake all day. There is what looks like a communal table up in front thoughtfully installed with power outlets if you need to power up your gadgets while enjoying your food.
While the majority of ramen houses in the Philippines specialize in the rich hakata-style ramen with either a paitan (chicken) or tonkotsu (pork) base, Shiroi Dachi goes another direction. Sapporo-style ramen is distinctly lighter than the usual getting the majority of its flavors from vegetables. There is still a bit of pork and chicken in the broth though, so it cannot be considered vegetarian. The result is broth that strikes the balance between too rich and too thin and is healthier than others that are purely meat-based.
Another difference is that the noodles used are curly. They are yellowish compared to other noodles because they add eggs to the mixture. The result is noodles that can remain firm even after soaking broth after some time.
When ordering, you first decide whether you want a ramen with meat or with vegetables. Then you choose from either shio (salt), shoyu (soy-based), or miso.
The shio with vegetables option is surprisingly tasty. The lightness of the shio allows the individual vegetable’s flavors to shine through. Adding asparagus, onions, leeks, bamboo shoots, carrots, and corn makes for a healthy bowl of ramen.
Shiroi Dachi also has special bowls like the Sesame Miso Ramen and the Butter Miso Ramen. For those who want a richer bowl of ramen, the Butter Miso Ramen is really thick with the saltiness of the butter mingling with the corn.
It’s interesting to note that Shiroi Dachi has yakisoba (fried ramen), tsukemen (dipping noodles), and mazemen (dry ramen) in the menu. They all use the same Nishiyama curly noodles and the firm texture works an all the the variants.
While ramen is the star at Shiroi Dachi, the menu is packed with Nihongo favorites. Appetizers include edamame, kushiyaki, gyoza, and kara-age. The wagyu cubes skewers are a standout being sweet, umami and tender to the bite.
While Shiroi Dachi does not have desserts on the menu, they do have coffee brewed from Sultan Kudarat beans. Torres said his Japanese guests enjoy these as they have a similar flavor profile they have back home. It’s no wonder because the Paradigm medium roast coffee does have a sweet citrusy note somewhat similar to yuzu.
Shiroi Dachi serves up a different ramen experience. If you find it difficult to finish a whole bowl of ramen in other ramen joints because of the thick rich broth, the Sapporo ramen may be to your liking.
Shiroi Daichi is located at ground floor of the Twenty-Five Seven Building on the corner of 7th Avenue and 25th Avenue at the Bonifacio Global City. Restaurant hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.